John Singleton, “Barriers to effective communication,”
Advertising & Newspaper News, November 28, 1969, p. 4.

Two months ago we commissioned a major analysis of print and broadcast advertising.

We chose advertisements and campaigns whose results were already known to us and sought to find some further guides to the opportunities for, and barriers to, effective communication.

The study was carried out on a totally interpretive basis by Dr Peter Kenny and it is interesting to note that after the half-way mark our interviewers were able to estimate likely effectiveness levels of campaigns they were discussing by reference to our tabled guidelines.

The most important thing to understand is that communication is a “feeling” thing: “I love you”. “I’m pregnant”. “How about taking the garbage out for a change”. “Oh shut up and leave me alone”. “Mum’s dead”.

Advertising is still just a poor man’s substitute for person-to-person persuasion.

And in the person-to-person context there is very little rational behaviour.

That’s why boys meet girls and that’s what makes the world go round.

And these are the things that stop communications going round:

1. Aesthetics: This business is full of people who substitute technique for an idea. And the consumer smells it a mile off.

We found case after case where the very choice of setting and typography and wording acted as a total barrier to sales. And in the food area we found hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on food advertising which is totally unacceptable to the consumer. But very aesthetic. It will probably win an award.

2. Rational argument: This is a more natural but equally large mistake. This is the advertiser who read Rosser Reeves and missed the point.

He seeks a manufacturer’s point of difference in his product. In most cases a very real and very honest difference. Unfortunately in almost every case this difference is also totally unimportant to the consumer.

She buys what she wants.

And if your product doesn’t have it she won’t buy it, even if it is the only one with 4.2 per cent paper-clip fat.

3. Designese: This is probably an extension of the aesthetics barrier but more pronounced.

This is the attitude that communication is an opportunity for artistic expression.

“We communicate the superior quality of our product by the superior quality of our design and display”.

And the housewife dusts the plastic flowers and turns on “Peyton Place”.

4. Logic: This is most prevalent in consumer-durable advertising. The theory that the consumer will devour all and every fact about any product over about $20 “once she moves into the market”.

Unfortunately this is not so and unprofitably the fact is that most detailed reading of durable advertising takes place after the purchase. This is a trifle late.

5. Syntax: English happens to be a living language. It changes every day. And the language the people are speaking better be the language your advertising is speaking or the consumer will treat you like a pedantic bore. Whatever pedantic means.

Once these barriers are isolated and overcome, then there is opportunity for effective communication.

But grab the paper or magazine nearest you. Or watch the TV tonight and you will see the point.

Eight out of 10 advertisements are suffering from one of the five great communication diseases: aesthetics, rational argument, designese, logic or syntax.

The only good thing is that each disease is curable. But to be cured you have to first admit your ads are sick.

How long since they have had a check-up?

An example of effective communication is the double-page spready published this month for Newsday (reproduced here).

an embarrassing comparison between two evening papers. newsday.

It admitted the first issues were lousy.

It admitted that sales weren’t what they expected.

It said that it had got its finger out and was doing something about fixing itself up.

And it asked for a second chance.

I can’t see anyone not giving it just that.

John Singleton, “Opportunities for effective communication,”
Advertising & Newspaper News, December 19, 1969, p. 4.

A couple of weeks ago in this column [reproduced above] we briefly discussed those factors which act as barriers to effective communication. These factors resulted from a study commissioned by us through Dr Peter Kenny and briefly these barriers were aesthetics, rationalization, designese, logic and syntax.

As usual we have had active conversations and correspondence with people who have suggested we should be more positive.

Naturally being positive is simply not doing things we listed.

But there are a few more aids to effective communication that we have found valuable and you may find interesting. Particularly in the light of the common denominations of your own successful and non-successful (or less successful) efforts.

1. Push. But not too hard.  Salesmen come in many sizes, including 60-seconders and full-pages. Many of them today are expensively dressed (not necessarily correctly dressed). Most are entertaining. Most are very pleasant company. And most haven’t got a chance in hell of getting a sale because they don’t ask for the order. It’s easy to get a girl to go to the pictures. It’s a lot harder to get her to marry you. Or whatever.

(Note: In the light of this recommendation it should be noted that pushing is one thing. Preaching or legislating is another. They produce opposition instead of sales.)

2. Get the listener or reader to do something. I hate to harp but the good mail order man would never ever run the ads that get on air and in the press today. They don’t involve the reader. They don’t invite enquiry. They don’t ask for the order. Instead they concentrate on “building up the image”. Which is pretty hard to measure. Which is maybe just as well.

3. Can your mum understand it? Probably the ideal place to start is right back at the beginning. Most advertising today isn’t just missing a point here and there. In most cases people can’t understand it at all. Not one word of it. If you’ve got a mum in a thousand you might be able to check your ad with her. But it is a whole lot safer to have 100 mums. And even five is better than none.

(If your agency or client is against research — may God help you — go out and get some reactions to your ad yourself. It is as dangerous as hell doing it this way. But any opinion has to be better than the client’s or the agency’s.)

4. Run your ad at the ideal time: A lot of good ads run at bad times. It might as well have been a bad ad.

Recently we had a little to do with a fishing book launch for Paul Hamlyn. It could have been sold to men as a great fishing guide at any time of the year. And it may have sold reasonably well. But it was sold to women at Xmas to give to men. And it sold more copies in a shorter time than any other book has ever looked like selling in this country or any country in the world, including the U.S.A. Timing. Without it, forget it.

5. Complete the cycle. And that is a part to work out on your own because it is the most important of the lot.


We lost a very good copywriter last week.

His name is Wayne Garland.

He had been with our agency as a communications director from the day we opened our doors.

He left us for a very big opportunity with a very big agency.

And within five years he will be one of the major advertising figures in this country.

It is not a bad achievement for a guy at 22.

Maybe it’s because his mum can understand every word he writes.

(in order of appearance on
  1. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  2. Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
  3. Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
  4. Singo and Howard on Compromise
  5. Singo and Howard on Monopolies
  6. Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
  7. Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
  8. Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
  9. Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
  10. Singo and Howard on Drugs!
  11. Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
  12. Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
  13. Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
  14. Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
  15. Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
  16. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  17. John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
  18. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  19. Singo and Howard on Aborigines
  20. Singo and Howard on Conservatism
  21. Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
  22. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  23. John Singleton changes his name
  24. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  25. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  26. Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
  27. Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
  28. Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
  29. Singo and Howard on Rights
  30. Singo and Howard on Crime
  31. Singo and Howard on Justice
  32. Singo and Howard on Unemployment
  33. John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
  34. Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
  35. Holed up, hold-up and holdout
  36. The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
  37. Workers Party Platform
  38. Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
  39. Singo and Howard on Business
  40. Singo and Howard on Discrimination
  41. Singo and Howard on the Greens
  42. Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
  43. Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
  44. Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
  45. Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
  46. Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
  47. Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
  48. The last words of Charles Russell
  49. Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
  50. Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
  51. Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
  52. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  53. "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
  54. Introducing the new Workers' Party
  55. Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
  56. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  57. Voices of frustration
  58. Policies of Workers Party
  59. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  60. AAA Tow Truck Co.
  61. Singo and Howard on Context
  62. Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
  63. Singo and Howard on Apathy
  64. Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
  65. Singo and Howard on Decency
  66. John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
  67. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
  68. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  69. The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
  70. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  71. Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
  72. A Farewell to Armchair Critics
  73. Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
  74. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  75. David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
  76. Bludgers need not apply
  77. New party formed "to slash controls"
  78. The Workers Party
  79. Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
  80. The great consumer protection trick
  81. The "Workers" speak out
  82. How the whores pretend to be nuns
  83. The Workers Party is a Political Party
  84. Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
  85. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  86. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  87. Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
  88. Singo and Howard on Young People
  89. Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
  90. Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
  91. Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
  92. Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
  93. Singo and Howard on Consistency
  94. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  95. Political branch formed
  96. Government seen by new party as evil
  97. Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
  98. Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
  99. Singo and Howard on Licences
  100. Singo and Howard on Gun Control
  101. Singo and Howard on Human Nature
  102. Singo and Howard on Voting
  103. Singo and Howard on
    Inherited Wealth
  104. Singo and Howard on Education
  105. Singo and Howard on Qualifications
  106. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  107. Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
  108. Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
  109. A happy story about Aborigines
  110. John Singleton on Political Advertising
  111. Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
  112. Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
  113. How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
  114. The Discipline of Necessity
  115. John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
  116. Libertarians: Radicals on the right
  117. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  118. Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
  119. Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
  120. Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
  121. The impossible dream
  122. Why can't I get away with it?
  123. The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
  124. Time for progress
  125. The loonie right implodes
  126. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  127. John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
  128. Censorship should be banned
  129. "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
  130. John Singleton on Advertising
  131. John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
  132. Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
  133. Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
  134. John Singleton defends ockerism
  135. Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
  136. The Census Con
  137. Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
  138. Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
  139. Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
  140. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  141. John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
  142. John Hyde's Progress Party praise
  143. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  144. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  145. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  146. John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
  147. Save Parramatta Road
  148. 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
  149. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  150. Singo and Howard on Unions
  151. Singo and Howard Smash the State
  152. Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
  153. Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
  154. A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
  155. Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
  156. Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
  157. John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
  158. Thoughts on Land Ownership
  159. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  160. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  161. The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
  162. The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
  163. Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
  164. The mouse will roar
  165. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  166. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  167. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  168. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  169. Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
  170. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
  171. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  172. John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
  173. Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
  174. John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
  175. I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
  176. Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
  177. John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
  178. Singo and Howard on Ballet
  179. Product innovation comes first
  180. Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
  181. A party is born
  182. Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
  183. John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
  184. Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
  185. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  186. John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
  187. Counterculture must exclude government handouts
  188. John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
  189. John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
  190. Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
  191. Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
  192. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  193. Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
  194. Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
  195. Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
  196. John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
  197. Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
  198. John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
  199. Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
  200. Return Australia Post to Sender
  201. Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
  202. John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
  203. John Singleton on cigarette advertising
  204. Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
  205. John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
  206. John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
  207. Gortlam rides again
  208. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  209. John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
  210. 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
  211. Singo asks two prickly questions
  213. Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
  214. Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
  215. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  216. An Ode to Busybodies
  217. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  218. How many tits in a tangle?
  219. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
  220. John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
  221. A speech from the Titanic
  222. A crime must have a victim
  223. John Singleton vs Australia Post
  224. Minimum wages the killer
  225. Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
  226. John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
  227. John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
  228. John Singleton vs Don Lane
  229. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  230. John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
  231. Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
  232. John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
  233. Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
  234. Charity: An Aesop Fable
  235. Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
  236. New improved moon
  237. Announcing people ... YES, people!
  238. Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
  239. John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
  240. Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
  241. John Singleton schools ad course
  242. John Singleton: advertising awards
  243. Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
  244. John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
  245. John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare
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