Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dear Charlie.

Yesterday, I wrote a post--a popular post at that--about a memo a CEO sent out announcing the departure of a CCO.

The memo itself was one of the most strained and convoluted bits of writing I've seen in a long time. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it was an insult to the reader in that it assumed that the reader was too stupid, too lazy or too disinterested to de-code the meaning of the note.

David Ogilvy said many years ago, "The customer isn't a moron. She's your wife." Putting aside the gendered aspect of Ogilvy's epigram, consider what it means. It's pretty simple. Treat your audience with respect. (For starters, don't call them a "target." Since no one wants to be one. And also, don't place them in buckets, which is both painful and ugly.)

Bob Levenson, 1929-2013, was widely considered the best copywriter in the world. According to Dave Trott--who knows a thing or two about writing--Bill Bernbach made Levenson Head of Copy at DDB because he was that great agency's greatest writer. David Abbott said Bob Levenson taught him how to write. 

Dominick Inseng, who wrote a great book on DDB and Volkswagen called "Ugly is Only Skin Deep," reported on Levenson's style this way:

"When he was asked how he wrote copy for all those Volkswagen ads, Levenson said, 'I always started by writing Dear Charlie, like writing to a friend. And then I would say what I had to say, and at the end I would cross out Dear Charlie, and I was all right.'"

If more people, including the CEO at JWT who wrote the memo I deconstructed yesterday, remembered that we are humans talking to other humans--one on one--we would improve the quality, and I'd bet, the effectiveness of our communications.

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