Sticking Point

For my grad class, we're reading Made to Stick, a book about why some ideas survive and others die. The authors have a smart little formula to keep revisiting when creating your ad/idea:  SUCCESS. Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories...Pretty handy little acronym. The writers also do a good job of going back to the stories in the previous chapters so that you can be reminded of how they fit into the bigger picture. It's one of the few books I've read that require the reader to engage with the text in these specific ways--to take a memory test, to try to recall the first lines of "Hey Jude," or memories of your first childhood home, or to write down a list of all the white things in your refrigerator.  Then they make a point about how these things are relevant to your audience only if they relate back to your overall message. Like, let's say your creating an ad and you recognize that you need to start with something unexpected, and then link it back later.  But it's not enough to make it startling---it also has to be revelatory and connect back to the simple core message of the argument or idea.

So, like an example they give of of a good ad is one that appears to be about an ad for a new can called Escada (or something like that). It starts in a typical way, by showing a family of four getting into the van, and then relating all of the van's many awesome features, and then, as the family is pulling out of the driveway, the van gets blindsided by another car and the screen goes to this message "Didn't see that coming, did you? You never do."  And you realize that it's not an ad for a new kind of vehicle,  it's a PSA about buckling up. And most importantly, the elements leading up to it make sense because they have to do with the message--how accidents happen in your neighborhood on ordinary days and how you can't predict them so you should wear your seat belt. Then a bad example would be this ad at the half-time of the Super Bowl where a band is playing and then a pack of wolves invades the field and it's supposed to be about a search engine, but it's hard to make the connection--you might remember the surprise of the message, but since it doesn't fully connect back to a core idea of the search engine, it's less sticky, harder to recall.

The authors also talk about mysteries and stories and arousing curiosity in the viewer/reader/audience. People stay tuned even to bad movies because they want to know what happened; they want to solve the mystery. Not knowing is uncomfortable, like an itch in the middle of your back--people will stay put until that itch to know is resolved. I need to create more itchiness in my screenplay idea---not in a whodunit kind of way, but in a "I need to know how this turns out" kind of way.

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