I could be wrong, but I’m beginning to think that research is killing the romance in advertising.
It dates me to say this but, when I was starting out in the business, imaginative invention and clear communication were supposed to go hand-in-hand.
The arts of engaging story-telling and persuasive argument were the tools I was expected to use to write the kind of copy that would change minds and shift goods and services.
Above all, asking the audience to aspire to a finer life or to fall in love with the unattainable – the very essence of romance – was almost a given.
The heart of the matter
It’s now almost 20 years since British Design & Art Direction published The Copy Book, a fascinating study of how copywriters worked in the 1990s.
For the 32 top writers featured, the important thing that many of them brought to their work was heart.
As David Abbott, a much-respected writer of the day, said: “Put yourself into your work. Use your life to animate your copy.”
Abbot was the author of a Chivas Regal ad – published to coincide with Father’s Day – which was, in effect, a paean to his own father. An act of love, if ever there was one.
Other writers, who produced brilliant ads for clients as varied as the British Army, Albany Life, Sony, BMW and Vespa, had similar advice.
Think about your audience, put something of yourself into your ads, write with passion and conviction and your work will connect with others who think and feel as you do.
Today, it seems, such persuasive, even personal work has all but disappeared.
Which is why I ask: is romance dead? And, if so, why?
Has passion become the victim of austerity?
Have we lost the generosity of spirit that allowed people to write and publish ads with heart and soul?
Is everything just about money and results?
Or have researchers and focus groups conspired to eradicate all feeling from today’s ads?
Maybe the computer’s to blame, with its mechanisation of communication. Or social networking, with its engineering of human connections.
Perhaps it’s the fault of globalisation, which seems to have turned so much of today’s advertising into bland messages designed to be understood by everyone everywhere.
Whatever it is, it’s a shame.
I’d love to read an ad that moved me – and moved me to buy whatever’s on offer.