Ads generally talk about what people want and show them how to get it. This ad talks about something people would like to avoid and shows them how to avoid it.
Head and Shoulders would like the problem of head scratching to spontaneously pop into readers’ heads and for readers to associate that problem with the head & Shoulders solution.
When an ad talks about something people want, readers are drawn to the ad. When an ad talks about something people would like to avoid, readers tend to avoid it. So persuasion is more challenging when talking about something people would like to avoid.
Even though this ad talks about something they would like to avoid, the ad involves readers because it takes a moment for readers to figure out what is going on. The ad takes advantage of people’s’ natural desire to make sense of what they see. Readers enjoy the puzzle. Making sense of what they see is not work. It is a pleasure as long as the puzzle is not too difficult. In making sense of the image, readers participate in the ad and tell themselves the message.
A lawyer, speaking to a jury, appears to be saying something that a lawyer would never say. Readers realize that the speech bubble from the lawyer’s mouth is overshadowed by a second speech bubble from the lawyer’s head scratch. The lawyer’s head scratch speaks more loudly to the jury than the lawyer’s words. Readers understand that their own head scratch will speak more loudly than anything they might say and that they can avoid the problem with Head & Shoulders.
Whenever a brand solves a problem, the brand has to decide whether to remind people of the problem or help people anticipate the pleasure of the solution the brand offers. Reminding people of the problem places an extra burden on the advertising. The ads have to be inherently interesting or viewers will tend to avoid the advertising just as they would like to avoid the problem.