23
Feb
15

False Efficiency: The Legacy Copy Pick-up Shtick

One of the most time-consuming aspects of copywriting, especially on the digital end of the spectrum, is dealing with legacy copy.

That’s because digital marketing has been around just long enough to have a graveyard of abominably bad text “practice.” Unfortunately, many of the residents of that graveyard have a nasty habit of popping up when your agency acquires a new client.

No, not a client you’d actually want to boast about in an interview. I’m talking about the kind whose Web presence would do better in the acute care ward of the Hospital for Special Surgery than an ad agency. At its root, the problem with such copy is that it results from a process of random accretion—and the older the site, the deeper and thicker the layers of accretion go. You’ll find copy from:

• Print ads crammed border to border with mind-numbing detail
• Sales kits picked up almost verbatim
• Failed thought-leader essays “from the desk of…” a sainted company founder

…and that’s just the beginning. If your client offers a range of technology products, you’re sure to encounter a Who’s Who of clichéd marketing speak: All the greatest hits from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, including such memorable moments as

• Best in Class
• Best of Breed
• Top of the Line
• At Your Fingertips
• Innovative
• …in minutes
• …in seconds
• At the Flip of a Switch
• Scalable Solutions
• Customized
• Tailored
• Custom Tailored

And rest assured, this is the technology product you need to meet your technology product needs.

The value of words.
Tied inevitably to the creative misery this kind of copy imposes is the general lack of understanding of what’s required to overhaul it. All those who speak blithely of “picking it up with a few tweaks” are either completely misinformed or cynically indifferent to inherent realities.

Because the simple truth is that the vast majority of those huge catalog sites contain copy that is utterly unusable online. Writing, for example:

This innovative, best of breed solution is easily scalable to keep pace with your growing business

…tells me absolutely nothing and gives me no reason to add your product to MyCart.

Innovation? You can count the number of true innovations on your fingers and toes. The wheel comes to mind, as does the light bulb or the telephone. Even the combustion engine was merely an evolution out of existing tech.

But OK, let’s include that too—on the condition that when we reach the level of, say, the tumblers in a combination lock, or the plastic on the outside of a tablet computer, we recognize that they hardly count as innovation in a global sense.

More to the point, misusing a word lessens its value. Why does that matter? Because advertising with words means having respect for the value of words. It’s respect that involves refusing to casually exaggerate your brand’s attributes. Does your wireless translation tower do a pretty good job of keeping the signal constant? That’s great—but once you assert it towers above the competition, you’ve degraded your credibility.

After all, are you seriously claiming your competition doesn’t buy its circuit boards, chips, dials and readouts from the same technology vendors you do? If not, you might have the beginnings of a valid brand narrative.

The wages of acquiescence.
Regardless, creating good copy starts with realizing that it has nothing to do with selecting the right words. It is, rather, the reflection of a coherent train of thought. It’s not how many times you say “innovative” but how cogently you demonstrate that this innovation benefits your audience.

Now, I have no doubt I’m not the first person to deliver some version of this advice to brand managers. But the persistence of pointlessly verbose sales copy tells me it hasn’t been said often enough. More inexcusable is the willingness of ad agency denizens to “find efficiencies” by using legacy copy—without asking the Creative team to evaluate it for viability.

Because the laws of the advertising universe are singularly perverse in this regard. From the moment you agree to pick up the client’s copy, it becomes yours—subject to criticism and ripe for multiple rounds of scope-creep revisions.

“I don’t think the copy’s customer focused enough,” you’ll hear, from the very person who insisted you use it. Far better to reject that legacy copy and start from scratch. Because by the time your client is finished demanding changes, your “found efficiencies” won’t have saved one dime. Far more likely, the retrofitting process will result in cost overruns, and guess who’ll be expected to pay for them? Worse still, that eaten cost will only serve to undermine the brand.

31
Jan
15

Writing the Big Bold Blah

No matter what branch of advertising a creative settles into, at various times the call will go out for a “big campaign theme.”

Always ready to oblige! For what creative doesn’t relish a real challenge, as opposed, say, to the unending iterative stream of “corrections” they receive from clients who A.) have no idea what they want and B.) have no idea what advertising can and cannot achieve.

Trouble is, in most instances, the basic ingredients for baking up that big theme are missing. That is, the creative team is faced with a brand or product line that:

• Has no unique attributes
• Delivers only highly qualified benefits
• Is heavily burdened by legal or regulatory requirements

And yet, in the back of most brand managers’ minds is the model of the iconic, freewheeling, fun-loving campaigns of the early 1960s. Not that any of them has the courage to get behind a message like “We’re No. 2, so we have to try harder.” Even something as generic as “Frosted Flakes are Grrreat” is way too audacious for our litigious times. And it’s easy to see why. Use a line like that and you’d actually be asserting that your brand consistently delivered a measurable result.

Naturally, a classic line like “Come up. Come all the way up to Kool,” would evoke such a flurry of air quotes, you’d have half the advertising strategists in the country in the ER with advanced carpal tunnel syndrome within five minutes of proposing it.

Of course, the real secret behind the success of the classic campaigns that a typical client likes to shame us with, is that they had nothing to do with taglines, photographic styles or celebrity endorsements. On the contrary, they succeeded because the brand delivered something of value—directly, effortlessly and with none of those niggling qualifications that are the buzz-kill of today’s marketing.

Real reasons to believe
More to the point, they got people to believe, simply because their products “kept it real” as we say now, in an era when so little is what it’s cut out to be. The Avis people, initially, not only claimed to try harder, they actually brought a new level of service to car-rental—that is, until the bean-counting revolution of the 80s ensured the only thing an American corporation would ever deliver was money to its shareholders.

Customer value? Quality? They survive only as mechanical claims or, just as bad, as the exclusive purview of brands charging outrageously inflated prices for services that used to be taken for granted.
Now to get the kind of service everyone used to get from the travel industry, for example, you have to be a Super Black Onyx Titanium Elite Plus Member with annual billings in the seven figures. Everyone else gets wait-listed for the cattle car.

And it’s within this environment of decidedly lowered expectations that a creative team is routinely asked to conceive a Big Idea campaign that will open the flood gates and storm the barricades. Sometimes they even succeed—and sometimes, with unexpected consequences.

As long as I live, I’ll never forget the day a brand manager for a major national brand told me he couldn’t use the campaign idea we’d come up with because it would be too successful and they wouldn’t be able to handle the call volume.

Pause for a moment and let that sink in.

Auto-mat marketing
The fact that we were asked to go back and deliver something less effective is beside the point, as poignantly absurd as it sounds. For my purposes, what it illustrates is the futility of so much best-practice saber-rattling, including that infinite series of top ten lists purporting to guarantee success.

For in a marketing/advertising environment governed by ignorance, anxiety and petty whims, why should anyone attempt to raise the bar, move the needle, push the envelope or use any other quaint metaphor for creative achievement? My message to clients? If you want a great campaign, become a great company. Then we’ll have something to say that grows naturally out of real brand attributes. If not, there’s a wealth of automated headline-generating software available online for a reasonable fee.

You just plug in your brand attributes and in a few moments, your campaign theme is ready. No squelchy conference call phones, no pesky creative presentations, and no perky account people asking about your personal life. Best of all, you’ll have the campaign you deserve, which is all any brand can ask for.

15
Dec
14

Effective Web Design: Sliding Into the Psyche

In the last few decades, the design aspect of consumer electronics has taken on more and more importance. Today, people by their technogear as much for its look as any real understanding of what’s going on inside. That’s not surprising really, considering that’s how most people get into relationships and have for countless centuries—all those volumes of chicklit to the contrary.

So in a world more dominated by looks than ever before, it’s hard to understand the discrepancy that occurs so often, between the design of a product and the design of the Web site built to sell it.

“Submitted for your approval,” as the man used to say, are two contrasting sites: BeatsByDre.com and Bose.com. The site developed for Beats is well synchronized with the style of the products themselves, whose clean lines derive from geometric shapes, softened with a biomorphic aesthetic appeal. The flat digital design complements product design nearly perfectly and leaves plenty of light and air for copy to work its motivating magic. That image and text both have room to breathe on what is, essentially, an e-tail site, is an understated triumph I can only wish would be more broadly imitated across the Web.

That this wish of mine is likely to remain in the provenance of magic lamps and the genies who inhabit them is borne out by the site developed for Bose speakers. Ironically, here is a product many people would agree achieves a high watermark in design and technological efficacy. And yet its Web site design harkens back to the deep dark ages of supermarket circulars.

Grabby hands.
Splattered with price bursts, slathered with iridescent colors and embedded in one of the cheesiest background images I’ve seen in a decade, you’d think Bose products were, in fact, the cheap knock-off version of some other brand. In a prime example of the devastation wrought by Marketing Anxiety, the image on the left depicts the arm and hand of a sedate listener, enjoying a game of scrabble over a glass of wine—while the image on the right depicts a cartoony “bopper,” looking for all the world as if she just stepped off the set of the ’60s TV show The Mod Squad.

Thank you, Bose, for reminding us that the world is diverse, i.e., full of sedate white people and people of color who love to rock out, even at the risk of traumatic neck compression.

The only thing missing here is the “Why Pay More” sticker or “The Perfect Gift for the Holidays,” although the latter is fairly well covered by the unsubtle subliminal snowflake bursts. Red snowflakes, at that.

Now, even if you were to conclude that this is a matter of taste, you’d have to concede that the Bose site suffers from metastasising visual clutter. It’s the classic example of a site that makes users say “Better come back later when I have more time.” And it’s easy to see why. A user’s eyes are drawn nowhere, precisely because they’re drawn everywhere.

Pushy talk.
To look at the Bose site is to instantly lose a bit of faith in the quality of the product. This is irrational but true—even for someone like me who actually owns and likes a pair of Bose speakers. A site so heavily layered in cheese makes me wonder if I’ve made the right choice.

Why? Because advertising design of any kind, but especially the digital variety, that’s so jam-packed with marketing messages, is inherently manipulative. The site says “Hey, why don’t YOU buy a product, ANY product from us RIGHT NOW?

Instead of giving me a reason to fall in love with the brand, the brand is reaching for my wallet on the first date. Even in today’s “benefit” oriented dating culture, this is not anybody’s idea of a smooth come on.
And that’s the gross error Bose’s marketers have made.

Know that if you shove me against a wall and say, “You want a speaker. Come on, you know you want it,” you’re not getting the sale, even if your product’s all sparkly and shiny.

But if you create an environment where I feel safe discussing my speaker needs openly and without shame, I just might grow to think you’re the best speaker company in the world. I might even come over and help you rework your Web site.

That’s because—hello, pleased to meet you—I’m a person, not a consumer. And until brands get this into their heads, we’ll see more of this garish, loud and demeaning approach, as we slide into the next half-decade of “the millennium.”

06
Dec
14

What is Copywriting?

I wish I could say this was a trivial question. But the more you ask around, the less likely you are to find a unified opinion about what the task entails. Over time, you’ll discover that, like snowflakes, no two definitions of the term are quite the same. As I see it, this diversity of opinion grows out of a single misperception:

The absurd idea that copywriting is fundamentally about words.

That this misperception persists despite the untold aggravation it causes on every project just shows how deep a delusion it is.

In reality, copywriting is about ideas. It’s the development of a message platform and a structure for delivering it—around which, eventually, words will flow to give it shape and establish an appropriate brand voice.

In real reality, however, all a copywriter hears about, day in and day out, is “the approved copy,” to be adhered to at all costs. Never mind that said copy fits nowhere into a larger brand architecture. Never mind that it’s often two or three steps removed from the current visual vocabulary, itself imported from who-knows-what external source.

“Just pick it up,” one hears.
But this phrase is loaded. It actually means that, as long as the sacrosanct text is in the copywriter’s hands, it cannot be altered. After all these years, I’m just grateful no one has come up with a shock collar to ensure I don’t deviate. On the other hand, the sacrosanct text is open to editing by everyone else involved in the project, from the junior AE to the client’s spouse who “used to be a copywriter.”

Needless to say, at this point in the creative process (or should I say the cut-and-paste process) the copywriter’s role is so far out of whack, there’s pretty much no more reason for him or her to show up for work. Seriously. You can get a typist to handle this kind of thing.

Unless you’re looking for someone to step back from the whirlwind of opinions (and, where writing is concerned, everybody has one), and advise the team about the effectiveness of the copy, its likelihood to get results, you don’t need a copywriter at all.

Strategy-by-numbers.
Making matters worse in this regard, is the introduction of mid-level strategists to agency life over the last 20 years or so. With few exceptions, the role of the average advertising strategist is to scan raw data from market research and demand it be inserted at every juncture—unaltered, verbatim, inviolate. Not the sense of the market research results, mind you, but the literal text.

“[Word or Phrase X] didn’t test well,” goes the obsessive mantra, or its complement “[Word or Phrase X] tested really well.”

So, no matter how uncomfortably said word or phrase squeezes itself into the rest of the piece you’re developing, it’s inescapable. The problem gets doubly compounded in digital work, where an SEO specialist will demand the brand name appear in every single sentence, preferably right at the beginning.
That’s on top of occurring in every navigation tab, every text link and every page header.

The result is the current state of advertising copy: Blunt, ugly, overwrought, cluttered and soulless. These, amigo, are the wages of the fundamentalist ideology that has taken over every aspect of the business. The idea that, as a company made up of human beings, a brand might want to communicate in human language to its customers is now, I’m astonished to report, a radical idea.

Going hand in hand with the mechanical nature of today’s copy is the belief, held exclusively by marketers, that the average consumer is an illiterate moron. Sit in a conference room as a reasonable person and you’ll find it difficult to concentrate on the comments you receive. You’ll be too distracted by keeping your eyes in their sockets at the repeated claim that a simple, declarative sentence is “confusing,” or that everyday words known to eight-year-olds have acquired connotations powerful enough to dissuade buyers or even offend them.

In the midst of this word-wrangling something vital is lost: The contribution copywriters can and should make to every project, no matter how small. It’s the watchful eye of someone experienced enough to evaluate the total takeaway your Web site, brochure, print ad, mailer, banner, etc. delivers to consumers. No, not the tagline: the sum total of each particular communication, expressed not in words, but in ideas.

Can’t trust your copywriter to do that? You’ve hired the wrong person. But you knew that. Because, in the end, the most the average ad agency or brand manager wants from a copywriter is the ability to type.

19
Nov
14

Consistency: Mythical Beast, Real-world Tyrant

When it comes to messaging, the word “consistency” is the consistent favorite, as a way to describe the messaging goals of many a brand. It consistently wins the prize for the most overused word in the business.

Not that I don’t understand the impulse. With today’s top-heavy staffing, it takes so many hours to reach common ground on the simplest decisions that there’s little incentive to evolve consumer messaging once the latest tagline passes in committee.

It’s so bad that the very idea of a consistent style of communication is too radical to contemplate. In a know-nothing world dominated by the best-practice undead, being consistent means saying exactly the same thing over and over and over and over and…

While this phenomenon is disturbing enough, the origin of the consistency bug is, as I see it, far more troubling. It stems from a deep-seated fear, born of deep-seated ignorance: The horrifying realization that one has neither the training, instinct, or talent to approach advertising and marketing creatively.

Of the many excuses for this decidedly aberrant behavior, none is less convincing than the all-time favorite, “The client made me do it.” Let me go on record as the first person in the history of advertising to assert that the client can’t make you do anything.

Occult powers.
If I’m not the first, I see no evidence of that principle at work anywhere I look.

  • Your CEO might “make you,” for no other reason than that your
    agency’s market niche is only one notch over from Upstairs Maid
  • Your creative director might “make you,” because it means less
    fuss and bother with image searches and font choices
  • Or your Account Supervisor might “make you,” because it’s
    scientifically proven to guarantee getting to Pilates class on time

But never the client, no matter how many implied client directives you choose to divine, using the mind-reading skills you learned in your MBA program.

To the client, one can always say “no.”

Not flat-out no, by the way. Not scary, lose-the-account no, I’m talking about a no that’s demonstrated, taught, presented and, most important, accompanied by alternatives.

Why is this worth the bother? Because, like any sane person, you’d like your 60-hour work week to add up to something—as opposed to a pile of conventionalized drivel that will one day be cranked out by a Google subroutine.

Myth making vs….
As I see it, the Myth of Consistency also has its origins in a misunderstanding of Brand Identity. At one end of the spectrum are people who believe any ad-like object with the “approved logo lock up, font and color palette” is branded. At the other end are a large group of brand managers who believe nothing is branded unless it conveys exactly the same message each time, word-for-word like a parrot and pixel-for-pixel like a child’s paint-by-numbers book.

But none of this micro consistency is real branding. That’s because branding is a promise of value. Not a promise, mind you, that the headline of every print ad will have 5 words and be in 24-point type. Not a promise that that the logo lock up will never appear on a colored background or that gradient color washes will anchor every background.

And, for heaven’s sake, branding does not mean using the same stock art everyone else is using, the same grinning, proto-orgasmic customers enjoying the same perfect day. Or their opposite, the sad sack, frowny-faced types who telegraph “Before [PRODUCT_NAME].”

…real brand building.
Branding, to the extent that consistency is involved at all, is bound up with the idea of trust. A branded message is a promise to deliver service or function reliably. And contrary to today’s obsessive practice, there is—yes there is—more than one way to make that promise, keep it alive and make your audience’s perception of its value grow.

Because that’s the mistake consistency hawks continue to make. If your message isn’t constantly evolving to reveal more and more of your value to consumers, your branding efforts are all for naught.
You become like that annoying friend we’ve all had at one point who does one tiny favor for you and never stops reminding you, word-for-word, of that favor every time you run into them.

Branding, then, is not about piddling details. It’s about being consistently engaging, enlivening and most of all interesting. If Apple is America’s most valuable company, it has everything to do with its ability to capture the Thought Leader title over and over again on a variety of issues. The apple logo, the color white, those annoying, cloying, smarmy, smug and grotesquely self-congratulatory voiceovers they crank out “consistently”? Not so much.

25
Oct
14

Walking Away From Marketing Pseudoscience

By now the concept of Engagement has burrowed deep into the consciousness of nearly everyone involved with digital marketing. It has gone beyond buzz worthiness and graduated to the status of a topic most people take for granted. Of course you’ll develop an engagement strategy for your Web presence. Of course you will.

Trouble is, the very ubiquity of the concept has led a large swath of the industry to see engagement as a generic, quantifiable thing that you can lock into your site—if only you follow best practices. Hence, we have Information Architects and User Experience Designers everywhere you look, each with his or her proprietary rule book. That the rules in each book are distillations from a patchwork of usability studies should give us no comfort. Here’s why:

Over the last five years, I’ve noticed increasing rigidity about “what works.” If something pops out of a usability study, it’s taken word-for-word as gospel. Try to discuss a flexible application of this decidedly non-scientific data and all you get is a one way ticket to Zipit.com

You can’t even get the words out of your mouth without being interrupted by an incantation worthy of Harry Potter (or rather Hermione Granger):

Ireadastudyaboutit-leviosa

Now, I have nothing against academic research. But even if I were to concede that a random assortment of people “reacting” to a Web site constituted research—I’d still expect anyone with a true scientific outlook to know that data needs to be interpreted to be meaningful.

And that’s doubly true in a categorically unscientific field like advertising.

I know, the trend is to reassure clients that our methodology is based on concrete entities like data and research and that great results can be engineered as accurately as can a bridge. But how scientific can a process be when it’s subject to the inscrutable whims of anxious clients? Imagine what would have happened to the Brooklyn bridge if John A. Roebling had allowed the Mayor’s Office to say “I’m just not crazy about those load-bearing pillars?”

Engagement model or Chucky doll?
So when it comes to discussing “what works” as an engagement strategy, I can’t get behind prescriptive models. Look at it this way. Assuming you do know a lot about your target audience, you still have to realize that not everyone within that group looks at the world in exactly the same way—and certainly not on different days of the same week.

People are variable. Need proof? Draw on your lifetime research into the problem of getting along with them. Can you seriously tell me that, among the people you know, the same conversational gambits work in every context? By the same token when we talk about “engagement,” we’re talking about a nuanced, specific, time-sensitive and intimate thing. Any other approach kills engagement in the long run, by teaching consumers to expect that a certain percentage of any branded Web site will be formulaic dreck.

Vampire vendors.
Sure, there are rafts of consultants who will tell you—and you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced it — that there are a precise number of characters per headline, a precise set of dimensions for a graphic, a precise color for a background, and on and on, in the hope that you’ll cede not only your creative instincts but also your paycheck to them, right there over the phone.

To that I say, my dear vendor, your job is to listen and offer solutions that meet my creative goals. Your job is not to chide me with “obstacles,” whose only solution is the prophylactic avoidance of human emotion. Especially if the latter involves the use of your patented, proprietary templates.

As useful as it may be to survey a landscape of “findings,” nothing can replace a creative insight that grows out of a well-developed grasp of human nature. If that sounds subjective to you, you’re on the right track. Because…wait for it…engagement is subjective, too. To draw people in, you need the instincts of a street performer, a stand-up comic, or a charismatic preacher, not those of a spreadsheet jockey. Engagement is something that touches a nerve. You can’t quantify it—and that’s its most essential quality.

It’s hard to understand the persistence of pseudoscience in our industry as anything other than a mirror reflection of our clients’ anxiety. As I see it, the sooner we stop pandering to that anxiety, stop advocating mechanical engagement strategies based on suspect data, the better.

By refusing to see real people as phony abstractions, we might come up with something more involving than an online poll or a Web page with nothing on it but a laundry list of rectangular boxes enslaved to the “one click rule.” And that’s just one of the benefits of walking away from marketing pseudoscience. You might even have a fighting chance of enjoying your craft again.

17
Oct
14

Verbophobia & the Dearth of Meaning

post-it 4

Taking into account the huge volume of written communication generated by marketers and spewed out at consumers every year, you might imagine the average brand assumes the average American actually knows the meaning of common, everyday words.

But spend just one week in the advertising industry and you’ll discover how incorrect that assumption is.

Granted, one of the greatest strengths of human language is its flexibility of interpretation. I’d venture to say that’s the secret behind the survival of literature many people still appreciate today, even though it’s hundreds of years old. While we’ll never know precisely what those works meant to their first audiences, they’re rich enough, taken as a whole, that we continue to find meanings of our own, new interpretations in every generation.

Trouble is, that same glorious richness, that same triumph of human evolution, drives the average marketing manager bat-guano crazy. At each turn of phrase, Marketing Anxiety rears up and devours another quavering soul who wants one thing and one thing only:

A perfectly unambiguous statement deflecting any but the most narrow possible interpretation.


Unicorns.

It’s a quixotic quest that makes unicorn-hunting sound like a trip to the grocery store. Mythical beasts? Aisle 12, right next to Perfect Birthday Gifts.

But it’s a quest that nevertheless dominates the creation of all marketing communications, regardless of medium. Hence the endless rewrites, the frantic, last-minute hairpin revisions, and the constant struggle to define “clarity,” which, I’m sorry to report, is the hardest word in the English language to nail down.

Why? Because, like it or not, its meaning is culturally determined. Some people believe clarity lies in short sentences. Some people believe it lies in simple words.

OK, hold it. Try to define “simple” and we’ll be here all night.

Yet even if we walk away from an abstract discussion of the topic, the issues to be resolved are no easier to tackle. Take for example, a comment I heard years ago when I wished to refer to songs in a music catalog as “memorable.”

“Can’t say that,” said the tough-minded marketer I was dealing with. “Someone who doesn’t know those songs can’t remember them, so they won’t be memorable.”

And more recently, the phrase, “This research concerns itself with the study of…” also raised an eyebrow. In the mind of my colleague, “concern,” is inherently negative. Forget the context, forget the fact that words, even simple words often have more than one meaning. My colleague was worried that any use of the word “concern” anywhere in the document would be tantamount to saying there was “reason for concern” about the product in question.


“Presto, change-o.”

Now, on one level, if you were to ask me,

“What’s the difference? Isn’t there always another way to say something?”

…I could partially agree with you. Yes, there is always a way to edit, rephrase, restructure, etc. And you’d have to have lived your life in an isolation booth not to realize that, even among people from different regions of the same country, cultural differences have to be taken into account. Regardless of the absolute meaning of your words, your collaborators may be, for various reasons, incapable of interpreting your text the same way you do.
So yes, compromise in these matters is essential.

My concern—look out now—is the limiting impact of mindless fear on the tools available for reaching your audience. Even if you don’t share the dim view that the average American is too illiterate, too impatient, too much of a diva to actually read a text carefully, the chances are you still don’t need to stumble over even the most idiomatic phrases simply because they’re idiomatic.

And I hope I can assume that if you’ve chosen a text-based communication medium, it’s because you believe your audience is literate. Otherwise, why bother?

So if I were to write about a technology product:

Now that you’ve learned the ropes, you’re ready to discover the TabPadFire’s advanced features.

…you wouldn’t wake up screaming, in a cold sweat, out of fear that someone, somewhere, might think your spiffy new smartphone is really a sailboat.

Would you?

Or would you bury your fears in a clumsy attempt at creative evaluation and call that sentence “confusing.”

Rhetoric aside, what matters here are not the acrobatics writers go through to function as Valium for an entire roster of agency clients—a grossly under-compensated aspect of the job description—but the damaging effects of chronic word-phobia on the final result.

Because time and again, as the clock ticks and the dickering mounts, words are saved and the message is lost. Fuss and fuss and fuss some more, but remember this: The longer it takes to finalize the copy, the farther it will be from actually saying anything.




Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY

m.laporta@verizon.net
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