In writing for businesses, I frequently hear marketing directors/executives/creative team leaders say something to the effect of “Make every word count. We want them to feel, not think. Lead their thoughts with your words.”
It’s poetry, commercialized. (Oh, and dumbed down to the LCD). People marketing to you expect to you read, feel, and react at about the level of a thirteen year old. Don’t think they respect your intelligence. They think the buyer is “smart” and “savvy”, not knowledgeable.
In my most humblest of opinions.
So, what can we learn here, about this crucial fact of both genres of perhaps the least-read words on the planet? (Think about it: lower but more dedicated readership numbers for poetry vs. a widespread yet fickle audience in advertising.)
“Impact” and “retention” are the names of the games in both.
Impact is Instant
Whether it’s poetry or sales copy, you need to land with an immediate impact. No, not immediate. Instant. Where in a novel, a reader may give you a whole page to sufficiently hook them, and in a short story the reader might allow you at least a paragraph to breathe magic into words, readers of ad copy and poetry give you about three words.
Three. Friggin. Words.
In no time flat, you have to trigger the reader into some kind of reaction. Get them through to the end of the sentence. That’s your first goal.
All the advice you’ve heard about eliminating adverbs? Now is the time.
You will find a difference in the use of adjectives in poetry vs. ads though. In poetry, you want sensory images and specifics that come with detailed nouns. In ad copy, adjectives can be useful to trigger emotions. You want the reader to be able to picture the product in their hand and their life.
With that being said, some of the same rules apply. Alliteration. Cacophony. The old school literary devices that you “need to know“, all show up in poetry and ad copy.
Retention Depends on Goals
Consider your end goal when writing.
If you want readers to feel, perhaps reflect and think very deeply, then you’re writing poetry, and you probably can keep someone who reads the first line engaged enough to read the first stanza. From there, it’s up to you to keep them engaged in every line.
If you want the reader to feel something within three words and take action by the end of a single sentence, then you’re in ad-copy-land.
For either type of writing, thinking about the goal of your words will lead to retention of your readers. If your goal is to entertain and inspire, and you focus your words on that, not only can you engage the reader for the entire poem or advertisement, but you have a higher chance of grabbing their attention in future encounters.
Concise. Clear. Compelling.
It’s what both ad copy writing and poetry must be.