Gotta love Batman. Amazing skills. Cool tools. Resolute commitment. Nice. But, what good would all that be were there no Riddler, Joker, or, more recently, no Bane.
It doesn’t take a hero to make a villain. Quite the contrary. Heroes rise in their conquest of a villain. This good-vs-evil juju makes for great direct response ads.
Villains magnetize direct response ads
There can be no drama without struggle. But, drama alone merely animates your ad. A villain adds focus by giving the struggle purpose. Victory defined draws broader interest.
Baseball is sublime drama from March to September. But, 2,430 games is more than most can focus upon. In October, though, when it’s the best of seven between two remaining teams, there’s one you root for and one you root against. A hero. A villain. Mass appeal.
Same goes for Team USA Soccer. They practiced and played for years. But, we didn’t care until they were pitted against clearly drawn villains; teams seeking to deny them The World Cup. Waffle House brilliantly leveraged the moment and became a Twitter trending topic by tweeting “We don’t believe in Belgium Waffles.”
Don’t settle for struggle
Weak-kneed direct response ads deliver only struggle without clearly defining the villain. That omission robs ads of purpose. Struggle is just an uphill climb. The villain creates a summit, a goal, a purpose.
Suppose we were creating an ad for a weight-loss product. Anyone sporting extra pounds would like to lose the weight. Just providing a way to do so may be interesting. But, transform fat into the villain robbing you of health, sex and shortening your life, and you’ve identified a foe to be defeated thanks to your product’s superpowers.
Hitler: our ally in victory?
Evil has an upside when it comes to persuasion. No, you don’t have to cross over to the dark side to become more successful. Quite the contrary.
While our troops waged war in Europe during World War II, Americans at home were asked to conserve resources to fuel the fight. But, how do you promote selfless sacrifice? Get a villain to help.
Hitler provides the supreme lever in Weimer Pursell’s 1940’s Car-Sharing Club poster created for the United States Information Service. You don’t merely squander resources like gasoline and rubber by riding alone, you figuratively give Hitler a lift.
Be a direct response ad superhero
The power of effective direct response ads is not found in a clever turn of phrase. Look instead at the other end of the lever: the worse your villain, the more value customers find in the special powers needed to overcome him.
Creating persuasive direct response ads is less about amping up features and benefits, than it is about crafting a villain only your product can defeat. Cape, mask and costume optional.