Wednesday, 5 December 2012

I see, said the blind man

The Power of Words from Seth Gardner on Vimeo.

One of the most famous and effective short stories is Hemingway's six-worder, possibly written as a bet:
'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.'
Most of us will hit on a tragedy when it comes to finding a meaning in these simple words, although there are other explanations, such as a baby with bigger feet than expected or even free-spirited hippy parents! But whatever the interpretation, it's what the words don't tell or spell out, that invites the reader into the world of the placer/s of this small ad.

This short story reminds me of another story, currently being used by online content specialists Purple Feather to remind potential clients of the power of words. The film is beautifully made, and, I should think, effective to those who haven't heard the story before.

But I have, and I think that the original version is far stronger and closer to the power that Hemingway conjured up with his six words. In the new version, the copywriter changes the blind man's sign completely:
FROM: I'm blind.
TO: It's a beautiful day and I can't see it.

The earlier version (attributed variously to Ogilvy or one of the Saatchis) is much simpler and involves the addition of three words to the original sign:

It's Spring and I am blind.

Instead of just spelling out the facts, this version draws the reader in to empathise with the blind man, to make their own connection and conclusion.

And, like all good creative ideas, it takes the basic truth of the client and brings it to life, rather than changing it.


Whisks said...

I hadn't seen the film before and it had me all teary. I agree, the original words were better, but the storytelling was still strong. Sad now :(

Sue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sue said...

The film is beautifully made and I'm glad to see this story getting a wider audience, despite the change of wording. It's worth remembering that a lot of today's best authors cut their teeth as copywriters in ad agencies - moving people to laughter or tears in a few well-chosen words is a real talent.