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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Like to see one of the best demolitions of advertising stupidity ever? Also, how not to evaluate copy - and how not to write it. Plus an easy headline-writing technique

When you read this demolition, note the date it was put together: early '60's, when a lot of advertising was better (but some worse).

The art director involved, Hal Riney, became one of the best advertising men of my time. Eventually his agency was bought by Ogilvy and Mather, but I think he broke free.

Here are two of his commercials. He wrote the copy and did the voice overs.


Before the second one he explains how it got made.

And please remember: if you don't sell it to the client, it doesn't get made.


Here's the demolition.

Talking about stupidity, a month or so ago I wrote a letter for a client which he loved. It was three pages long, and was aimed at senior executives.

I thought it was pretty good, too.

When some silly woman in the US head office saw it she said it would never work with the immortal words, "I'm not a copywriter and I'm not a CEO but I am convinced this will not work."

That is a nigh-on flawless demonstration of how not to evaluate copy. Not only are you not the prospect; you know nothing about copy. Brilliant.

So I wrote back saying, well, I am a copywriter and I have been a CEO and I think I know what I'm doing.

It didn't help. As Goethe remarked, "With idiots even God is helpless". I hope she decides to be her own lawyer in a vicious divorce case.

The U.K. guy in that firm was so incensed he resigned. Good for him.

By the way, as a reminder to leave the country, I shall be running another copy day in Bristol on either May 30th or May 31st.

I believe that Steve Harrison will be joining me.

And if you want to know how not to write good copy, one answer is, copy other people's bad ideas.

A good example is the current vogue for redefining things. Anything will do.

An ad for Caffrey's beer has the line "Redefining smooth".

I'd barely recovered from marvelling at this creative breakthrough when three pages on I saw an ad for a new "electronic" cigarette. The line was Smoking. Redefined.

So if you don't have even a scintilla of an idea, try a full stop. But don't think for a minute it'll make you look anything but a complete tosser.

If you don't want to look a complete tosser try being an utter bore. Just copy whoever wrote the line "The world of investment at your fingertips" for HSBC.

It's easy. You just replace the word "investment" with "dog-training", "incest", "synchronised burping" - whatever you like.

You might think it took 7 seconds at most to come up with that piece of literary amnesia.

Actually, it probably took weeks. Each time the writer had an idea, the client said, "Can't you come up with something more boring?"

If you think it's strangling your creativity you don't have to use "the world of" idea. You could use "Passionate about" - as in "Passionate about incest" - or then again, maybe not.

Come to think about it, what about "Synchronised burping. Redefined"? That has a ring about it, don't you think?

People get paid real money to come up with this stuff, you know.

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