Desirable Difficulty Example: McDonald’s
I recently spotted these McDonald’s outdoor advertisements-
I want to discuss this campaign from a neurological perspective. Most people dislike advertising. As a result, the moment the brain realizes a stimulus is a promotion it places it in the ignore bucket. This process happens incredibly fast, subconsciously. Most of us aren’t even aware we’re ignoring hundreds of ads a day. But these Mickey D’s ads are different. The copy has a missing “m” and in order to ignore the ad, one has to first reconstruct the copy with the m in place. The riddle is easy enough where everyone can solve it but hard enough that it cannot be completed by the subconscious mind. The reader has to actively, deliberately solve the riddle. This active engagement is what makes the ad register. Does it mean that thousands of people will suddenly walk into a McDonald’s franchise? No. Does it mean that when someone in McDonald’s target audience is irrationally considering breakfast choices McDonald’s will flash on the first half the list? Most likely.
This is an example of something called Desirable Difficulty.
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This is actually a great example of closure, the process by which the brain makes sense of incomplete sensory information. Scott McCloud has a good introduction to the concept in his book Understanding Comics.Reply