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Talking Heads

Your prospects may be all grown-up, but comic-book-style word balloons still make them stop and stare.

This story appears in the June 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Few readers can pass by an image of a person, cartoon character or animal with a word balloon or caption above its head and not pause to read it. No matter the format, be it an ad or an article, we're very likely going to stop-if only for a second-to see what the figures are saying. The reason? It takes us back to our early exposure to comic-book images, in which the frozen characters on the page "talk" this way. It was a fun, easy and simple form of visual speech that brought inanimate characters to life and enabled us to connect with them.

Now that we're all grown-up, the device still has that same appeal, and, as a hook, it can beat the heck out of a disembodied headline as a way to rope in the reader. That's certainly the case in the ad shown here. Produced by Purina for its Tidy Cats cat-box litter, it depicts a family of felines chatting about bathroom issues. The ad gets an A+ on formatting, because one can't help but read the captions above the cats' heads for all the reasons mentioned. But I'll be a little critical here and say the company missed an opportunity by having the cats make only cute small talk. ("Have you been using the litter box or the plant? . . . and DON'T lie to me . . . ")

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