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I Did Not Die Today

I am, for the moment, alive and well as an ad writer. But I fear I'm being stalked by iPods, cell phones, instant messaging and increasingly fragmented media choices - and they're all gunning for my life.
Over-communication rides rampant across the mindscape of America, putting greater-than-ever pressure on ad writers to produce ads that seduce and jealously hug the attention of the customer.
Today I will teach you how to write such ads.

The key to seduction is the opening line - so open big. I'm not talking about hype: “Save up to 75 percent off this week only at blah, blah blah.” I'm talking about a statement that is fundamentally more interesting than anything else that might occupy the mind of your listener. Your attention was drawn by the headline of this column, “I Did Not Die Today.” Magnetism is the reason I chose it. I had no idea how I was going to bridge from that opening line into the subject matter at hand, but that's irrelevant. The key is that it can be done. Be bold and have confidence; a bridge can be built from any concept to any other concept.

1. Don't think of your subject matter and then decide how to introduce it.
2. Don't open with a question directed at your listener, such as, “Are you interested in saving money?” That technique has been overused to the point that it now borders on becoming cliché. (Rhetorical questions are okay, however, such as, “What ever happened to Gerald Ford?”)
3. Think instead of a magnetic opening statement.
4. Figure out how to bridge from the opening line into your subject matter.
5. Such openers surprise Broca's Area of the brain and gain you entrance to the central executive of working memory: conscious awareness, focused attention. The central executive will then decide whether your thought has salience, or relevance to the listener. This is what your bridge must supply.
6. Write a bridge that justifies your magnetic opening line. If you fall short here, your opening line will be perceived as hype. Game over.
7. Insert your subject matter from the angle created by your opening line and bridge.
8. Close in such a way that you loop back to your opening line. (Having secured the involvement of the reader/listener, you are now free to use direct questions.)

It's really not that hard.
Hey, there's another good opening line: “It's really not that hard.” Now select a client at random and write a bridge to follow that opening line.
Here are some other opening lines to try: “I've heard your heart stops when you sneeze.” “The TV commercials with the Keebler elves have always been my favorites.” “Don Quixote just won't go away.” “Plutonium is the rarest of all substances.”
Here's what I've done so far:

1. I opened this column with “I Did Not Die Today,” having no idea how I would bridge from that line to the subject matter of the column.
2. I then created a bridge to justify my opening line and create salience for the central executive: “I am, for the moment, alive and well as an ad writer. But I fear I'm being stalked by iPods, cell phones, instant messaging and increasingly fragmented media choices - and they're all gunning for my life.”
3. I provided enough details to satisfy the central executive's demand for salience.
4. Now it's time to loop back to the opening line. Let's see if I can do it:

The times are changing, and so must ad writers, if we will live to see another day.
Will you change with the times? Or will you continue to wear the blindfold of yesterday's ad-writing style, and walk voluntarily before the firing squad?

Roy H. Williams may be reached at Reproduced by permission of RadioInk.

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