Don’t step in the audiopiles

The other day someone asked me if I intended to write a book about my adventures in the World of Advertising. Come on, I thought, everybody in advertising intends to write a book about their adventures in advertising at one time or another.
How else to get clarification, vindication, revenge?
In fact, I think I am writing the damn book as we speak, one damn column after the other.
But there was a time I went so far as to conjure up the title of my first volume of advertising exploits and pratfalls.

The other day someone asked me if I intended to write a book about my adventures in the World of Advertising. Come on, I thought, everybody in advertising intends to write a book about their adventures in advertising at one time or another.

How else to get clarification, vindication, revenge?

In fact, I think I am writing the damn book as we speak, one damn column after the other.

But there was a time I went so far as to conjure up the title of my first volume of advertising exploits and pratfalls.

I was driving to the airport to fly to New York to a meeting with my Swissair client, and my friend Doug Linton, now up at Ambrose Carr Linton Carroll, was being interviewed on a morning CBC radio show. As I listened, Doug calmly announced he had written his book about his career to date, and darn amusing it was too. Publication, he implied, was imminent.

In a fit of jealousy, I fumed all the way to Manhattan over my dismal failure to write my book first. But if I could nail down a snappy title, like Jerry Della Femina’s From Those Wonderful People Who Brought You Pearl Harbor, I felt I might get some momentum going and narrow Linton’s lead.

As it happened, we had just done a new business pitch to the president of a large retail chain. It was a long way to the head office, and we were driving in mid-winter in an Austin Healey Sprite with a broken right roof clip, obliging the passenger to jam the leaking rag top down onto the windshield frame to avoid having it fly off and blow away.

Our pitch premise was that the retailer’s house brand stereo stuff couldn’t be as bad as its reputation was, and that could be fixed. By us.

And to support our contention that the brand’s image was abysmal, we had interviewed random shoppers at a downtown record store (I think it was Sam’s) and asked them what they thought of the stuff. We edited out the most profane bites, but they universally shat upon its stereo equipment. We felt our case for a brand image makeover was bulletproof.

So imagine our surprise when, upon hearing the tape, El Presidente was oddly unruffled. He calmly explained that our record-store research pool was clearly unrepresentative of the music-listening public, because, as he said, they were audiopiles. Yes, audiopiles.

For 10 minutes or so, he expounded upon why audiopiles were not a part of this chain’s target market. It was a wet, cold, long drive back home, I tell you.

Suddenly, it all clicked together, in the cab, rocking and rolling down the East River parkway. I had my title, and I still like it. Wouldn’t you at least consider buying a book subtitled My Life in Canadian Advertising if the dust jacket was set up in a big Times Roman face that read No Sir, Audiopiles Are What You Get From Listening to Assholes?

Okay, but when I do get around to my book, I will lovingly include this ad as one of the best I have ever read. (It comes from the March 25 New Yorker.)

Four sentences, less than 100 words. But what words. What tone. Hemingway could not have done it better.

First, were you ever let down by a story that began Once upon a time? Hell, the best stories you ever read start with Once upon a time. Four words and you’re hooked.

Look how the writer then establishes his (or her) credentials, age, authority, judgement, honesty, trust. And wealth. And courage.

Now the product description. A farm in Africa that is pretty darn unique. If that doesn’t turn your crank, you got spit for blood, buddy. And you want to meet the mem-sahib and the staff? That’s the only time in the ad you see the word ‘we.’ The CEO is not alone.

If this CEO says your comfort will be substantial, you know you’ll live like a king, right? And the price? Peanuts! They just want to break even on you! You can do this!

And you will go on that Web site, and consider the proposition and maybe even price the flights, because you are a lifelong romantic too, just like the CEO.

What a piece of work. I have recently suspected that if you can put a few dozen words on paper, that are absolutely perfect to convey your promise to the people who are most likely to buy into it, and mention your URL, you can name your price and you will rule the world.

And this proves it.

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He writes this column to promote the cause of what he calls intelligent advertising, and to attract clients who share the notion that many a truth is said in jest. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, or faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.