Thursday, June 22, 2023

Some Words on Words.

A long time ago in advertising years, more than four years ago, or 300 100-page decks ago, or 1,000 two-hour meetings that started at 6PM ago, my friend Rob Schwartz interviewed me on his "Disruptor Series podcast."

As writers will, we talked about writing. We talked about words. 

Rob came out with this bon mot, which I've heard him since then, repeat many times: "Clients buy words." Taglines win pitches. Commercials with funny titles get bought and made. Headlines often carry the day.

Or as Hamlet said to Polonius in Act 2, Scene 2 of Hamlet:

If you can't stomach listening to Rob, take it from Shakespeare.

When I got booted out from Schmogilvy at the height of my creative powers, my esteem among younger people and my value to clients, I decided to do something very simple and perhaps counter-intuitive. Schmogilvy was hard to "buy" from. I set out to make GeorgeCo., LLC, a Delaware Company easy to work with.

Joe Alexander, Cabell Harris, a couple of other people and I did a bunch of ads--conceived by Joe--to fight what was then the virulent spread of Coronavirus. We didn't do three or five as we might have in the past. Or even ten or fifteen. To accommodate the pressures of the Instagram era, we did about 50 or 100.

All this got me thinking.

It would make sense to offer this sort of thing to clients. So, to my three-page list of "buy off the rack" GeorgeCo. offerings, I added this:

Late last week I reached out to a friend and a luminary in the business for a cuppa. I wanted some advice from someone no longer running an agency. Mostly, I wanted a point of view on one of the most vexing issues a business faces: Am I charging too much? Am I charging too little? Either too much or too little is dangerous to your business.

Agencies--and agency freelancers--have so devalued their worth and their work that I felt I had to look outside the "creative" part of our industry. What's more, because I don't just "do" rectangles, like ads, commercials, web-pages and manifesti, I wanted to make sure the creatively-rendered strategic guidance and positioning I offer was earning me what it should.

Soon our conversation turned to, what else, words.

"What do you do?" she asked me. "What makes you different?"

I answered with a tagline I use for GeorgeCo: "Good writing is a business advantage."

"That's not good enough she said. You do more than that. When two people are talking and one knows you and one doesn't, how does the one who knows you recommend you to the other person?"

Just after this conversation, I got a call from out of the blue, from outside of London. 

The prospective client turned into a paying client. He's paying for a Nifty Fifty. I'm on a sharp and barbed hook for fifty headlines.

That led me to this conclusion.

Which is, for now, where I stake my claim.


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