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).

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