Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The case for good copywriting, installment three

To survive or thrive? I guess that's really the big question behind making sure you have a good copywriter on staff. Having someone whose job is not writing do your writing vs. a professional copywriter is like your next door neighbor cooking dinner vs. a gourmet chef. You won't go hungry, but you certainly won't be opening up any franchises. It really all comes down to expertise. And unfortunately, since we've all been writing in some form or fashion since kindergarten, most people assume they can do it. It gives rise to a lot of "strategy as concept" ads, and it's akin to someone who plays around with Photoshop calling themselves a designer. I can play around with photoshop, and I even did a few "good enough" jobs for some clients that didn't know their heads from their feet in my earliest days to make ends meet, but once I saw what a trained, experienced designer could do, it became clear that there's a vast difference between technically ablility to create something and true craft, artistry and expertise. Food for though...mmm, I think I tasted lobster tail.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Job Wars: The Economy Strikes Back

Well, it’s no secret that few, if any, industries are safe from current economic conditions. Some of us are feeling it more than others. As of Friday, I was laid off for the second time this year directly due to issues of the economy. I should make it clear that I was laid off and not fired, and considering how much of the industry views copywriting as expendable, just as many clients view their marketing budgets as expendable, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to be one of those let go in either case. It does however, still come as a great blow, because I moved to the Houston area for this job, and would not have moved otherwise. Now I’m in another new city, trying to find my way around the advertising community and trying to get hired on at the 1-3 years of experience level, which is, I dare say, no easy feat.

And now it’s shameless self-promotion time. If you have any copywriting contract work that can be done by telecommuting (which can be anywhere, thanks to the wonder of computers!), are looking for a copywriter in the Houston area, or know anyone who might be, please let me know. I’m getting my portfolio web site up very soon for anyone who is interested, where you’ll also be able to find resumes and contact information. I’ll post the link to my blog here as soon as my site goes live. For now, if you would like to contact me regarding a position or contract work, feel free to email me at Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go draw an S.O.S. in the virtual sand.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The case for good copywriting, installment two

Some people wonder what advertising would be like at an agency without a genuine copywriter. Remember TV during the writers' strike?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Put away the "where's the concept?" stamp

It's time to let loose of empty criticism. This isn't in response to anything I've personally endured lately, but I do frequent sites like Ads Of The World that showcase work and allow comments and I've worked at a place that got fed its self esteem by chopping down everyone's work so they didn't feel so bad they couldn't do it themselves. The point is, a comment like "where's the concept?" or "weak" or "I don't get it" does not qualify as a valid criticism. It's hollow dribble that's been spouted so many times, it's lost all meaning if it had any to begin with.

Criticism should be clear, constructive and specific. If there was a poor use of filters with regards to the art direction, say that. If the copy was dramatically awkward or lacked a distinct voice, say that. If the strategy didn't resonate with the advertiser's goal, say that. This sort of feedback is helpful, and can assist in improving the creative quality of work, as well as helping hone the skills of a creative professional.

However, those that insist on bashing an ad with their stamp do more to make themselves look like insightless, clueless users of adspeak jargon who are more interested in the prestige of saying "no" than creative sages committed to good work. I think too often those sorts of comments are used to prop up the users' egos and feed their need to feel superior. However, if all you can say is, "well, I just don't get it," I think you've said more truth than you know. And if that one got past you, I guess you might as well keep your stamp at your desk, because it's all you've got.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Quote of the somethingorother

Don't let good grammar ruin good advertising.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The case for good copywriting, installment one

Bad and mediocre copy are like junk food. You won't got hungry using them, and they can even provide a welcome relief from client whining when you just give them what they want instead of what they need. However, that sort of writing will only create a fat, marginally effective beast that will never be the lean, competitive superstar your client wants to be. So, stop feeding your clients the twinkies they cry for. Hire a good copywriter and shape your client into a champion.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Consumer protection groups and the WGA: Strange bedfellows

I recently read an article about how the WGA (Writers Guild of America) is railing against product integration in movies and TV and lobbying the FCC to require prominent disclosures whenever product placement is used.

For starters, I find it infinitely amusing that the film industry is actually on the same side as consumer advocates for once, considering how much thought policing those "advocates" have a tendency to do.

Musing aside, I think the WGA is failing to consider several key points. First, it assumes people aren't aware of product integration. It assumes we're not all bright enough to see that the only branded product in a carefully unbranded movie is sponsored. Whenever a real brand does show up in media, it's so conspicuous no one can miss it. Don't worry though, the WGA is intent on using your supposed ignorance to make sure they don't have to write Reeces Pieces into their script.

They also fail to understand that the legislation they support would completely dismantle their goal. The real motivation for the WGA's whining is that they don't want to have to write anything in to their work outside of their tidy vision. More importantly, they don't want product placement "distracting" from their vision or taking any of the attention away from their story. If every show and movie were to scroll a disclosure statement across the bottom of the screen every time a product placement was used CNN newsticker-style, there would be disclosures all over the place. And I challenge anyone to tell me they would be less distracted by a bucket of Church's chicken on the table in a sitcom than by a garish, scrolling disclosure. The disclosure would actually take more attention away from their story and attract more attention to the product. Maybe advertising people should support this legislation afterall. Considering how much the movie rating system boosted box office sales (originally an effort to cut down on the "bad" stuff in movies), it might be worth looking into. And it just goes to prove that the WGA doesn't actually want the warnings, they just want to discourage product placement.

Another thing the WGA fails to realize is that advertising, in its many forms, pays for almost all entertainment these days. Whether it's keeping it cheap or keeping it free, the guy who wants a writer's character to drink a Pepsi instead of a glass of water is paying that writer's salary. Maybe that writer should suck it up be a little more artful with his or her tie in if they're so worried about the integrity of their work. Perhaps I'm too cynical on the issue since I'm in advertising, a profession which puts art to work in the service of commerce, but art alone doesn't pay the bills. It's easy to whine when you're fed by a dozen product placements in a movie, but idealism begins to lose its luster when you're sleeping hungry on the floor of an empty apartment. Artistic integrity doesn't buy groceries, especially at today's prices.

Cynicism aside, I can understand limiting product placement to kids. They are an impressionable group who's been proven to respond strongly to advertising and product placement, and often don't have the full reasoning capacity to fully digest and and analyze the messages they receive. Regulations in regards to kids are reasonable in my mind and wouldn't hurt things that much, to my knowledge.

One last point is this- product placement is nothing new. When radio and television first began, the only reason there were shows was that companies paid to create entire shows, and plastered their names all over them. The reason soap operas have their name is that when they started in the early days of radio, soap manufacturers were the biggest sponsor of the daytime female-skewing programs.

The WGA should count their blessings that they have work again and stop trying to bite the hand that feeds them. If they're not careful, they might just get what they ask for.