Ira Glass On Advertising, Part 3

Ira’s third video on storytelling is by far the most popular. He’s describing the positive side of the Dunning-Kruger effect. I think this video speaks to: Linear, no-threshold thinking, Minimum Effective Dose, and Cumulative Effect.


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The media is NOT the message.

I remember a Marshall McLuhan quote of “The Media is the Message.” So I asked Roy, what about McLuhan? The skies darkened, the floors parted, and a fiery hell appeared as Roy screamed.

Ira Glass on Great Advertising, Part 2

“The amount of time finding the decent story is more than the amount of time it takes to produce the story… I think that, like, not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.”

The Worth of a Dali

A picture is worth a thousand words. Confucius told us that. Or did he? Actually, Fred Barnard made up the saying to promote the use of images and called it “a Chinese proverb so that people would take it seriously.”

What Matters is What’s Remembered

When you advertise, you typically make bullet points of what you “want customers to know.” Giving a customer an education so he’ll have no choice but to pick you is as fanciful as it is arrogant.

Instant Gratification & Marketing

The chase for instant gratification in marketing often looks like “sales events.” Knowing when to use a sale and when to use other methods to get customers in the door makes all the difference.

Ira Glass on Great Advertising, Part 1

The first video covers Ira’s two basic building blocks of storytelling: the Anecdote and the Moment of Reflection. And in advertising terms, these are roughly analogous to Relevance and Credibility.

Your Competitors Are Bastards

Business is like writing. You have to find your own style and stick to it. Stop worrying about what the competition is doing. They’re all bastards. Get inspired by things they don’t understand.

The Marketing Funnel Cloud

I hate funnels. The thing we call a Marketing Funnel is really just a shorthand to remind us that no customer goes from “I don’t know who you are” to “here, take my money!”

The Subtle Persuasion of Groundhog Day

In many businesses, what most customers are really buying is transformation. Groundhog Day plays to three very powerful psychological dynamics you can use to captivate and convert.

The Asymmetry of Trust

You’re thinking about buying something and an acquaintance says, “Don’t do it; I bought that / hired them and it was a total waste of money. I got screwed.” Generally speaking, we believe them.

How We Decide to Purchase

Amateur ad writers assume everyone makes decisions based upon the same criteria they use. This causes them to unconsciously frame their messages to reach people exactly like themselves.

Serving “Fields of Dreams”.

Simon Sinek writes about this in “Leaders Eat Last.” Before you can get what you want, you must first give them what they want. “They” is everyone but you. Let’s start with your employees.

That’ll Do

Who is the “McDonald’s” in your category? The business you believe is getting an unfair amount of customers… in spite of their quality and competence. A few things are happening that you should find illuminating.

Building a team that wins

There’s no doubt that great businesses have equally great employees. But they also have their share of Bubba’s, Jim-Bob’s, and Tina-Marie’s. We never talk about those guys. If you ever lost sleep over a dumbass thing an employee did, you probably have a Bubba on your team.

Are Your Ads Gossip Worthy?

You probably read this and thought: that’s an unrealistic expectation. Kind of like expecting an ad to “go viral.” Who gossips about ads, of all things? And why would anyone want people gossiping about their brand?

Fat Cats and Happy Cachorros

Too many Shivers leaves a stink in the hearts of the customers. They are inattentive, self-serving, what’s-in-it-for-me type of people. Calypsos make things better – for you and the customer.

Everyone You Know (is a liar)

“NOBODY reads the newspaper.” Beware of anybody who speaks in absolutes. Statisticians look for something called a “representative sample.” And you don’t have one (no offence, I’m sure you’re a lovely person).

A Note to Jewelers Worldwide

I woke up with an astoundingly simple, big idea. The limiting factor in the engagement ring diamond is that it is “one-and-done.” But a woman can have a whole collection of Anniversary Diamonds.

The 7 Trials of an Emerging Empire Builder

There are two types of business owners: (1) Those who just want to run a profitable, stable business that funds a quality lifestyle, and (2) Aspiring empire builders with visions or building something much, much bigger.

Baseball and Advertising

As General Manager of the Oakland A’s, Bill’s payroll costs were one-third of the New York Yankees. He couldn’t compete with them. He hired Paul DePodesta, a Harvard grad in Economics. Together, they changed the game.

Social Media, A Marketing Channel

The truth is that social media allows you to see how each piece of content performs before you ever invest money in it! You don’t get the opportunity to do that with billboards, radio, TV, or print media.

The Anatomy of an Offer

Vagaries and loopholes are the enemy. Specifics and clarity are your best friends. If you’re putting a special offer out there, do the things that make offers work.

Three Wise Men Appeared on My Path

Karen Post gave me the first definition of a brand that did not include colours, style guides, and logos. Brain Tattoos said, “A brand is the STORY embedded in the mind of the market”.

Pixie Dust, Beliefs and Employees

One of the biggest challenges in today’s business world is finding and keeping employees. I’m told it’s catastrophic and there’s more demand than there is a supply of good people. This is not a new problem.

Tying Creativity to Strategy

If you’re new to mass media advertising, THE question you’re likely asking yourself is: “Does this stuff really work? Does it really drive huge success, in a reliable repeatable way?”

Say Cheese Now Smile

When you set a course to entertain, persuasion can still be a destination. The limerick can be your vehicle. It’s persuasion with the top down. The clown car body encases a Honda engine (colorful, but reliable).

When is it time to hire an ad agency?

Your intuition has already spoken up. She whispers, “No one is excited about you”. The ledger says sales have slipped. You are not hitting goals. Margins are down. Morale is off. Everything is just blah.

Happiness is a fish YOU can catch.

Stop worrying about the colour of your logo, the size of your ad, or the shares on Facebook. When it comes to business, your job is to sell happiness. And the best happiness that is long lasting and unbreakable is through the use of Oxytocin.

Cubicalls: Press Pause

“Is this that transactional-relational thing?” “I think so. Her business should be relational.” “Why?” “We’ve been taking Buffy to our groomer for 10 years. You ever bathed and brushed a Bichon? Our groomer isn’t the cheapest. But I never miss an appointment.”

The Exaggerations that Tell the Truth

The more we treasure something, the higher our emotions run in relation to it. Tell a mother how ugly her baby really is and you’ll see what I mean. And this is a very useful phenomenon for the ad writer.

Hands Up…Who’s Hiring?

“Mike, look, the post office is hiring,” Bob tipped his head at the encased poster, “but you’re past the age limit.”

“Hey Bob. Yeah, you wouldn’t get away with a recruitment ad like that these days.” Mike smiled. 

Cubicalls: The Cancellation

“Yeah, they were on for 6 months. But they don’t want to renew. Some employees bought the business. She said they’d think about it in the spring.”
“What business?”
“That HVAC outfit. We had some great ads.”

Naming the Disease

Nobody knew bad breath was a destructive social ill until Gerard Lambert pointed the blinding spotlight of his ads at the dangers of halitosis as a means of selling Listerine.

The Best Tool For the Job

That day, my dad gave me the tool I needed to successfully check the pressure of tires. On the same day, he also gave me the greatest tool for customer service. “Aaron, the best way to make better tips is to stop thinking about them.”

What’s On Your To-Don’t List?

As part of a recent self-exploration of how we’re measuring success, my friend and mentor Michele Miller suggested coming up with a to-don’t list.


A key element of any strategy is choosing what gets focus. When I present a focused strategy, sometimes I get presented with a made-up word: Alsofocuson. As in, “I like the focus, but can we also-focus-on this other focus?”

Logo Change? Consider This First

She walked right up to the wall with all of the options and pointed right to the logos with the red and blue waterdrops on them. My 80-year-old grandma knew the Moen brand because of the red and blue drops in their logo.

Chick-fil-A Let Me Down!

We hold the places we adore to higher standards. Chick-fil-A’s the most beloved fast-food restaurant in America. The Cathy family developed a lengthy list of systems, policies, and procedures – observable behaviors…

90% of Local Advertising Summed Up In 2 Slogans

Optimizing a purchase demands more time, energy, and attention than anyone can spare for 99% of purchases. Instead, people simply want their needs filled and hoped-for benefits granted at a reasonably fair price. “Satisficing.”

Attention Retention

As children we were told bedtime stories. In elementary school, we found books that we could read over and over.
As adults, we still seek a good story. The familiarity of stories has been with us from before you and I could even remember.

What Advertising Can’t Do

Creativity worshippers tend to feel that while nothing works for sure, anything might work, so long as it’s rilly, rilly creative and the lightning strikes in their favor.

Sowing Rhetoric, HARVesting Attention

In another post, I lauded Paul Harvey’s “So God made a farmer” speech for its message. Mining it for rhetorical ore in this post feels a little sacrilegious…almost like making an ad out of it. Wait. I didn’t mean that.

Not a Farmer? Check Your Heart!

Dear Intrepid Entrepreneur, if you have the heart of a farmer, you’re already a success. What? Explain! On Super Sunday, February 3, 2013, Dodge aired this legendary ad. Take two minutes and listen.

Show Me the Future

You’ve seen this commercial before. A hand reaches for a Corona from behind an umbrella, a logo appears, and it all fades to black. If you can show me a version of me in the future, you’ve tapped into something powerful.