January 1, 2014#

Sharing is caring?

The first time I was asked to email a copy doc to an account executive I did it reluctantly. I could feel the control slip away as I hit return. I started in advertising in the stone age, pre-computer, when copy was presented to clients on letterhead and treated with some respect. If changes were necessary, the copywriter did it. Not the client, nor the account man.

But now, an uneasy feeling surfaces whenever I send copy to the designers and account handlers I work with because it’s so easy for them to change it. In an instant, sentences can go from good to bad. Whole paragraphs from other brochures are reenlisted for duty, replacing the original because the former has already been approved by the client. Nevermind that they are ill-suited for their new role.

Readers, who are the only people that matter to advertisers, get frustrated and turn away. But because it’s expedient, some people I work with continue to do it. I don’t know if they recognize the difference or don’t care.

October 27, 2013#

Newsflash: Brands aren’t people.

I’ve  spent way too much time writing brand personas lately. Assigning personality traits to a brand and writing character descriptions that reflect those traits. For example, brand X is strong, trustworthy and approachable. Brand X’s persona is a mayor. She’s a uniting force in her community, etc., etc.

I think brand personas are overrated. (Especially if you don’t do the research to back it up!) People don’t think of brands as people. They don’t even think much about brands at all until they’re ready to buy. That’s when the rubber hits the road. That’s when your product needs to be available and easy to purchase. That’s when your advertising pays off – assuming it gets noticed and says something relevant to your target audience.

It’s not an easy task but it’s how you grow your brand and increase market share. Anyone who tells you brand personality matters to consumers is preaching accepted wisdom. There’s no evidence to support it.

There is evidence, however, that consumers are reluctant to view brands as people. Do you see personality traits on the cereal shelf at your grocery store or do you just grab your usual brand without much thought? I thought so. Don’t get me wrong. A strong brand can be a difference-maker among parity products. But brand personas, not so much.


September 25, 2013#

Your brand is not a logo.


I work for a brand experience company, aka design agency. We help businesses define their brand and use our design and copywriting skills to reflect it. We have pretentious titles like Brand Artist (Designer) and Brand Navigator (Account Executive). But we know image isn’t everything.

No matter how hard we try to portray a brand in the materials we produce, it only goes so far. The rest – sales, customer service, product development, quality control – is up to the client. If the client doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain (and it can be like herding cats), it’s all for naught.

Your brand is the living, breathing expression of why you do what you do. It’s the walk, not the talk. Advertising, point-of-sale, packaging and design play an important part in reinforcing your brand values and refreshing them in the mind of the consumer. All things being equal they can give your brand a competitive advantage. Just make sure your product or service lives up to the same standards.

Image from Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising


September 15, 2013#


creative briefI write my own briefs. Sometimes it’s because there isn’t one. Usually it’s because the brief I’m given is full of holes. It doesn’t tell me enough about the target audience, what their problems are and how the product I’m selling is going to solve them.

Of course that requires meetings with the client, researching the target market and coming up with a promise that’s relevant to the audience. Ideally the client and agency (including the creative director) have signed off on it before the creative work begins. But that hasn’t happened for me in years.

The good creative briefs started disappearing when I worked for a digital agency (back when there was a divide between traditional and digital). Part of the problem then was the account execs were inexperienced and poorly trained. And there was no planner. Briefs were copied and pasted from previous briefs. So I had to do the account executive’s job before I could do mine.

Most of the time I was guessing. Often I wouldn’t get clear direction from the client until after she’d seen the first round of creative work. It’s an inefficient way to work. As Lincoln said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” He would’ve made a good CD.

September 8, 2013#

If at first you don’t succeed…

Swimming from Cuba to the Florida Keys, a distance of 110 miles, is an astonishing achievement. Diana Nyad did it at the age of 64 without a shark cage. It was her fifth attempt.

The first time, at age 28, eight-foot swells stopped her. The second time, at age 61, strong currents, shoulder pain and an asthma attack brought on by jellyfish stings ended her attempt. On her third and fourth tries, box jellyfish stings which “feel like you’ve been dipped in hot burning oil” stopped her. Box jellyfish cause more deaths each year than shark attacks.

When she announced her plans for a fifth attempt, few people were optimistic about her chances. Beset with fears, nausea and exhaustion, her mantra was “find a way.” Good advice for long distance swimmers. Great advice for copywriters who throw up their hands at the first hurdle. No one said it was going to be easy.

September 2, 2013#

How do you like your ads, fast or good?

Big Wig from holding company:  Speed is our competitive advantage.

Copywriter:  What happened to great work?

BW:  We’re changing the paradigm.

CW:  You’re telling clients we can do it better faster?

BW:  Exactly.

CW:  But good work takes time.

BW:  Not anymore. It’s a digital world.

(BW exits)

Art Director to CW:  How can we be expected to do great work when we don’t have time to think about it?

CW:  Work longer hours.

AD:  I’m already working 60, 70 hour weeks. My kid hardly recognizes me.

CW:  It’s the new paradigm.

AD:  Fuck you.

CW:  Listen, clients will demand good work… eventually.

AD:  And in the meantime?

CW:  It’s a digital world. Try FaceTime.


August 7, 2013#

What happens online in 60 seconds

infographicThere are 347 new WordPress blog posts every 60 seconds. And this is one of them this very minute. (How exciting!) In 60 minutes there’ll be over 20,000 of the buggers. In a day, nearly half a million.

At its worst blogging is like masturbating in public. Relatively harmless but not terribly interesting. At its best, it’s funny or informed or insightful. See my blogroll for some of my favorites.

Infographic created by Qmee and mycleveragency