As I sat down to write the other day, I was having trouble coming up with a real-life, heinous example to illustrate an important point. Then the phone rang. There was a caller who gave me exactly what I needed. (Note to self: if I do a book on tape version, put eerie music under that intro.)
The caller was a good friend, someone I’ve known and worked with for years, who produces video. “I need help on a direct response commercial,” he said. Good so far. That’s what I do. Then he described his client’s miracle product.
I was intrigued. “Does it work?” I asked.
“No, but that’s what we’re claiming.”
He admitted that he’d conducted and videotaped two tests, both of which failed to support the claim. “But,” he said, “we have videotaped testimonials from happy customers who swear the product worked for them.”
Testimonials are convincing, but they prove nothing. “There are lots of testimonials from people who have ridden in a flying saucer, too,” I said. I could have added that there are also testimonials from people who claim that they: are the reincarnation of Jesus or Abraham Lincoln; had a near-death experience; caused an earthquake with bad thoughts; find water, oil or gold by use of divining rods; levitate; travel out-of-body; have ESP; cure diseases with a kind word; move objects with incantations; own a perpetual motion machine; travel through time and back; and more. But as my friend’s test showed, testimonials and facts don’t always have a good deal in common.
My good-natured friend laughed and said, “I get the impression you don’t want to work on this project.”
Yep. I told him I’d love to work with him on something else, but not this one. I appreciated his leveling with me. A few times, clients have lied to me about their products. Taking them at their word — one of them had a PhD in engineering and lots of impressive charts to back up his claims, after all — I had unwittingly passed along the lies.
“What?” he kidded me. “You’re going to hold out for a product that actually works? Good luck.”
They’re out there. Just take a look at our client list.