How do you get the attention of the public when your product or service is a grudge purchase at best?

Every home services provider suffers from this. No one wants to talk about their roof, air conditioner or plumbing until it breaks. And when it does, they want help right away. So most home service providers spend far too many of their advertising dollars on AdWords, or Google Home Services, which may make you some money right now if you spend enough, but won’t build your long-term brand (reputation in the community). That’s extremely expensive marketing.

Fortunately, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby have demonstrated that stories have the power to convey more information than logic. In fact, 7 times more people can solve something called the Wason Selection Test after encountering the information they’re supposed to remember as a story involving social-rule cheating than as a logic puzzle. And the stories they use are rudimentary at best. Think about that. Even the most rudimentary story causes people to remember your ad 7 times more than if you just present them the facts. Wow!

You may be wondering what social-rule cheating is and how to use it in a story. The good news is that social-rule cheating is what makes any story interesting. It’s bending the rules, escaping from a problem, improvising outside the norms to win. When it’s applied to advertising over mass media, it can cause everyone in your town to take notice and remember you when they need you. Wouldn’t that be nice? Check out how it’s done through the ad writing of Tom Wanek.

Tom Wanek is a strategy genius. If you don’t know that, you should. He’s a deep thinker, and whenever he speaks I make sure to listen. But what most people don’t know about him is that strategy Genius = creative potential as well. His creative writing ability is fantastic.

Here are two ads he wrote for one of my clients. The offer itself isn’t incredibly exciting. At its heart it’s an improved tune-up, even though how my clients deliver it is fantastic. That’s not going to capture the attention of a too busy public. Changing the name to a Summer Cool Spectacular helps make it more interesting. Tom knew that, and so he incorporated, whether consciously or because he’s talented, the social-rule cheating technique. Not only did these ads make an impact in people calling, they caused a social media stir when they were posted with an animated photo my client created.

Check out the scripts.

“Carolina Reaper” 60-Second Radio Ad

DEREK: Today, you eat the world’s hottest pepper: The Carolina Reaper. [sfx: flame thrower burst]
SCOTT: Oh, yeah! 
DEREK: Up for the challenge?
SCOTT: Bring it on, Derek.
DEREK: Confident, aren’t-cha? 
SCOTT: Just get ready to pay up.
DEREK: Gotta eat the whoooole thing!
SCOTT: Oh, I will. Don’t you worry. But, uhhh… have somethin’ to cool me down, will ya? You know—just in case.
DEREK: Sure thing, big brother. I got your back.
SCOTT: Okay… here goes. [sfx: dramatic music/anticipation] 
DEREK: Down the hatch in 3…2…1 [sfx: symbol crash] 
SCOTT: [chewing sounds/gulp] 
DEREK: What’s it like?
SCOTT: Oh, no.
DEREK: Tell me… what’s it like? 
SCOTT: So hot. So-so hot! 
DEREK: Too much?
SCOTT: Ooo-ooo-ooo! 
DEREK: You cryin’? 
DEREK: Oh, right! Somethin’ to keep you cool. Ummmm… 
SCOTT: [incoherent mumbling] 
DEREK: I know! I’ll book you a Summer Cool Spectacular!!!
SCOTT: Huh!? 
DEREK: For just one-hundred 34 buck-a-ROOS… a Simmons “All-Pro” technician will completely revitalize your air conditioner.
SCOTT: Air conditioner? 
DEREK: You’ll stay cool as a cucumber all summer long!
SCOTT: Uhhhh! 
DEREK: That’s right! We promise NO breakdowns for six months.
SCOTT: [incoherent mumbling] 
DEREK: Yes! Of course, that’s Guar-ON-teed! 
ANNCR: Revitalize your AC! Book your Summer Cool Spectacular today! Online at Simmons One Hour dot com.
SCOTT: MILK! I need milk!

“Carolina Reaper Part Deux” 60-Second Radio Ad

[scene takes place in a hospital ER with hospital sound ef ects] 

M ANNCR: [sfx: curtain being drawn] Hello… I’m Doctor Barlow. Let’s take a look, shall we? Hmmmm… now tell me what happened.
SCOTT: [incoherent mumbling] 
M ANNCR: Why don’t we have your brother do the talking.
DEREK: Well doctor, it all started with the Carolina Reaper.
M ANNCR: The band? 
DEREK: The pepper.
M ANNCR: Ahhhh… 
DEREK: Now, I told Scott… eatin’ the Reaper was NOT a good idea.
SCOTT: [mumbled] Noooot true. 
DEREK: Buuuuutttt… 
M ANNCR: He’s not as wise.
SCOTT: [mumbled] WHAT!? 
DEREK: [under your breath] Definitely a lil’ bull headed, ya know? 
SCOTT: [mumbled] Huh!? 
DEREK: So he popped that pepper in his mouth annnnd… 
M ANNCR: Straight down the hatch. Okay… so how’d you respond once his mouth started burning?
DEREK: I immediately booked him a Summer Cool Spectacular from Simmons!
M ANNCR: [surprised] For his A/C? 
SCOTT: [mumbled] Told ya! 
DEREK: Just one-hundred 34 buck-a-ROOS, and your system will blow stronger, cooler and spend a lot less energy.
M ANNCR: Plus guaranteed no breakdowns for six months? 
DEREK: EXACT-a-mundo! 
M ANNCR: Mr. Cole, your swift action kept your brother cool and stabilized his body temperature. You very likely saved…
DEREK: [excitedly cutting him of ] His LIFE!? 
M ANNCR: Taste buds… [beat pause] from exploding.
SCOTT: [mumbled] Oh, c’mon! 
M ANNCR: Revitalize your AC! Book your Summer Cool Spectacular today! Online at Simmons One Hour dot com.

Here’s why this copy works and is so well crafted…

1. Yes, it sets up the scene first. Usually with an offer ad, you want to get the offer out their first. Tom knows that, but since a tune-up isn’t what the public dreams about when they go to sleep, he used intrigue to draw listeners in.

2. Notice how the humor preceeds the tie into the product. Everyone’s laughing at the client’s pain, and they’re wondering how he’ll get help for his burning tastebuds

3. Tom ties the product to the answer for the tastebuds. This in itself is a joke, but it also violates social rule following. So it causes the listener to remember all the points of why a Summer Cool Spectacular will benefit their house (and not their tastebuds).

4. Notice that he never deviates from that joke, even in the followup ad. Even the doctor corroborates how this AC service saved his tastebuds. This is ridiculous, and everyone knows it. But that makes them remember the ad and the features of the Summer Cool Spectacular.

If you want to use Tom’s technique, start with the entertainment.

That will draw the listener in and keep them around for the payoff of your ad. Once you’ve done that, you want the benefit of the offer to converge with a violation of social etiquette. The “trouble” (as my partner Jeff Sexton says) causes human brains to take notice. The fact that the real benefits of your offer don’t actually satisfy the trouble only causes people to remember them more and even remember their true application.

Oh, and if your offer is so strong that everyone wants it just from hearing the offer, you could probably start with the offer and disregard this very delicate technique. But then again, what if you had both? Or, if your offer is simply good, as in this ad, using the Wanek convergence (what I’m naming this) can elevate your product or service from mild interest to the most sharable and buyable thing in the world.

Imagine how special it is that people are going a bit nuts on social media over an ad for air conditioning service. That’s great writing. If you can’t do that yourself, I’m sure Tom or any of the rest of us Wizard of Ads partners would be happy to help you out. :-)