Dave Trott: The best books are the ones you actually read

Everywhere you look it's the same thing: content is king.

I disagree.

Execution is king.

Content is what you find in school textbooks.

It’s information, it’s dull, it’s a penance.

To read it you need lots of concentration and coffee.

I don’t like writing where the reader has to do the work.

I like writing where the writer does the work for you.

I think that’s the job.

I just saw a link to "The Ten Best Business Books Ever".

I thought: I’ll click on it, there might be something I need to read.

Then I thought: nah, they’re probably dull, I’ll buy them and never read them.

So I didn’t click.

Because like most people, I only read what interests me.

And if a book is boring, no matter how valuable the information, I won’t finish it.

Even if I’ve been seduced by the title into buying it.

How many people bought A Brief History of Time?

Now how many people do you know that actually finished reading it?

See my point.

It doesn’t matter how valuable the information is if it doesn’t get read.

What you read must influence you more than what you don’t.

So the first and most important job must be: make it accessible, make it inviting, make people want to read it.

My school in east London was pretty bad.

On Fridays we were encouraged to bring comics into class and spend the afternoon swapping and reading them.

Just so that we would learn to read.

We wouldn’t leave school illiterate.

I was one of the first kids in my class to read a book without pictures.

It was a cheap paperback, a war story about U boats.

I made myself concentrate all weekend in order to get through it.

Just so I could say I’d read a whole book.

I was fifteen.

They asked us to read comics because they knew that otherwise we wouldn’t read at all.

Paul Arden understood how people work.

Paul said "I couldn’t write a book, I’m an art director, so I thought I’d do one that was pictures instead".

So far his book has sold two million, worldwide.

The same content is available everywhere, written down in page after boring didactic page.

But no one reads it until you put it in a way they find attractive.

John Webster understood that.

John’s campaigns were characters that brought the product benefits to life: Cresta Bear, The Honey Monster, The Smash Martians, The Hoffmeister Bear.

That isn’t so different from what Leo Burnett and Geers Gross were doing: The Jolly Green Giant, Tony The Tiger, The Tetley Tea Folk.

The difference was John did it with wit and style and intelligence.

John thought it was his job to charm the audience, so they’d want to pay attention.

Think of it as a present.

The content is what goes into the present.

But if you wrap it in a really boring way it won’t get opened.

John Webster and Paul Arden had the same content as everyone else.

They just wrapped it a zillion times better.

As Bill Bernbach said "Execution is content in a work of genius".

Topics

Subscribe to Campaign from just £57 per quarter

Includes the weekly magazine and quarterly Campaign IQ, plus unrestricted online access.

SUBSCRIBE

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now
Share

1 An oral history of 'Get a Mac,' Part 1

How an excruciating seven-month quest for an idea Steve Jobs didn't hate gave birth to one of the funniest, most effective campaigns in Apple's history, told by the writers, crew and actors who created it 10 years ago.

Just published

More