Sheep and goats

Tomorrow morning early I’m leaving for Geneva to see my 18 year-old son who’s working for the winter season at a French ski resort. I won’t pretend that I don’t envy him.

Last time I flew to Geneva I was struck by two advertisements along the walkway from the aircraft to the terminal. The first was for a Swiss merchant bank. It had no imagery, simply bands of burgundy, gold and black, along with a classic serif typeface, to intimate privilege and exclusivity. ‘Imagine a bank that combines strength with dedicated service…’ it exhorted us. That was all. It was banal and ineffably smug.

Imagine one that doesn’t, I thought, moved by irritation to apply the principle of opposites. It’s an old but handy trick for separating the sheep from the goats. If the opposite of what is stated raises a hollow groan or a weary sigh, then the writer is probably, to continue in agricultural vein, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, or at the very least a virtue out of the unremarkable. Strength and dedicated service, one would think, are the sine qua non of any Swiss bank. That copywriter should have been made to eat raclette till his giblets congealed.

Straight ahead, at the end of the walkway, was another advertisement, a huge and arresting photograph of the Dents du Midi raising their snowy ramparts into a clear blue sky. ‘Bienvenu à notre usine’ ran the copyline. ‘Welcome to our factory.’ In the bottom corner was the Evian logo. That was all. But what a difference…

Perhaps most tellingly, it was the advertisement that had not one iota of imagination behind it that used the word ‘imagine’, whereas the Evian ad had plenty, and it trusted that we’d use ours to get their message, witty and thought-provoking as it was. The ability to appeal to the imagination is one of the essential qualities of all good writing, but it also takes imagination to achieve it; you can’t simply command people to switch theirs on. But then one ad was for a Swiss bank, the other a French multinational…

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About Jamie Jauncey

Author, writer, blogger, facilitator, musician, co-founder of Dark Angels and The Stories We Tell
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