The Science of No

Rene Saavedra - Clause HopkinsIn 2012 Pablo Larraín released a film called ‘No’. It’s very good. Maybe that’s why it won the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival 2012. It’s the story of Rene Saavedra a daring young advertising executive entrusted by Pinochet’s opposition with heading up the campaign for a ‘no’ vote in the country’s 1988 referendum.

In 1923 Claude C Hopkins wrote a book called Scientific Advertising. It’s also very good. Maybe that’s why it’s won so many admirers amongst advertising copywriters and marketers –Drayton Bird, Andy Maslen and David Ogilvy are three who immediately spring to mind.  In Scientific Advertising Hopkins writes…

‘To attack a rival is never good advertising. Don’t point out others’ faults. It is not permitted in the best mediums. It is never good policy. The selfish purpose is apparent. It looks unfair, not sporty.

If you abhor knockers, always appear a good fellow.

Show a bright side, the happy and attractive side, not the dark and uninviting side of things. Show beauty, not homeliness; health, not sickness. Don’t show the wrinkles you propose to remove, but the face as it will appear. Your customers know all about wrinkles.

In advertising a dentifrice, show pretty teeth, not bad teeth. Talk of coming good conditions, not conditions which exist. In advertising clothes, picture well-dressed people, not the shabby. Picture successful men, not failures, when you advertise a business course. Picture what others wish to be, not what they may be now.

We are attracted by sunshine, beauty, happiness, health, success.

Then point the way to them, not the way out of the opposite.

Picture envied people, not the envious.

Tell people what to do, not what to avoid.

Make your every ad breath good cheer. We always dodge a Lugubrious Blue. Assume that people will do what you ask. Say, “Send now for this sample.” Don’t say, “Why do you neglect this offer?” That suggests that people are neglecting. Invite them to follow the crowd.

Compare the results of two ads, one negative, one positive. One presenting the dark side, one the bright side. One warning, the other inviting. You will be surprised. You will find that the positive ad out pulls the other four to one, if you have our experience.

The “Before and after taking” ads are follies of the past. They never had a place save with the afflicted. Never let their memory lead you to picture the gloomy side of things.’

That’s Chapter 18 in its entirety. Every last word.

And Saavedra, the advertising copywriter in No? He nailed it.

His key message? Happiness.

He found the wit, the wisdom and the courage to commit to happiness as his key concept. Most importantly the Chilean electorate, inspired by Saavedra’s message found the courage to commit to happiness and kick Pinochet out.

It’s a shame Saavedra never really existed. Despite the film being based on historical events he’s fictional.  I say shame as I would love to have tracked him down to ask him whether he’d read and taken inspiration from Scientific Advertising. How’s that for a hypothetical hypothetical?

Shine on.

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The Science of No

2 Responses

  1. We use these messages in our PPC work. It is true how the positive works so much better than the negative.
    I find a lot of adverts simply state the product, these adverts never perform as well as the ones which offer a benefit. Offering the upside is a must for every ad.

    Derkek Booth February 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm #
  2. Hi Derek,

    Thanks for dropping in. Talking of positive take a look at Phil Byrne’s new site with his positive emphasis on being ‘brand positive’.

    That said somewhere in Dr. Flint McGlaughlin does say that ‘fear motivates twice as much as opportunity’.


    Martin February 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

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