I'm a copywriter by training. What does that mean? I don't, usually, know the product or service I'm working on as well as the experts. I've worked technology brands, but I'm not an engineer. I've worked on car accounts, yet I have no driver's license. I've worked on financial accounts though I am not wealthy.
So how do writers write?
How can we convey understanding when our association with a brand is often loose?
What I've found is that most copy is already written. It's buried in the depths of a too-long client brief. It's on page 37 of an annual report. It's in a sales spiel from a company employee. A powerpoint from a "product specialist." It's all around you in a way a building is all around you if you're standing on a pile of bricks.
Our job as creatives is to hear and see everything.
And from that hearing and seeing find a soul. A voice. A cadence. The truth.
It's like writing a biography of an author from reading his books. What is her perspective? Her interests? What pisses her off or makes her laugh? How does she make you laugh?
Because they don't listen, a lot of creators are really decorators.
They put filigree on things, they dress them up. They aren't much more than a fresh coat of trendy paint.
That explains much of what is wrong with advertising.
If you want to do something true, listen.
Pursuant to the above, I've pasted here a poem that is about listening by the great and, today, unknown Langston Hughes.
THEME FOR ENGLISH B
By Langston Hughes
The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you---
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me---we two---you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me---who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records---Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white---
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me---
although you're older---and white---
and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.