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A Copywriter Writes

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DAN WATSON

Kiwi copywriter.

Illustrator on the side.

This blog is filled with stuff that simply comes to mind that's too long to tweet.

It's mostly my observations as I try to make it in the advertising industry. It keeps me writing and, hopefully, gets you reading.

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  • April 19, 2011 1:41 am

    Judge An Ad School By Its Ads or, Getting Schooled Again


    Is that an eagle wearing a trencher? Christ…

    My agency, Lucideas recently did some work for a new client, a local advertising school which had some God-awful stuff trying to cram 27 messages into one print ad.

    My Creative Director, Zac Labang said that this was one of those blatant opportunities to do something cool and award-winning. I suppose you can’t ask for much better when the client themselves ask for something award-winning, not to mention the client is an AD SCHOOL; one of the best kinds of clients.

    I instantly lit up. I felt like I was back at university, getting briefed and, like all university ad briefs, there were no rules; no brand guidelines, no sponsor’s message, no Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.

    Just a simple idea to go on a page in the newspaper.

    Rather relaxing, compared to what is usually asked of an ad campaign these days.

    And like university, I found myself being schooled once again in things that you really ought to remember when creating advertising.

    Having said that, we’re always re-learning stuff. Droga5 Creative Director, Guy Roberts once said to me before giving me advice,

    "Here’s something I was taught when I was 17, and again when I was 19, and again at 21, and when I was 25…"

    What I re-learnt this time:

    SMASH THE CATEGORY.

    Zac reiterated what Paul White first taught this to me a couple of years ago. It’s the ‘zig when everyone else zags’ principle; it’s part of what Paul Arden meant when he wrote ‘Whatever you think, think the opposite’. Simply look at the competition and go in a different direction to what they do.

    Looking through the newspaper at all the colleges’ ads ‘persuading’ students to come to their open days, the first point was to do an ad that was simple and uncluttered. The sea of stock photography of smiling students said to us that an actual idea in our ad would make it stand out.

    This was too easy. The above ‘zagging’ is what you should be doing anyway. The fact that schools boasting effective communication courses were not doing their ads like this to begin with is embarrassing.

    SHOW, DON’T TELL.

    Again something you learn right off the bat in any ad school worth its salt. In this case, we saw one ad in particular that sang out amongst the bullet points, text boxes, sponsor logos and the other three headlines (no joke) that they ‘develop you to be an industry-ready communicator’. How? By showing exactly what not to do? Talk about irony.

    Don’t state the claim, simply prove it in the way you do an ad ESPECIALLY if you’re an ad school. I mean, shit, practice what you preach.

    Helps cut back on the body copy too.

    Speaking of which…

    TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR.

    In your communication, there could be a slight chance that the reason you think you’re hot shit means nothing to the consumer.

    A student looking for a good college isn’t trying to compare their ability to equip them with global skills in a borderless world nor is interested in the fact that the university has leading research intensive facilities.

    Research does come in handy when figuring out what your audience what’s to hear. If you know what they want, then talking to them will be just like drinking through a straw without tipping the bottle up: simple enough, but if you still have trouble, then you’re kind of retarded.

    Finally…

    KEEP REFERRING TO THE BRIEF.

    You can make kick ass ads, but if they don’t say what needs to be said, the they’re about as useful as a mesh condom.

    When coming up with the initial concepts, I read the brief once and went to work. Each half decent thought was quickly drawn up and stuck to the wall, by the time it was time to meet, I went in with about 20-odd ideas.

    More than anyone else who came to the meeting.

    All of them off brief (by a smidge).

    Yep, felt like I was back at university.