Friday, May 12, 2017

Do people read?

I guess if you get right down to it (or write down to it) ever since my first job when I worked for the great copywriter turned novelist Marshall Karp, I've always been regarded as a "writer's writer."

Maybe the best definition of that obtuse epigram is this: I've always held that thoughtful, warm, witty and clear messaging, that is, good copy, can solve most any marketing problem. And over my 33 years in the business, it's often fallen to me to make complicated things succinct and, at my best, a rallying cry.

I think that's why, appended to my ECD title (ECDs today are as commonplace as acorns in October) they've affixed the words "copy chief." Maybe those words are capitalized. I suppose they should be.

There's a school of thought, of course, that says almost with every exhalation that "no one reads anymore." They forget that over two-million people a day read "The Wall Street Journal," and over one-million people a day read the paper edition "The New York Times," while an additional one point six million subscribe online.

They forget that Jeff Bezos is a quadtrillionaire, and that in 2015, 2.7 billion books (in all forms) were sold. 

Still, we are told that people do not, or cannot read. Even my humble, rickety, seat-of-my-pants blog is getting nearly 20,000 readers a week. 

People who know me know I have a capacious memory for the history of advertising. I think one of the most profound statements about our business comes from David Ogilvy. I'll update it here to eliminate gender bias and cater to a la mode. "The consumer isn't a moron. He or she, or Xe, Xem and Xyr is your partner or spouse."

I think the "no one read-ites" are in-effect saying they believe people are idiots. They're too dumb to read, or too busy, or too tweety.

The fact is, no one reads what's dull, insipid, smarmily slick, dishonest, shilling, jargony crap. No one reads an in flight magazine, or a message from Sleepy's, the mattress superstore. 

But, as Gossage put it perfectly, "No one reads an ad. They read what's interesting. And sometimes that's an ad."

So the task we face, dear reader, is not to kowtow to the non-reader-ocracy, but to fight for compelling, well-crafted and informative copy. Copy that is useful to the reader like a letter from a loved one might be. Copy that leaves you with a feeling that you are respected.

No one can help but read that.

Thank you for reading.

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