What Your Client Needs Right Now


(By Roy Williams) Tinkerbell’s light gradually dims as she begins to die.

Her only hope of survival is an audience that believes in fairies and demonstrates that belief through enthusiastic applause. Tinkerbell has been growing stronger since 1904, when she first appeared in J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan.

The Tinkerbell Effect describes things that exist only because enough of us believe they exist, and behave as though they do.

Paper money has value only because enough of us believe it has value and behave as though it does. If we quit believing it has value, it becomes scrap paper.

Laws have power because we believe they have power and behave as though they do. If we behaved as though laws had no power, we would live in a lawless society.

Our economy is robust when we believe it is robust. But when we become anxious and hunker down in financial hesitation, our economy unwinds in a downward spiral, like a kite falling from the sky.

A confident nation spends money.

An uncertain nation delays its purchases.

Uncertainty is an enemy of the economy.

A lot of people are feeling uncertain.

It seems as though every voice in the media believes we need to be instructed about what to believe and what to do. But I am convinced we need encouragement far more than we need instruction. And I believe your client needs your encouragement far more than they need your facts and figures.

Encouragement brings hope — hope that tomorrow will be better than today, hope that “next time” will be better than “last time,” hope that Tinkerbell will continue to live and twinkle and fly.

You’ve heard of ads written around features and benefits. These ads are weary beyond words. “Our red beans and rice are the perfect blend of rice carbohydrates and bean protein, making them the perfect food for health-conscious vegans and vegetarians.”

You’ve heard of ads that are aspirational, appealing to a listener’s sense of upward mobility and accomplishment. “Our red beans and rice are the best Cajun dish in greater New Orleans. Your friends will be impressed that you know who’s who and what’s what.”

But more powerful than features and benefits — and much more convincing than aspirational ads — are messages that bridge into magical thinking. “If you see a woman with a spring in her step and a twinkle in her eye, you can be sure she’s been to Roy’s Cajun Kitchen. Our red beans and rice make every day a three-day weekend, and when you finish the bowl, you’ll glitter when you walk. Our beans and rice are illegal in seven
states and under investigation in 11 more. Simply stated, they will change your life. Get a bowl while they remain available … at Roy’s.”

Air that ad and count the number of customers who walk through the door and mention that woman with a spring in her step and a twinkle in her eye, or who desperately need a three-day weekend, or who want to glitter when they walk. Count the customers who mention “those illegal beans and rice.”

Features and benefits are about presenting the truth in a logical manner. Aspirational ads are about ego. But magical thinking is about winning the unconscious mind, the illogical heart, knowing that it will convince the conscious mind to create whatever logic is needed to justify what the heart has already decided.

Barbara Hall strikes a triumphant chord in her book Charisma. “Belief is about collecting ideas and investing in them. Faith is about having your ideas obliterated and having nothing to hang onto and trusting that it’s going to be all right anyway.”

In the face of relentlessly negative newscasts, I have moved from belief in America to faith in America.

I am not alone.

Known for her focus on “feel-good” news, Ellen K hosts a morning drive show that recently became the largest radio audience in Los Angeles. Evidently, people are looking for someone to make them feel good. I suggest you keep that in mind when talking to business owners, and when writing ads to attract listeners to their businesses.

If you should ever visit Wizard Academy in Austin, you will notice a bronze plaque on the subterranean path to our tower that overlooks the city of Austin from 900 feet above. Stand on that plaque in the darkness and look just above the hilt of the sword at the top of the tower. That point of light you see is Tinkerbell. It is the guiding light of the Wise Men in the Christmas story. It is the bright star in “The Impossible Dream,” the star of which Don Quixote sings, “This is my quest: to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far…” Now look down and read the plaque. It says, “To Calvin Laughlin.”

Calvin Laughlin was an infant when his parents became major donors to Wizard Academy. His father is Roy Laughlin. His mother is Ellen K.

Congratulations, Ellen.

And thanks for the good news.

Roy Williams is a regular columnist for Radio Ink magazine. His columns do not regularly appear online. To subscribe to Radio Ink magazine to see all of Roy’s columns and other exclusive content GO HERE.

Roy Williams is president of Wizard of Ads and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. As to Shelly-bo-Belly’s comment:
    When did she acquire the ability to read Roy’s mind and to be so certain of her conclusion?
    Meanwhile, I have yet to find a reasonable person who doesn’t appreciate some praise for their excellent work.
    Perhaps this is just another opportunity for mizz shelley to take a further incoherent, cheap and superficial snipe.
    Very banal.

  2. Fortunately, radio has a “Tink” of its own, and her name is Roy.
    (I will explain the distinctions later.)
    Indeed, our jobs as writers and performers include the massaging, cajoling, urging, tricking or just outright manipulation of the minds of our audiences.
    Too bad that doesn’t appear on any of radio’s job descriptions.
    I mean, that does seem to be a tad harsh, does it not?
    Materials that access and affect our unconscious, emotional aspects can be found in radio’s (so far – undiscovered) treasure chest.


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