Room 101 and Audience Imagination

1 Apr


In George Orwell’s novel 1984, a place called “Room 101” is described. It’s a torture chamber containing “the worst thing in the world”. What is that thing? It ends up being whatever the unlucky occupant’s worst fear is – and that’s why it’s so terrifying.

Often times in advertising, we try to show something that is beautiful, frightening, or funny, and we have to make a creative judgment about what best brings about that emotion in the audience. Thing is, a punchline can be hilarious to one viewer, and fall flat with another. A steep ski hill can be exciting to one viewer, and terrifying to a less-adventurous one.

What is an advertiser to do? Consider only showing a reaction to something, rather than the something itself. Different things may make each of us laugh, but when we see someone laughing, we all understand that it signals something funny has just happened. Let the viewer fill in the missing piece, based on the reaction the ad shows them. Stimulating the audience’s imagination is a great way to get them engaged with the ad.

Look at this old 1-900 ad and see this principle at work. Tell me you’re not dying to find out what is being said on the other end of the line!


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