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There was a buzzing in the room, the kind that comes from many voices speaking with whispered enthusiasm. Anyone walking by would have thought there was some type of covert operation going on. Heads bent, brows furrowed, pencils scratching furiously. Ads were being rewritten.

It’s funny how one small noise can freeze a room. All heads lifted in synch, eyes turned to the front of the room at the sound of Groucho turning the paper on the flipchart.

He uncapped his felt marker with a flourish and wrote boldly on the flipchart;

“Advertising is all about Unleashing Desire!”

He pointed his marker at a slouching Elvis type in the second row. Wagging his eyebrows and rolling his eyes in his best Groucho impression, he drawled “What is it YOU desire?” .

After the laughter, he surveyed the room, arms crossed on his chest. “Seriously. What do you think are the two things that people desire most?” he asked. Someone snorted.

A tentative voice from the back of the room suggested, “Money?” He paced the room thoughtfully. “Anyone agree?” A few voices mumbled in agreement.

“What’s the first thing you’d do if you won a million dollars? he asked. He pointed at students at random. “Pay off bills,” “Quit my job,” “Go on vacation,” “A new car.”

“Do you suppose,” he asked “that people don’t really want money itself? That maybe they really want what money represents to them?”

The instructor paced the room silently. Looked out the window and combed a hand through his hair. Turning, brows furrowed, he asked; “Did you know that all your wants and all your needs stem from two primal desires? Gut level, deeply instinctive primal desires.”

You could have heard a pin drop. Elvis was actually looking curious.

Striding to the front of the room, he underlined the words on the flipchart. Carefully, he printed underneath it;

Advertising is all about Unleashing Desire!

Our primal desires are to experience pleasure & to avoid pain.

Tapping the marker on the flipchart for emphasis he stated clearly; “Every–single–thing–humans–do – stems from one of our primal desires.”

He went on to explain that if an ad focuses on primal desires, it will be more successful than if it just talks about features. An ad that elicits emotion based on a primal desire is a powerhouse ad!

He explained that “Stop the pain” sells better than than “The best headache remedy”. That “You can afford the house of your dreams” is better than “Affordable mortgages”.

He asked us to open the newspaper and find six ads that did not address a primal need. And rewrite them so they do.

Do you want to write ads or copy that will sell? Look for ads that don’t address a primal desire. Attach each ad to a piece of paper. Rewrite it so it addresses a primal desire.

When you’ve done a few dozen, you’ll start to see a difference in the oddest place. Your sales.