Posted in 9th Grade, Business 1

B1 L110 – Grading Advertisements

       Over the past week in Business, I have learned a lot about advertising. The book recommended by Mr. North during this week was The Irresistible Offer by Mark Joyner. 

      In it, he explains what the most effective possible ad is by ripping it to shreds and examining each minute piece. What he calls this kind of advertisement is a “touchstone offer,” and the example he used as such is the old Dominoes Pizza ad, ad the FedEx slogan. The Dominoes ad was “hot, fresh pizza in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free.” The FedEx (Federal Express) motto was, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Joyner said that those were two of the best advertisements ever. Based on this offer, I could grade some other ads from the 1900s 1-10 by their closeness to a touchstone offer.

       For instance, I could do the M&Ms commercial from 1957, the Radio Shack TRS-80 commercial from 1980, the Commodore IBM PC ad from 1987, or even the American Express TV commercial from the late 1960s.  

       Let’s start with the M&Ms commercial. The grade this one gets, depending on how close it is to a touchstone offer, would be about a 3. It has proof because there are “Now two different types to choose from,” so the M&M was already proven. However, there isn’t very much ROI for the buyer. A couple moments of delicious chocolate? Maybe. But that’s not very much for (in today’s currency) a dollar and a half, sometimes even two bucks. The four criteria are:

              1.) What are you trying to sell?

              2.) What will it cost?

              3.) What’s in it for me?

              4.) Why should I believe you?

       The first one is satisfied. Everyone knows what an M&M is. The second one is not satisfied – there is no mention of cost in the ad. The third one is somewhat satisfied: a few moments of good taste. The fourth one is not satisfied directly, but everybody knows what M&Ms are.

Let’s move on to the second one – the TRS-80 from Radio Shack. (Too bad they’ve recently gone out of business!) This one gets a 6. The product is a color computer. It gives a straight price at around 25 seconds of $399, and it certainly piles on benefits and uses like there’s no tomorrow. However, the fourth requirement is not satisfied. There is no proof, other than 2-second clips of people testing the computer. So this one’s close, but it isn’t quite the fit.

       How about the Commodore PC commercial? This one is the winner – with a perfect score of 10. The product is immediately introduced, a problem is stated, and a solution is given. Then the price is named, and they pile on extra benefits – they add a monitor and OS in the deal – all for basically half the price as usual! And at the time, a thousand dollars was worth a good bit more than what we have today, in 2020. Plus, Commodore was the leading brand in computers at the time of this ad, so everybody knew who Commodore was unless they hid under a rock for 50 years.

       What about the last one? The American Express ad? This one did even more poorly than the M&Ms commercial – this one gets a 1. It is kind of confusing, the card is only flashed a few times, there is no cost given, and there is no proof! The only thing that they got spot-on was the third condition. The benefits were particularly blatant. If people didn’t know what they were looking for, they’d miss the entire point of the ad.

       What makes it a touchstone offer? Let’s use the FedEx slogan. It satisfies requirements 1 and 3 and gives a number for more information. But what really makes this ad powerful is that it can be read incredibly quickly. In three seconds or less, specifically. That is the proven amount of time a consumer looks/reads an ad: three seconds. That’s how long a seller has to hook the buyer. If the seller doesn’t manage to do that, the consumer is gone. No sale. However, if they can catch the consumer, it’s almost certain there will be a sale. In the case of Domino’s Pizza, the ad isn’t as short, but there is another key to a touchstone ad. Who doesn’t like the word “free”? That is the key to the Domino’s commercial. “Or it’s free.” Those three words are the hook. Hey, there seems to be a pattern showing… The rule of three, maybe? The key to all advertising is the rule of three: three seconds, three words, or three repetitions. Repetition is also critical – the more times a consumer hears an ad, the more likely they are to remember it. It helps if it’s a really annoying earworm like that “Kars for Kids” jingle. Who doesn’t know that one? But after seeing the ad about three to four times, a consumer is much more likely to buy that product.  

       In conclusion, there are many parts of a touchstone offer. The Rule of Three, the Four Requirements, the hook, the “Act Now” statement, and many other things. Based on some of those criteria, grades can be assigned to some ads; for instance, the M&Ms commercial from 1957, Radio Shack TRS-80 commercial from 1980Commodore IBM PC ad from 1987, or even the American Express TV commercial from the late 1960s.  

PS – Stay safe, and don’t die!

 ~ Danger S.

Posted in 9th Grade, English 1

E1 L150 – Ants, Loons (The birds), and Content

I’ve written a good bit about autobiographies recently, and they bring up a lot about formatting and style and all that other good stuff. Still, it doesn’t really dive deep into choosing content. For instance, if I was a writer for an autobiography myself, I might have to choose between writing about an ant war or loons. It’s not very relevant to my time in the woods, and if I had a choice, I probably wouldn’t put either in the first place, but if I had to, I would probably choose the ant war. It shows more of how the forest is alive. Besides, if I put three pages in about loons in my autobiography unless I was a naturalist, I would be considered a loon myself.

The choice of material is critical in writing the book because somebody could be the best author ever. However, if they choose substandard content, nobody will ever read it. So in the above hypothetical situation, I would probably focus on how I survived. I would certainly try not to be hypocritical like Thoreau and his “independence philosophy” where he “doesn’t rely on the village,” then visit the village twice a week. Continuing with Walden as an example, I wouldn’t waste space on long-winded, two-page useless descriptions of a stinking pine tree! If I put in reports of the trees and bugs and pond nearby, I wouldn’t get half as many readers – Especially if the autobiography was my first book.  

But the deciding reason I chose the ant war over the description of loons, was because a page-long explanation of two colonies of ants doing battle sounds a lot more appealing than a page of describing a bunch of birds. It’s merely the nature of the idea. In essence, a description of a bird sounds like a boring documentary, while ants waging war sounds like some kind of action/adventure movie. Personally, I would choose the ants over the loons every time.

The only exception to this would be if I was writing this autobiography as a naturalist. If, say, Charles Darwin did something like this, it probably would’ve been two separate books, but he would do them both, not choose one or the other. It would be quite the opposite for, say, Bill Nye (Yes, I know, he’s a fraud) to do something like that. He would basically get laughed out of existence!

In conclusion, when writing an autobiography, the content is critical. And in a choice between describing loons and describing a war between two ant colonies, the ants would win every time. It isn’t really relevant unless I was a naturalist. Nonetheless, that would be my choice – only because it sounds more enthralling.

Posted in 9th Grade, Business 1

B1 L105 – Cragslist Ad

Wow! A Samsung Galaxy S5 in good condition – for half the price of new? That’s a pretty good deal – why don’t you take it? In a world where technology is everything, a smartphone is critical. And here’s a good one for pretty much free – Half the price of a new phone, and in almost original condition! If you’re going to buy a phone, why not save half your money and buy this one? To make good use of this deal, call the number now: XXX-XXX-XXXX! Or, you can get this fantastic deal on our website, blahblahblah.com! Again, that’s XXX-XXX-XXXX or blahblahblah.com! Call now and don’t miss this exclusive deal – There’s only one in stock!

The idea for this ad was that since everybody needs a smartphone nowadays, here’s a cheap one – here’s an excellent idea to buy it. I offered the inventive of “Save half your phone-buying money,” which is a pretty big one. Then I gave a call to action of “request now or miss this exclusive deal” because everybody else will rush at it. Then I gave the phone number to call/website to check. However, since that phone sold years ago, I can’t run it because that would be a scam. The long and short of this ad is pretty much: “Come buy this phone. It’s cheap, it’s necessary in today’s world, and there’s only one in stock, so call now.”

Posted in 9th Grade, English 1

E1 L145 – Philosophy of Lies

I have been reading a pretty famous book recently, and it isn’t nearly what it’s cracked up to be.  Walden by Henry David Thoreau is one of those books that’s always assigned in every reading course ever, simply because all the others do it. It’s an awful book, though; it’s mind-numbing and full of logic holes, argument reversals, anti-dependence lies, and false philosophy of life. But here’s the question: Did he have to summarize his philosophy of life? Or did he do it in an attempt to reinforce his lies about independence?  

I think that he legitimately did try to make his life as simple as possible. Still, he couldn’t make it much more straightforward than it already was before Walden Pond. He realized this relatively early on. After that point, he reused it to bolster his pack of lies about dependence and simplicity. And he didn’t make any good points in the book, because he didn’t reverse any of them – oh, wait; no, he did. He flipped all of them. And argued both sides at different points in the book. I don’t even understand how he kept a spot in a debate club in town – he explained both sides himself!

It makes sense, though, if you dive deeper. Thoreau knew he was writing a book. He wanted to have it sell, so he catered to everyone. He argued both sides in the same book so everybody would buy, from both sides of a ton of different arguments. However, the rule applies – try to please everybody, and nobody’s happy. The book is dry as an encyclopedia and as dull as math class. So it’s a bad book, written by a well-known author. It’s another one of these. 

The well-known authors like Thoreau don’t need to make the book a page-turner – everybody’s going to read it anyway because they’re a renowned author. So the author doesn’t try to make the book enjoyable; thus, the book is bland. They don’t need to work, so they don’t. It’s straightforward – that’s why the authors with only a little fame are the ones with the best books – they’re not newbs who don’t know how to make a page-turner. However, they’re not wizened old authors like Thoreau who don’t need to make their books thrilling. They are right in the hot spot – they need to have good books to get publicity, and if their books are dry and disgusting like Thoreau’s, they lose face and get replaced.

So the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau is one of those books that the English courses assign because the author was ridiculously famous. The book is bone-dry and as lackluster as a math textbook, and I don’t recommend reading it. It’s full of lies, logic holes, argument reversals (not!), and a fake life philosophy to cover the bunch.