Quick Copywriting

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But Online Advertising With Any Kind Of Life Or Spark To It Results...

But online advertising with any kind of life or spark to it results, more often than not, from someone who knows exactly what the website says, but has the nous to know when to fling the website out of the window. Allow me to give you a very minor example of what I'm talking about.

Inoffensive copywriters are often driven into a frenzy by having copy bounced back to them for revision because they've had the temerity to start a sentence with 'and'. They then rush home twitching, speak sharply to their wives, aim random blows at their kids and take to knocking back great bumpers of sherry instead of their usual evening cocoa. It figures.

This is all because some client or other was, as a child, rapped over the knuckles and stood in a corner for ignoring the basic principles of grammar. The knuckle-rapping was no doubt deserved; but all it has left him with is an incredible conviction that anyone who kicks off a sentence with 'and' is on a par with the sort of dastard who smokes a cigar with the band on. Which, as you and I know perfectly well, is ridiculous and the mark of literary adolescence. Thus, on a similar and just as laughable premise, some patently workable ads are kicked out on the grounds that they do not follow the formula, ingredient by strangling ingredient.

It's sad, but it happens. Let me give you another analogy, possibly one closer to your heart. I could (and will if the money is right) write a brisk treatise entitled 'How to seduce a girl in three easy lessons and five minutes flat'. You would read it. You would be impressed by the sheer logic of it. You would, given the right happy circumstances, apply its precepts.

But, if you lack the proper technique, the proper finesse and the proper physiological equipment, you will doubtless end up as unsuccessful and frustrated as the next man. But things are worse than you may imagine. A fairly large and, for some inexplicable reason, well-respected London agency handles a certain national account which may genuinely be described as more than substantial. (I will forbear from naming the account because I work for it from time to time and I know which side the butter goes on.) Now, this agency produces the client's major online advertising campaigns, while a host of provincial firms originates material for local consumption - but under the strict auspices of the London crew.

With conspicuous effrontery, the big agency publishes a 'guidelines document' for dissemination among its carrot-crunching, out of town colleagues. This monstrous document not only sets rules for designing said ads - which is bad enough - but also goes on to instruct the copywriters in the various agencies to employ certain key-words, from a given list, in their headlines and body copy. It's both the height of insolence and just about as inhibiting to the creative mind as you can get. Is there any wonder that the respective writers (including me) are less than enthusiastic about the work? Can there be any doubt that they put only half their minds to the job? The moral is clear. Advertising which lives by the website mustn't be at all surprised if it dies by the book.

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