Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A lot of words on words.

The best bit I’ve ever heard about the writing of copy came, probably apocryphally, from Bill Bernbach.

The story goes that a client said to him "why do your copywriters spend so much time writing copy? Nobody reads it."

Hardly a day goes by when someone--a client, a fellow creative, a planner, a boss, a spouse or even a cab-driver--doesn't declare "no one reads anymore." 

I hear it every day, and despite our purported aversion to all things written, this blog (which more often than not has no pictures whatsoever) is getting something on the order of 50,000 viewers a week.

But back to Bernbach and what he was reputed to have said to the reading-denier.

Bernbach said, "Ten percent of people read copy. That's who we write for."

These days, ten percent of anything seems like a lot.

We have so sliced and diced our ad units with dynamic creative optimization and AI generated ads that we are very nearly fine-tuning our communications to a point where they matter to absolutely no one.

It seems to me we'll run a campaign for the 27 third-generation Norwegian left-handed squash players who support the 2nd Amendment. We'll run an entirely different set of ads for the 61 cilantro-hating gamers from Williamsburg who like Ralph Waldo Emerson, hot sauce and unfitted flannel sheets.

In fact, it sometimes seems to me that we'll gear ads to just about every constituency imaginable except people who like to read, people who like information, people who want to do research before they buy something expensive.

Everyone is an important constituency except people who think. That's because most advertisers and advertising agencies don't think much of the people they're speaking to. They talk down to them. They shout at them. They insult their intelligence. Or they slather on the bullshit so thick you'd need a "Jaws of Life" to extract meaning from them.

Not too long ago a friend of mine from the business asked me, plaintively, why I haven't given it all up. Why do I keep fighting for the things I believe in? Why I don't just say, 'fine. Do it your way'?

Why, in other words, do I rage rage against the dying of the light?

Really, there's no good reason.

Except for a simple belief that I refuse to concede that I am alone in the world. I refuse to believe that I am the last person standing who cares about euphony. About a turn of a phrase. About a devastatingly light touch.

Maybe I do it because so much of what I love in this world has to do with words that were put together nicely. 

I know I'm just a copywriter. Usually selling soup or soap or hope. But I do it with words.

And I hold myself to a standard.

I will never hit the notes like the notes hit below.

But I'll do what I have always done.

I'll do my best with what I have.

I won't believe I am the only one who cares about writing like this:

Or even something "low brow" like this:

Or this, all the way through but especially from 2:50-3:00, which has one of my favorite lines from all of movie-dom.

Or this which has a ridiculousness that we all could use today:

Or this, which has Barbara Stanwyck at her Stanwyckiest:

Or this, which is meaningful today, 80 years after it was shot.

Or this, which is gendered and colonialist but, still, meaningful:

Or this, which is mesmerizing and rhythmic:

Thank you for reading these words.

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