Equal time for the non-verbal

Written by

Andrew Millar


March 15, 2007

OK, so I need to give equal time to the opposition. (We are in an election year after all.)

In my last Bleat I did lament the passing of words from clever marketing. The truth is I am also a great fan of the nonverbal as well.

I’ve used it as a technique on television quite effectively. You can’t go with absolute silence but if you keep the sound track low, people look up because they believe their television is busted.

However I created a brochure once for a friend which had 5 folds and 6 images and no copy or headlines at all, apart from contact details.

Steve approached me one day as we dropped our respective children at school. We had a nodding acquaintance until then and he knew I worked in marketing. Steve owned a catering firm and wanted me to recommend a good food photographer. I recommended one and warned him of the expense. He said he’d contact me once he had the images and could I put a corporate brochure together for him?

I looked forward to seeing the images, with an expectation in mind. Not a high one. Perhaps a credible one. But I didn’t expect much.

When I saw the final product my reaction was one of sheer delight.

“”Oh, you’re that kind of caterer!””

The food was delicious. Beautifully prepared. Delicately presented. Stunningly photographed. And so I developed the brochure, trying to generate the same reaction from the reader.

““Oh you’re that kind of caterer!””

And I made the decision early on that it didn’t need words. Just images, one to a fold, hanging together like a string of postcards.

Steve still acknowledges that that brochure was responsible for beginning his journey from barbecued chickens to a modest epicurean empire.

And food gave me a link to another great example of nonverbal communication.

I went to a Caxton Award weekend once. And one of the guest speakers was the Soviet Union’s Cultural Envoy to Australia.

We thought his speech was to be a spoof. An imitator. A comedy act.

It was everything but. He showed us the most brilliant examples of peasant propaganda. Concepts with no words meant for people who could not read.

One of them showed hundreds of long handled shovels standing upright in a ploughed field. The twist was that each shovel had a microphone attached to the top of the handle. A voice for all. However I can’t remember if each microphone had a cord. Perhaps they weren’t connected. Perhaps it was propaganda tinged with truth.

And the connection with fine food?

I ran into our Russian presenter at Sunday lunch – a seafood banquet overlooking Terrigal Bay. I struck up a conversation to find out if he was to be in Adelaide at any stage to perhaps represent his lecture. However he sadly announced that he was being recalled to Moscow. He was leaving the next day.

Back to minus 15 degrees behind the Berlin Wall. But at least his shovel had a microphone, even if his fork lacked a king prawn.

He didn’t need words to convey how he felt about going back.

Andrew Millar
Creative Director