Never Gonna Give You Up?

If you play a certain type of ‘Jesus Game’, today marks the start of Lent.

This is where you traditionally deny yourself something as a form of penitence.

Serious Jesus Games players tell of how it prepares them for the ‘Big Event’: remembering Jesus’ death, resurrection etc. at Easter.

Perhaps more importantly for us, they also tell of the ecstatic delight that they feel when they allow themselves to go back to the chocolate/carbs/whatever that they had given up.

As ever with religion, once you cut through all the superstitious nonsense, they’re probably on to something.

Think about the beer that you drink on holiday. It tastes good. But it never, ever tastes as good as the beer you drink after a hard day’s work.

Because you haven’t earned it. The same might be true of advertising.

Certainly it is everywhere else in life – that immutable , and annoyingly accurate, “parents’ law” that every child is subjected to: ‘you only get out what you put in.’

As consumers, we all tend to get more out of an advert we’ve had to put a little effort into. The intellectual flattery, the implicit ‘club membership’ and the nod-and-a-wink that says you’re part of something vaguely exclusive, it’s all terribly rewarding.

My first experience of this was Paul Arden’s Silk Cut ads. I can still remember the thrill as a boy when I worked it out – ‘purple silk….., pair of scissors…….,….Cut…..Silk – Silk Cut: got it!.’ More recent examples include the magical double-take that BBH forced us all to make for their Marmite/Margaret work (‘of course! She also brought about strong feelings either way!’) and, funnily enough, the less glamorous but arresting Nuffield Gyms campaign which features strong art direction heroing all the things that Nuffield, as a gym, are in fact not.

Is the delight brought about by these ads directly proportionate to the investment that the creative concept forces us to make; the process of ‘working it out’?

Clearly there’s a fine line.

Overdo it, make the consumer feel like they’re having to work too hard, and it’s game over. Self-indulgent, overly complex puzzles are a definite no-no.

But leaving just a little bit to be ‘discovered’, just enough to show the consumer, leaning on Ogilvy’s famous dictum, that you do not consider them to be a moron, then that can render fabulous rewards, share-of-mind-wise.

We’re much more likely to remember things that we’ve had to think about, things we’ve explored in our own minds, even if only fleetingly, than things that has simply been served up to us on a plate, without any chance to use our imaginations at all.

It is perhaps the cerebral equivalent of the Victorian flash of ankle, in a world dominated by full frontal.

For, as your parents might also have said, in an altogether different context, it’s important not to give away the goods too soon…….

Monticello LLP