The Future Of Advertising Is… Magic?

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This is a big week in the marketing world.

In case you have been living under rock, this is the biggest week in marketing. In Cannes, France the marketing industry is primed for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Whether you like what these awards stand for or not, it’s hard not to get caught up in all of the excitement (Who won what? Who said what? Who did what? Who did what to whom?). There are the late night parties (featuring industry luminaries and Hollywood stars) and, of course, the plethora of awards being handed out. That smell? That’s the smell of great communications from across the globe!

How much of great advertising is magic?

I love magic. I watch countless videos on YouTube of magicians (and how they do their tricks). There are few artistic and creative forms that I appreciate as much as the art of magic. I’m not talking about pulling a bunny from a hat. I am talking about close-up card and coin manipulation. It’s not just the repetitive practice and hours in front of a mirror that these magicians put into their craft, and it’s not just the tricking result of what a flawlessly executed manipulation does to your eyes, mind and body. I see a direct (and powerful) correlation between the performance (and skill) of a magician and the work of both being a professional marketer and public speaker. Insert your joke here about how the two are connected, because they’re about tricking an audience. That’s not what I meant (and, it’s not what I believe). One of my favorite books on presentation skills is actually a magic book titled, Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz. This is a book that really digs deep into the art of performance and – more importantly – how to tell and sell a story.


The best magicians and the best magic tricks (like the best marketing) tells a powerful and expressive story that moves the audience. When it comes to one of the originators of magic (and telling a much bigger story), there are few like master illusionist, David Copperfield. Yes, he performs incredible tricks, but more importantly he does so with a very powerful narrative and flow… and he’s been doing it for decades. He’s literally sold billions of dollars worth of tickets to his shows. Here’s a secret: I used to have this old piece of luggage. It was one of those trunks with metal clasps. I filled it with magic tricks when I was a kid (the standard fare) and used to give magic shows for little kids’ birthdays (yep… there… now, it’s out there). So, you can imagine how surprising it has been for me to connect the dots between magic, marketing and public speaking over the years. When David Copperfield would have his specials on TV, the world would stop for this young man. While everybody marvelled at the scale of his tricks, I could never imagine what it might take to perform like that. Copperfield was always miles ahead of the magicians we would see at the local magic shop, performing on the weekend at the Italian restaurant, or the performers who worked the birthday, bar mitzvah and wedding circuits.

What can business professionals learn from a master magician?

It turns out that David Copperfield was in Cannes last week, talking about transparency, storytelling, presentation skills and, of course, the power of magic. This is a great conversation that is mixed in with a couple of fun illusions that Copperfield performs for the crowd. I’m going to urge you (and everyone that you know) to watch this presentation. Listen to how he talks about inventing illusions, and watch as he preps to perform (and how he speaks to both the audience and the people off to the side of the stage). His presence, his words and his power.

Amazing: Making Magic: The Art of Illusion in Modern Brand Narrative – David Copperfield – Cannes Lions 2016.

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