Thursday, October 8, 2015


About 30 years ago I had a writing mentor in the business called Ed Butler. Ed had plied his trade at Doyle Dane--and done some notable VW ads there. But he really hit his stride when he joined Ally & Gargano when he did outstanding work on Travelers Insurance.

Ed was a craftsman. With him, there was no rushing of copy. And a good last line was about as important as the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. You had taken the hill against the enemies of our profession: crassness, speed and apathy.

Getting approval from Ed on a piece of copy wasn't that hard, however. He respected my taste and liked my writing. As long as I did what I thought was a good job, as long as I had a good in and a good out and not too many damned things the client demanded, I was ok.

Ed told me this story once that I've thought about often. He was working at an agency called Marschalk and they were pitching against Della Femina for the Chemical Bank account. Before those agencies and that bank were merged out of existence, all three entities were good-sized companies. Chemical was one of the largest banks in New York.

Ed told me that the tagline he had created for the pitch was "The Chemistry's Right at Chemical." Which he thought was pretty good. Until he saw the tagline Della Femina presented: "The Chemistry's Just Right at Chemical."

That "just" to Ed made all the difference. "I knew we were beaten," he said. "Their line was so much better."

I suppose this story in our current uncaring epoch sounds quaint and musty.

But, like I said, it's always stuck with me.

Because the people who care about touches and nuance are the people you want to work for and the people you want to emulate.

With consolidation of everything afflicting our business, as well as the painful crush of faster deadlines, we have to do all we can to hold onto our standards.

If only because they're so easy to abandon.

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