Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Copy Book – How Some of the best Advertising writers in the world write their advertising. O’Kennedy 2011

This book not only gives you plenty of ‘How-To-Write-Copy-Advice’ but also some exciting ideas what advertising could and should be. I’ll start with the former and then go to the latter:

The first piece of advice is fun and honesty: „Don’t be boring.“ (David Abott, D&AD, 2011, p.11). „“If you don’t enjoy writing it, no one will enjoy reading it“ is one of my mantras.“ (John Bevins, D&AD, 2011, p.30).

„Object to everything as you write it. Keep writing until you say yes. Build your ad on a series of yes responses.“ (Silverman, D&AD, 2011, p.305). „Confession is good for the soul and for copy, too. Bill Bernbach used to say „a small admission gains a large acceptance“. I still think he was right.“ (David Abott, D&AD, 2011, p.11).

Then, not surprising, all writers agree that understanding your audience – consumers and clients – is key: „Demonstrate greater insight into the needs of the audience. People who better runderstand your needs (a category that includes spouses and shrinks) are seen as better able to meet them.“ (Thomas, D&AD, 2011, p.342). „Search for some way to relate the tiny, constricted world clients live in to the larger, sunnier world people actually care about.“ (Hayden, D&AD, 2011, p.154).

And then, a piece of advice, that is incredibly important, when we all feel very busy: wait before you write and hand it to the creative director: „First and foremost, avoid like genital warts the temptations to start writing. Once I’ve read the brief I tend to waddle off and play pool, or hang about with unsuitable women for a while. On the one hand it allows the important bits of the brief to sink in, and the reams of dross to fade into richly deserved obsucrity.“ (Neil French,D&AD, 2011, p.128). „On my return around 3:30 or 4pm from this daily habit, which was essential to create as much distance as possible between me and the copy (thus removing my ego from it and creating a more objective stance). I would see that what I had written in the morning was tosh. I would throw it away (amongst the myriad of things DDB provided for ist copywriters was a green metal waste bin).“ (Gluck, D&AD, 2011, p.141).

Once you write, offer readers something to lead him in and then constantly keep them engaged: „It was probably my grounding in direct mail that taught me my obligations to the reader. I was usually entering their homes uninvited and because of that I always felt that my first responsibility was to them – and not the client.“ (Harrison, D&AD, 2011, p.148). „Keep the reader rewarded: Any copywriter has to strike a deal with the reader. And as far as the reader is concerned, the deal is this. I’ll keep reading as long as you keep me interested. So always ask yourself: have I expressed this in as original a way as possible? Have I been ruthlessly concise? Have I kept my side oft he bargain?“ (Holmes, D&AD, 2011, p.173). „There’s one short simple word you should use a lot. Read your copy and check that „you“ appears three times more than „I“ or „we“.“ (Harrison, D&AD, 2011, p.148).

And to keep readers engaged, make it easy for them: you need to cut the copy relentlessly until it is in the simplest form possible: „I learned that if a line (let alone a word) could be taken out and the copy still stood up, i fit did not suffer in any way, then it could be quashed.“ (Gluck, D&AD, 2011, p.140). „ Make your copy slightly less demanding than the editorial matter to both respects.“ (Salmon, D&AD, 2011, p.301). „This means using language they’ll understand instantly. Which words are they? Well, oft he 80 most-used words in the English language, 78 have Anglo-Saxon root. These are the short, simple words we use every day.“ (Harrison, D&AD, 2011, p.148). „Verbs, of course, always make faster pictures than adjectives. a) A sharp jagged cut in the paper was made by the knife. b) The knife ripped though the paper.“ (Silverman, D&AD, 2011, p.305).

But the copy needs not only simple, but at the same time, develop and expose the best of the company to the outside world: „I don’t create a voice for a client. I try to express the voice that is already there but which may have been muted by expediency or distorted by poor advice. I believe that companies, like people, exist and grow by virtue oft he good in them. And that if there is no goodness they will die. Sometimes their essential goodness is hard to find. (...) But when you show them who they truly are and where their goodness resides, it rings a bell.“ (Tony Brignull, D&AD, 2011, p.42).

And then do it again and again: No matter what you brought to Tim Delaney no matter how much, he went through them and said: ‚Nah.’ „Tim didn’t really teach. He wanted you to just get on with the job and teach yourself. And that’s much quicker and more effective than any long drawn-out critique. Don’t think, just do, and thoughts will definitely happen along the way.“ (Sean Doyle, D&AD, 2011, p.90).

And beyond copywriting the writers offer many ideas on what advertising is and what it should be: „the one unalterable thing that differentiates copywriting from all other forms of writing. An ad is never an end in itself. It always refers to something beyond it, the product. And just as there are only half a dozen stories of any kind, there are only half a dozen car stories.“ (Tony Cox, D&AD, 2011, p.64). „Our job is not to make people think what a great ad, it’s to make them think what a genius product.“ (Trott quoted by Paul Fishlock, D&AD, 2011, p.114).

But it is a fascinating job: „Words are Gods. They have the power to make people do things, because they carry ideas.“ (Sinclair, D&AD, 2011, p.314). „Read poetry: Any why not? Indeed, I think the best copywriting is a form of poetry. We fuss and fret about the way things sound as much as poets do. So study their techniques, see how they use language, rhythm and imagery to achieve their effects. Anyway, it’s good for you. What do they know of copywriting that only copywriting know?“ (Holmes, D&AD, 2011, p.173). „Clive James said that humour is common sense dancing. Following the great advertising tradition of „borrowing“ from someone much cleverer, I would say that copywriting is persuasion dancing.“ (Wear, D&AD, 2011, p.354).

And beyond words, there are stories: „The secret was to trust not in writing but storytelling. Storytelling is not the same as writing, it is only superficially about things like plot, character and narrative. At the deepest level it is entirely about the reader. Stories change things by enabling people to realise for themselves that they are powerful and can do much in the world, and, crucially, that they want to do it.“ (Sinha, D&AD, 2011, p.321). „In so many ways, then, creating advertising actually is the same discipline as acting. You must start by mentally discarding your own identity. You have to become the people you are communicating with. Internalise their interests, joys, fears, tastes, even biases.“ (Stingley, D&AD, 2011, p.328).

And this ability is what makes advertising necessary: „The ability to communicate product benefits to customers in language they find credible and sympathetic is one of the major values an agency offers ist clients. Copy should read like a letter from a friend.“ (Salmon, D&AD, 2011, p.301). „Like lawyers, copywriters build persuasive cases for clients by selecting truths that are positive and omitting truths that are negative. This is different than lying. Lying is inelegant and foolish. It is not professionally challenging.“ (Silverman, D&AD, 2011, p.304).

But our responsibility is to the readers: “If you want to be a well-paid copywriter, please your client. If you want to be an award-winning copywriter, please yourself. If you want to be a great copywriter, please your reader.“ (Hayden, D&AD, 2011, p.154).

When we are truly lucky we can be of relevant to them: „Product advertising explains the product to me. Brand advertising explains me to me. (Empathy.) (...)” (John Bevins, D&AD, 2011, p.31).

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A Technique for Producing Ideas (Advertising Age Classics Library) by James Webb Young 1965

As the title says a book about the process of how to get ideas. But instead of describing this process for you here, I urge you to read the book yourself. And I just give you the best ideas from the book. Not the process.-

„This has brought me to the conclusion that the production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Fords; that the production of ideas, too, runs on an assembly line; that in this production the mind follows an operative technique which can be learned and controlled;“

He is convinced that most people in advertising can have ideas. They are just no pursuing them hard enough. Or work for it.  „The speculator is the speculative type of person. And the distinguishing characteristic of this type, according to Pareto, is that he is constantly preoccupied with the possibilities of new combinations.” „Every really good creative person in advertising whom I have ever know has always had two noticeable characteristics. First, there was no subject under the sun in which he could not easily get interested-from, say, Egyptian burial customs to modern art. Every facet of life had fascination for him. Second, he was an extensive browser in all sorts of fields of information. For it is with the advertising man as with the cow: no browsing, no milk.“„The more of the elements of that world which are stored away in that pattern-making machine, the mind, the more the chances are increased for the production of new and striking combinations, or ideas.“

He cites Pareto in the following „namely, that an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.“ „The second important principle involved is that the capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.“„To some minds each fact is a separate bit of knowledge. To others it is a link in a chain of knowledge. It has relationships and similarities.“ „It is not so much a fact as it is an illustration of a general law applying to a whole series of facts.“

Young then goes on to describe a process of 5 steps to develop ideas. Two steps in his process we tend to ignore today. The first one is surprising: „Getting it (all information on the subject and the people we talk to) is something like the process which was recommended to De Maupassant as the way to learn to write. "Go out into the streets of Paris," he was told by an older writer, "and pick out a cab driver. He will look to you very much like every other cab driver. But study him until you can describe him so that he is seen in your description to be an individual, different from every other cab driver in the world." This is the real meaning of that trite talk about getting an intimate knowledge of a product and its consumers.“

„Instead of working systematically at the job of gathering raw material we sit around hoping for inspiration to strike us.“ I’d like to add that the constant feeling of a quick deadline doesn’t help either and that we after we had 2 days of coming up with the idea, it then gets lost for weeks in alignment meetings.

The other step in the process that is easily to be lost in an achievement to be more effective is equally important: „In this third stage you make absolutely no effort of a direct nature.“ „It is important to realize that this is just as definite and just as necessary a stage in the process as the two preceding ones. What you have to do at this time, apparently, is to turn the problem over to your unconscious mind and let it work while you sleep.“ „So when you reach this third stage in the production of an idea, drop the problem completely and turn to whatever stimulates your imagination and emotions. Listen to music, go to the theater or movies, read poetry or a detective story.“

„In the first stage you have gathered your food. In the second you have masticated it well. Now the digestive process is on. Let it alone-but stimulate the flow of gastric juices.“

"Constantly Thinking About It" Now, if you have really done your part in these three stages of the process you will almost surely experience the fourth. Out of nowhere the Idea will appear.”

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene 1958

This book shows the most interesting use of the English language: especially in abstracts, sentences and even phrases – in its most condensed forms – Greene’s brilliance and wit turns into beauty. Thus, if you are a planner and if you always struggle with writing perfect propositions (of course you are, we all are) you should read this:

„Shut in his car Wormold felt guilt nibbling around him like a mouse in a prison-cell. Perhaps soon the two oft hem would grow accustomed to each other and guilt would come to eat out of his hand.“ (Greene, 1958, p.74).

At the birthday party of his daughter, one of her admirers shows up and invites them: „’Nonsense. You are my guest. It is only just after midnight.’
Wormold’s sleeve caught a glass. It fell and smashed, like the birthday party.“ (Greene, 1958, p.87).

„Captain Segura bowed stiffly. You could not estimate his danger from his size any more than you could a hard drink.“ (Greene, 1958, p.89).

„Capatain Segura squeezed out a smile. It seemed to come from the wrong place like toothpaste when the tube splits.“ (Greene, 1958, p.89).

„You can’t love and be confident as he was. If you love you are afraid of losing, aren’t you?“ (Greene, 1958, p.103).

„Sometimes he was scared at the way these people grew in the dark without his knowledge. What was Teresa doing down there, out of sight? He didn’t care tot hink. Her unabashed description of what life was like with her two lovers sometimes shocked him.“ (Greene, 1958, p.106).

That’s enough human insights to make do for the next couple of month as a planner. More importantly, if you are not a planner, you can just enjoy Greene’s writing. And also how philosophical topics are played with and mixed into everyday examples – through Greene’s mastery of language.

„’Do you never worry about anything?’ ‚I have a secret defence, Mr Wormold, I am interested in life.’ ‚So am I, but ...’ ‚You are interested in a person, not in life, and people doe or leave us – I’m sorry; I wasn’t referring to your wife. But if you are interested in life it never lets you down. I am interested in the blueness of cheese.’“ (Greene, 1958, p.6).

„He thought of the day ten years ago and then with uneasiness of Milly, and he wished he had not answered so many questions. He also wished that the snap-action coupling had coupled for once with a snap.“ (Greene, 1958, p.10).

„’I’ve got the Calvert, but not the Taylor. It was kind of you to remember my collection, Hasselbacher.’ It always seemed strange to Wormold that he continued to exist for others when he was not there.“ (Greene, 1958, p.33).

He brings drinking and the following to with charm and wit live. For example when Hasselbacher runs through the city spending the 140.000$ that he will win with the lottery ticket he just bought: „’Pardon me,’ a voice whispered out of the shadows, ‚has this guy really won a hundred and forty thousand bucks?’ ‚Yes, sir, I have won them,’ Dr. Hasselbacher said firmly before Wormold could reply, ‚I have won them as certainly as you exist, my almost unseen friend. You would not exist if I didn’t believe you existed, nor would these dollars. I believe, therefore you are.’ ‚What do you mean I wouldn’t exist?’ ‚You exist only in my thoughts my friend. If I left this room ...’ ‚You’re nuts.’ ‚Prove you exist, then.’ ‚What do you mean, prove? Of course I exist. I’ve got a first class business in real estate: a wife and a couple of kids in Miami: I flew here this morning by Delta: I’m drinking Scotch, aren’t I?’ The voice contained a hint of tears. ‚Poor fellow,’ Dr Hasselbacher said, ‚you deserve a more imaginative creator than I have been. Why didn’t I do better for you than Miami and real estate? Something of imagination. A name to be remembered.’ (...) ‚You think you’re drinking Scotch. Or rather, tob e accurate, I have imagined you drinking Scotch. But we’re going to change all that,’ Dr Hasselbacher said cheerily, ‚I’ll just go out in the hall for a minute and think up some real improvement.“ (Greene, 1958, p.37).

The general story of ‘Our Man in Havanna’ is about reality and how it can be formed. Simply by imagination. Wormold, an English vacuum cleaner salesman lives and drinks in Cuba and struggles to afford the lifestyle his daughter expects. „He loved her when the duenna was there, and he loved her even more when the duenna was absent: he couldn’t afford the time not to love. It was as if he had come with her a little way on a journey that she would finish alone.“ (Greene, 1958, p.29).

By accident he gets hired by the English secret service. A job that never fails to be a joke. „’But the vacuum cleaner stake up a great deal of time.’ ‚They are an excellent cover,’ Hawthorne said. ‚Very well thought out. Your profession has quite a natural air.’ ‚But it is natural.’“ (Greene, 1958, p.41).

„The Chief sat behind a desk on which an enormous green marble paper-weight held down a single sheet of paper.“ (Greene, 1958, p.43).

But instead of finding out real secrets (a job he is neither capable of nor willing to do) he uses the names of people he knows vaguely and invents personas and information around them.

„’What sort of information?’ ‚Secret information.’ Dr Haselbacher sighted. He said, ‚You are a lucky man, Mr. Wormold. That information is always easy to give.’ ‚Easy?’ ‚I fit is secret enough, you alone know it. All you need is a little imagination, Mr. Wormold.’ ‚They want me to recruit agents. How does one recruit an agent, Hasselbacher?’ ‚You could invent them too, Mr Wormold.’ (...) And there is something about a secret which makes people believe ... perhaps a relic of magic. (...) But remember, as long as you lie you do no harm“ (Greene, 1958, p.59).

He takes economic reports from the local newspapers and also comes uop with some secret constructions site in the mountains – discovered by one of his agents. The drawings of this construction site he simply adopts from the technical drawings of his vacuum cleaners.

The more agents he hires, and the more information he delivers the more money he earns. This success doesn’t go unnoticed: he is provided with a team from the Secret Service. But also the ‘other side’ becomes interested (probably just thinking: the Secret Service rewards him so highly, so his information must be very important). By this self sustaining circle, inventions, become facts with real consequences.

The police searches and destroyes the interior of Hasselbacher’s flat: „A small room, which had been converted into a laboratory, was now reconverted into chaos. (...) He sat heavily down on a tall tubular adjustable chair, which shortened suddenly under his weight and spilt him on the floor. Somebody always leaves a banana-skin on the scene of a tragedy.“ (Greene, 1958, p.72).

All his invented agents and facts become so real that the ‘other side’ kills one of his agents and nearly shoots another. In a trick involving one of the admirers of his daughter, a captain of the Cuban police, he gets himself, his daughter and his assistant Beatrice – whom he is in love with - out of the country. Ironically he obtains one piece of true information from the Captain, but that is the piece that the Secret Service doesn’t take for real – now that they know the whole hoax. But since they don’t want to lose face, by showing that they have been tricked by him, give him an O.B.E. And he decides to start a live with his former assistant

The woman he’s in love with talking to his daughter Milly:„’If I love him, why shouldn’t I?’ ‚He’s married.’ ‚Milly, dear Milly. Beware of formulas. If there’s a God, he’s not a God of formulas.’“ (Greene, 1958, p.192).

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Circle – Inspiration not congratulations - D&AD 1997 Creative Circle 2012

I can give you some quotes, but that doesn’t do justice to this beautiful book. Here are they nevertheless:

Have a hero, then kill them: „Because if you don’t have a hero, it means you don’t care enough about what you do to have looked for who does it best.“ Nils Leonhard.

Mark Denton: „I think NO is a very inspiring word. That’s because because it’s a proven fact that 93.5% of people who say „NO“ really mean „I can’t quite imagine what YES would be like so can you show me, I’m sure I’d like it“ ... or words to that effect. And even if that small percentage who say NO really mean it, that shouldn’t stop you from doing it anyway.“

Nick Gill: „ But in my youth I soon realised that for all my talent I was never going to be an artist. IT wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough. I just wasn’t made that way. Because someone had tuned my brain to solving problems.“

There’s nothing a CD likes more than a team saying, ‚You know that idea you approved? We think we’ve come up with something better.

But youthful thinking isn’t just a privilege of the young. (...)  It’s what John Bartle describes as ‚Immaturing with age.’

The more you listen and respect people, the more they’ll let you be a stubborn git.

Flo Heiss:
Sharing is part of my life. Or has become it. Depends which way you look at it. I love it. But it has a tendency to take over. I have caught myself looking for shareable moments. It’s a dangerous game.

Dave Dye:
„the public are smart, they know ads are trying to sell them something, they know the game, so we need to treat them like adults. Be self deprecating, joke about the product or the ad itself of all – entertain with our interruptions.“

Ed Morris in conversation with John Hegarty
JH: it disappoints me enormously that the wealthiest people in our industry are accountants, they are not creative people yet this is an industry born out of creativity, you know the wealthiest people in the music industry are the musicians. (...) I think that’s because creative people have not taken responsibility for what this industry is about; great ideas and if you’re not at the top oft he company you will not direct the company.

EM: Actually you could describe worry as the opposite of responsibility really because responsibility is doing something about it.

JH: Reducing, reducing, reducing is ultimately our great skill. The power of reduction is the wonderful, wonderful thing that advertising does, creative thinking in advertising and it’s often undermined. People often say ‚oh well that’s very simple’. It’s the hardest thing to do in the World you can do. It’s that great line I love saying tot he writers ‚Write less, say more.’

EM: Somerset Maugham. He said’You can tell what God thinks of money, you’ve just got to look at the people he gives it to.’

Graham Fink:
„Great creative people can train their minds to let all that wash over them and stick tot he fun part. Paul Arden was one such person. He’d carefully listen to everything and then just ignore it. He would then come up with something so surprising that it blew the cacophony of irrelevance away.“

Dave Trott:
D&AD’s orginal maxim: STIMULATION NOT CONGRATULATION. (...) Martin Boase ‚(...) Awards are just like the froth on top of a pint of beer. They’re enjoyable and they make it nicer, but they’re not your beer. It’s the same with awards. They’re very nice, but they’re not what we actually do.“

They say a camel is a horse designed by a comittee.