Features

In advertising, you learn that ‘nobody wants to read your shit’ so you better be damn good

Dave Trott picks out his favourite excerpt from Steven Pressfield's book 'Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It' and celebrates the lessons it lays out for those working in advertising

(I love thisHe says it’s the most important lesson he ever learned, and he learned it when he worked in advertising.)

“The first thing you learn in advertising is that no one wants to read your shit. Your ads I mean. People hate ads. I hate them myself. I hate TV commercials. Why should I waste my valuable time watching that lying garbage, trying to sell me crap I don’t need or want?

“Sometimes young writers acquire the idea from their years in school that the world is waiting to read what they’ve written. They get this idea because their teachers had to read their essays, or term papers, or dissertations. In the real world no one is waiting to read what you’ve written. Sight unseen they hate what you’ve written.

“Not even your dog or your mother – has the slightest interest in your commercial for Rice Crispies,” says Steven Pressfield.

“Why? Because they might have to actually read it. Nobody wants to read anything. Let me repeat that. Nobody – not even your dog or your mother – has the slightest interest in your commercial for Rice Crispies or Delco batteries or Preparation H. Nor does anybody care about your one-act play, your Facebook page or your new sesame chicken joint at Canal and Tchoupitoulas. It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy. Nobody wants to read your shit. What’s the answer?

1)   Streamline your message. Focus it and pare it down to its simplest, clearest, easiest-to-understand form.

2)   Make its expression fun. Or sexy or interesting or scary or informative. Make it so compelling that a person would have to be crazy not to read it.

3)   Apply that to all forms of writing or art or commerce.

“When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated. You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction. The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer must give him something worthy of his gift to you.

“When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy. You acquire the skill that is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs – the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your reader/gallery-goer/customer.

“You learn to ask yourself with every sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is it fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough? Is she bored? Is she following where I want to lead her?”

Dave Trott is a consultant, author and former ad agency creative director. This article was first published on his blog

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