OK, that's not strictly true. Actually, it's not true at all. But it made you want to read on, didn't it? Or perhaps not?
According to surveys, if you're a regular reader of poetry then you're in a tiny minority, so perhaps name-checking the writer of such masterpieces as 'Ode on a Grecian Urn', 'To Autumn' and 'Ode to a Nightingale' wasn't much of a hook for you?
It would have worked for me, however, because as well as being one of my favourite poets, Keats was also a wonderful, and compulsive, letter-writer. In his letters he reflected on big themes such as art, poetry and human nature. In one of these letters, written to his brother George and his sister-in-law Georgiana early in 1819 (two years before his early death aged just 25), he made the following, profound, observation: "Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced - even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life hast illustrated it."
I think those first eight words -'Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced' - are important for those of us in the business of communication and persuasion, and perhaps not considered enough in campaign development.
Now that I think about it, many campaigns, especially those for new products and services or those designed to attract new users, must bridge the big gap between non-experience and experience that Keats wrote about. It's surprising, therefore, that we spend such little time worrying about how to communicate the reality of a product or service, when developing campaigns. Instead, we busy ourselves unearthing insights, debating the core benefits and defining the key message or messages, but we rarely acknowledge that sometimes the real challenge we face can be to simulate reality, virtually.
Some years ago, the transport authority here in London launched a new form of electronic ticketing called 'Oyster', for travel on the Underground and the buses. I remember the campaign that launched it. It was very visible and communicated compelling benefits such as ease and cost savings. But although I'm a daily underground passenger and a highly interested consumer of advertising, I persisted in buying my paper ticket every month, despite it being the more costly and less easy alternative. It was only when it finally became difficult to buy the paper ticket that I reluctantly switched to Oyster. Once experienced, I loved it, and I couldn't believe that I hadn't taken it up much earlier. Although I'd noticed the campaign, and the communications had extolled the many benefits of Oyster, I had failed to appreciate them. Put another way, the communication had failed to simulate reality, for me.
I wonder whether failure to simulate reality is why some campaigns that tick many boxes actually fail in the real world. Among the bewildering array of metrics that we use to evaluate our campaigns, we never seem to ask, 'Can you imagine using the brand/product/ service?' I'm trying to remember the last time, or indeed the first time, that a comms tracking debrief pinned a comms campaign's success or failure on reality simulation.
It also feels like there is a prejudice against 'product or service demonstration', which is a tried-and-tested way to simulate reality, as a communications approach. Perhaps this is because we think it's old-fashioned merely because it was popular in the early years of TV advertising - the 1960s and 1970s. And yet, there are examples, albeit too few, that demonstrate just how distinctive and successful this approach can still be today. For example, in 2014, the brilliant and highly awarded viral masterwork called 'Epic Split' starring 'The Muscles from Brussels', Jean-Claude Van Damme (from Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors, for Volvo Trucks), showed just how compelling, and fresh, product demonstration can be in the twenty-first century. 'Epic Split' simulated the reality of the stability and precision of Volvo Trucks' Dynamic Steering system, in a dramatic and surprising way.
To encourage more approaches like this one, instead of focusing our strategy development research on just current users at one end of the spectrum, and non-users at the other, perhaps we should be conducting more research with those who 'didn't, but do now'. This would help us to understand, and test out, how to trigger a simulation of product or service reality. Indeed, starting out in this way may make it more likely that we would consider the simulation of reality as a tenable communications strategy. And, of course, these days we can also avail ourselves of virtual reality to include within the campaign mix. Something that, romantic that I am, I like to think Keats maybe had an inkling about, almost two hundred years ago.