"Less advertising. More fun."
This is so freaking hard. You have no idea. Each week, someone asks: "How can we write better ads?" The answer is simple and deceptive. Ready?
Stop working so hard at writing advertising. Have fun with it.
We will condense this into a succinct recipe. First, please feel the pain below...
Did you know that writing advertising is not a calculus exam?
One of the most pernicious falsehoods perpetrated on the ad-writing public is Claude Hopkins' assertion that there is such a thing as "Scientific Advertising." That was 1923. It suggests that there are clearly right and wrong answers.
At the outset of writing advertising, there are no wrong answers. The writer has been given the opposite of a math test. The writer has an official authorization to frolic.
Yet, the person forced to frolic advances to the idea of writing from a place that falls on a well-defined spectrum containing a range of opprobriums and vituperations. (You know: un-fun stuff.) At one end of the spectrum is "Inconvenience." In the middle is "Fearsome task." At the far end is "Colonoscopy."
The person tasked to write an advertisement follows a process thus:
Sits at computer. Opens new Word doc. Looks at blank screen.
Gets up, goes to get coffee. Stops in cubicle farm and starts conversation with least favorite inhabitant.
Returns to office 20 minutes later, puts coffee mug on desk. Decides to venture to gender-appropriate lavatory facility.
Spends three minutes longer than necessary washing hands. Returns to office.
Whoops. Detours to accounting. Opens discussion re controversy of replacing traditional cost allocation systems with those that are activity-based.
Returns to desk 30 minutes later, numb with detailed insight regarding accuracy of JIT production systems over product costs without ABC.
Looks at blank screen. Thinks about writing ad.
Grabs phone, searches contacts for gastroenterologist. Calls about moving colonoscopy from February 2021 to this afternoon.
Finishes coffee. Repeats.
Resistance is futile!
Resistance is pain. Resistance leads to crap ads. as if to remind me of this, just last week a new assignment slapped me in the face. Resisting for only a moment, I sat down to write. In about half an hour, I wrote three entire radio scripts that would never see the light of day.
Did I know that while writing them? No! I just wrote them without thinking about it. Instead of resisting the task, I approached the sandbox. I embraced each idea as it came to me. I had fun with each.
On starting the fourth script, something happened.
The concept of the ad became more lucid. It was as if a great velvet curtain had parted. Behind it, floating on a cardboard cutout of a cloud, two angelic-voiced high-school thespians clad in gossamer sang over and over, "Ah-ha! This is the one! Ah-ha! This is the one!" They were annoying but correct nonetheless.
Yes, the fun eventually ends.
First comes embracing the fancy and running with it. Next comes time to make it functional. Darlings must die! But good ideas still rule. Taking said script, I wrote, polished, and submitted it to the client, who then said unto me, "Oh, this is fantastic! Oh, this is terrific!"
Then he smited me with edits.
That "fantastic" script went through seven iterations. In each iteration, less than 5% of the copy changed. But the message evolved until something happened.
The client could no longer find a single word to change. He said, "A++. Something very rare. Every word serves a purpose."
There is fun in the creativity. There is sport in refining it. There is satisfaction in knowing it will go on to produce results because it doesn't sound like an ad that was speed-written for all your advertising needs right before phoning up the gastroenterologist.
It happened because first it was fun and then it was refined. Sandbox segues to workshop.
So, the bottom-line recipe for writing better advertising? Have fun. Refine. Repeat.
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Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.