A word is worth an infinite number of pictures

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RE:WORDED
This is where we get to write all the stuff our clients don’t let us write.
You could say it’s our place to blow off a bit of steam — and drop the occasional F-bomb.

A word is worth an infinite number of pictures

What’s more powerful, a word or an image? It’s a hotly debated topic in creative circles and cases have been made for both. Here’s our case for words:

When you read a word, your mind pictures the subject. Take “horse,” for example. Are you picturing a white horse or a black horse or a brown horse? Is it a stallion? A mare? A Clydesdale pulling a Budweiser stagecoach? Is it a racehorse? And if so, is it a thoroughbred (jockey on top) or a standardbred (jockey in a chariot behind)? Or maybe you picture horse the basketball game or horse the slang for heroin?

Point is, a word activates the mind and lets it go in any direction. An image is designed to contain no ambiguity. Yes, it’s helpful. But is it more powerful? Sure, everyone experiences an image differently, but they see the same thing. With a word, everyone sees something different.

So what can a good copywriter do with words?

In a word (two, actually): thought guidance. We use these words to elicit the right picture in the reader’s mind and the right emotion in their hearts. We get them to see the ideal state: the easier life, the better day, the more productive hour, the prettier date, the larger boat or the better food.

And then we use our words to create action. Pictures can’t do that — they can attract eyeballs but they can’t move hands. Only words can do that. The right words. At the right time. Arranged in the right way. And shown to the right people.

Think about this the next time a banner ad,  brochure or billboard catches your eye. Think about how it made you feel, then think about what made you feel that way: the way it looked or the message it delivered.

Here are a few that caught our eye over the years. We wish we wrote them all:

A print ad for De Beers that reads: Remember when you got that variable speed hammer drill? It'll make her feel kind of like that.

Directed at men. Celebrating the way men think. Perfect.

 

A Porsche ad that reads" If you could choose between world peace and a Porsche 911, what colour would you want your Porsche to be?"

Fantastic subhead. Full of attitude, but classy. And you’re probably picturing your new ride right now.

 

A print ad for Avis rent a car that reads: "Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So why go with us? We try damned hard. (When you're not the biggest, you have to.) We just can't afford dirty ashtrays. Or half-empty gas tanks. Or worn wipers. Or unwashed cars. Or low ties. Or anything less than seat-adjusters that adjust. Heaters that heat. Defrosters that defrost. Obviously, the think we try hardest for is just to be nice. To start you out right with a new car, like a lively, super-torque Ford and a pleasant smile. To know, say, where you get a good pastrami sandwich in Duluth. Why? Because we can't afford to take you for granted. Go with us next time. The line at our counter is shorter.

122 words to completely change the way people saw Avis — and the now former #1 Hertz.

 

An ad for Hoover vacuums with an image of an airplane window and the line "For a product demo, break the glass".

The image sucks you in. The copy gives you the feeling of being sucked out. And you get it. 100%.

 

An Economist ad that reads "To err is human. To er, um, ah is unacceptable."

The Economist is the best for clever. It’s true in their magazine AND their advertising. No image necessary. You can picture The Economist reader and their level of intelligence. And you want to be like them.

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    Thanks! As soon as your request makes it through cyberspace, we’ll give it a look. Until then, enjoy the best of Niles Crane. Pound for pound, there’s never been a better TV character.