The Writing's on the Wall

Change is inevitable. And, if you do it right, your ad's persuasive impact on the viewer will be, too.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the August 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Some ads have the uniqueness to stop you in your tracks for just a moment. Others cause you to come to a halt, rub your chin and maybe even contemplate the message. A rare few have the ability to epoxy your gaze and cause a visceral reaction. This last response category describes exactly how I reacted to the ad shown here-a simple, stark and chilling ad created by the Huntington's Disease Society of America (HDSA).

What the HDSA has done is force the reader, in riveting fashion, to read about-and at the same time, observe-the progression of the degenerative brain disorder called Huntington's disease, an illness for which there is no cure.

As I read the ad's 60-word, handwritten "headline," I actually felt a cold chill, as if it were a message meant especially for me to receive. That's because I experience an occasional twitch. Sometimes, my handwriting is a little jerky. On occasion, my speech is a bit raspy, as if I'm losing it. And who doesn't suffer a memory lapse from time to time? It made me appreciate why one-third of all medical students report feeling the symptoms of a disease they are studying.

The point here is to show an A+ example of how, despite desensitization from a daily deluge of advertising, it is possible for an ad to get-and, more important, keep-a reader's attention. In this case, it's by exhibiting the slow degeneration of the subject being spotlighted.

Because of the serious nature of the topic shown here, I don't mean to trivialize it by suggesting that you borrow this style for the promotion of products and services. But what the HDSA ad demonstrates is how showing the morphing of change, for better or worse, can have a mesmerizing effect on the viewer.

For example, if you were to show a series of images that exhibited the gradual mechanical failure of an indispensable engine part, it might grab and keep your viewer's attention. The same might be true of showing the decay or decomposition of a food item that you have the means of stopping.

So if your company is a purveyor of any product or service that can help in halting the eventual decline or breakdown of a valued consumer item, consider showing its slow progression toward failure-or, conversely, its improvement to renewal. It can make for a very persuasive and motivating method of getting the phone to ring.


Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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