In advertising everyone talks about their great TV commercials and at parties, people ask me about what commercials we have done, what products we advertise for, and who we have met that’s famous.  That’s the cocktail patter.

I was at a party once when I was doing work with Union Carbide, the owners of automotive products STP gas additive and Prestone radiator fluid.  It must have been near the time of one of the big car races because I recall talking about times with Bobby Unser, his brother Al, their mom and recently meeting Mario Andretti who drove for STP.

When I mentioned Prestone, one of the folks told me that he really liked our television commercial.  I thought this was a little odd because we had never done one.

Perhaps, I thought, he saw one in the US or somewhere else.  So I asked him which one.

He then played back to me in detail about the guide who took people through a tour of a radiator that was like going on a tour through a cave.  There were pieces of corrosion which were falling into the water as the group plodded through the ankle deep water asking questions which echoed through the caverns.  The lights on their hard hats showed the damage in the radiator and how if the owner had used Prestone none of the corrosion would have happened.

It was really interesting to me because that was exactly our radio campaign, written by Rick Book.  It was a perfect “theatre of the mind” description.  When I explained to him that he had not seen it on TV but heard it on the radio, the fellow was adamant that he had seen it.  Who was I to disagree?

I have told many people that the goal of good writing is to get people to see a movie in their audience’s head.  If you can stimulate that visualization, the audience will be able to see it again and again.

Listing facts alone won’t do it.  It is a composite of the situation, the voices and the acting.  The product has to be in there naturally so not to disrupt the flow.  People will see the imagery of their own making.

Sometimes, radio can really work if you can get it into the audience’s mind.  That’s where you want to go anyway.  Radio can activate the imagination better than TV if you do it right.

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