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A Copywriter Writes

A Tumblr Blog
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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  • August 28, 2012 8:02 pm

    My Favourite Ten: Great Ideas Aren’t Everything or, How Sucking At Selling Chocolate Helped Me To Sell Ideas

    image

    A reblogging of my top ten posts since I started.



    SIX: POST #29 (29 Mar, 2011)

    Great ideas: the be and end all of success in the creative industries.

    You wish.

    Read More

  • August 3, 2012 11:51 am

    My Favourite Ten: My Holiday Season Fail or, The Girlfriend I Created Out Of Thin Air

    image

    A reblogging of my top ten posts since I started.



    TWO: POST #2 (18 Dec, 2010)

    As if the holiday season isn’t stressful enough with all the preparation that goes into Christmas; getting ready for the big day of visiting and feasting and most of all, gift buying. 

    But to add on top of that, retailers are shouting at you to buy their crap as the ideal gift for whoever you just happen to be shopping for.

    The worst of this lot are the Israeli people who have travelled to New Zealand to share with us the treasures that the Dead Sea has to offer; a.k.a. Seacret.

    Now, I know promoters. I work as one. I know all the tricks and all the hooks. Many people do; as shoppers, it’s indoctrinated into us to keep looking straight ahead, and pick up the pace. But for some reason, I wasn’t prepared for this:

    “Excuse me, sir! What are you getting your girlfriend for Christmas?”

    Now, me, I’m currently single. As are a lot of people, I would imagine. So, the ideal response would probably be: “Already sorted. Cheers!” And then continue.

    But for some idiotic reason, I hate admitting I’m single (technically, it’s saying the words, “I don’t have a girlfriend”), especially during the holidays.

    Don’t ask.

    Read More

  • 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. 

  • March 30, 2011 10:00 am

    Great Ideas Aren’t Everything or, How Sucking At Selling Chocolate Helped Me To Sell Ideas.

    Great ideas: the be and end all of success in the creative industries.

    You wish.

    When I used to take my portfolio around with my partner, the creative directors of Auckland would put forward comments and questions of a suspiciously similar nature:

    "What’s the idea?"

    "I like ads that show a big idea."

    "I can see some good ideas."

    "I need to be able to see the idea."

    Ok, yeah. Idea is king.

    Especially when you’re out and about showing off your portfolio of creative work to masters of the industry; the gatekeepers to jobs and sweet, sweet salaries.

    But what about once you’re in? Things operate in a totally different way.

    It reminds me of when I worked as a supermarket promoter. I used to love getting assigned to the popular products like biscuits, chocolates, chicken tenders; basically anything that was tempting to munch on inconspicuously when no one was looking.

    The thing I loved most about these products is you didn’t really have to do much to sell them. People would see from the grocery aisle, come over, sample, buy on impulse and I’d make my quota.

    One day in particular, I was sampling a product just like this (a new flavour by a particular chocolate brand), which I expected to fly off the shelves and completely sell out regardless of my presence.

    So I got lazy and let the product do the talking.

    The product didn’t sell out.

    In fact, the product hardly sold at all despite the samples, the posters showing an airbrushed chocolate bar with ‘NEW’ in big, red letters and the fact that this was CHOCOLATE; a food product that people buy copious amounts of whether it’s on special or marked up.

    The people still needed to be told about what was going on.

    Which brings me back to my point.

    You could be sitting there, in your office at that agency you’ve always wanted to work at with an awesome idea; your work’s done for the day.

    You wish.

    You have to be able to sell your idea.

    If you’re going to make this thing happen, you’ve got to be able to talk about your idea in such a way that gets the movers and shakers on board and as keen as you to turn this into reality.

    And you have to sell hard.

    In order for your idea to avoid being reluctantly banished to the bottom drawer, you have to first get it past your own self doubt, then your partner, then your creative director (or perhaps some senior creatives first, depending on the hierarchy of your workplace). If it hasn’t been shot down yet, you’ve made it through the easy part. 

    The idea then has to travel to the land of logical thinkers (that area in the agency where all that phone-ringing and keyboard-tapping comes from) for the suits to look at it. An account executive will pass it on to an account manager, who may pass it on again to an account director, who may have a meeting with a strategist. All the while, dissecting the logistics, possibility and effectiveness of your idea.

    It’s an advertising agency edition of Chinese Whispers. If somebody along the way screws up the message, you’re kinda screwed.

    Three tips I learnt from various creative directors to at least give your idea a chance:

    1. Simplicity. Get the crux of your idea down to a sentence so it’s easy to remember and takes a minimal amount of connecting brain cells to understand.

    2. Evidence or Imagery. Hard evidence to support your insight goes down well or, a nicely presented argument or scenario.

    3. Finished Form. If need be, mock up a semi-finished version of how the print/ambient/commercial will look like or play out. If they can picture it like you can, chances are they’ll be on board.

    And once you’ve sweet-talked your way around the agency you can relax because you’re home free.

    You wish.

    The client will probably nuke your idea, watch it burn and piss on the ashes. But more often than not, that’s a situation that you’ll have no control over, especially as a junior.

    After failing miserably at first, the next day I decided to change my chocolate-selling game up.

    "Hello sir, You having a good day? Have you tried X Chocolate’s new X flavour? It tastes great! Have a try!"

    "Sorry, mate. I don’t eat anything other than dark chocolate. Always have, alway will. You know it’s got antioxidants in it? S’posed to be good for you."

    "Yeah, I know. Ah, well. You have a good day then, sir."

    "Sure will, matey. Looks good, though." 

    Like I said, out for your control. Sometimes they just want to do things the way they always have.

    Should this happen, don’t panic.

    There’s always next time. Just keep wearing them down.

  • December 19, 2010 11:42 am

    My Holiday Season Fail or, The Girlfriend I Created Out Of Thin Air

    As if the holiday season isn’t stressful enough with all the preparation that goes into Christmas; getting ready for the big day of visiting and feasting and most of all, gift buying. 

    But to add on top of that, retailers are shouting at you to buy their crap as the ideal gift for whoever you just happen to be shopping for.

    The worst of this lot are the Israeli people who have travelled to New Zealand to share with us the treasures that the Dead Sea has to offer; a.k.a. Seacret.

    Now, I know promoters. I work as one. I know all the tricks and all the hooks. Many people do; as shoppers, it’s indoctrinated into us to keep looking straight ahead, and pick up the pace. But for some reason, I wasn’t prepared for this:

    "Excuse me, sir! What are you getting your girlfriend for Christmas?"

    Now, me, I’m currently single. As are a lot of people, I would imagine. So, the ideal response would probably be: “Already sorted. Cheers!” And then continue.

    But for some idiotic reason, I hate admitting I’m single (technically, it’s saying the words, “I don’t have a girlfriend”), especially during the holidays.

    Don’t ask.

    So, because of this inhibition, I hesitated; missing my opportunity for a quick getaway. And began to string together the saddest set of lies I’ve ever told.

    "Uh, I’m not sure."

    "Well, let me show you something. Give me your hand."

    "Oh! The nail buffer thing!" (Here’s my chance!) "Yeah, I got this for her last year."

    "Really?"

    "Totally. She uses it all the time when we go out."

    Unnecessary? Totally.

    "Oh, wonderful!"

    "Yeah, so thanks, but I…"

    "Well, let me show you this, sir. Does she have the mud mask?"

    I hadn’t been prepared to take the lie further.

    "Uhh.."

    "Come here. Give me your hand."

    I then find myself with a scoop of mud being smeared and rubbed into the back of my hand whilst being told that the Dead Sea salts inside did wonders for your skin that no one can comprehend.

    I was way too deep into it now. There was no pulling out. Well, that’s not true; I could have sucked it up and got away. But instead, I perpetuated my lie further.

    "What kind of girl is she, Dan? Like, more face or more body."

    "Face, I’d say."

    "And, how old is she?

    "22. A couple of months older than me."

    Sorry, what?

    "Does she have problems with her skin?"

    "Oh, no. Not at all. Her skin’s beautiful. She takes great care of it."

    Are you serious?!? Who are you talking about?!

    More demonstration follows with a moisturiser and then the time came for the sale: A pottle of mud and a pottle of moisturiser for a total of $225. No way was I buying this.

    "Hang on, you know what, Dan? I like you. And you seem like such a nice guy. I want to do you a deal. I will give you the mud and the moisturiser plus a glass-tipped nail file for just $125."

    "Yeah, I don’t know…"

    That’s right, just turn it down. You’re nearly there.

    "Imagine the brownie points you’ll get, Dan, when you give her this really nice Christmas present! She won’t know I gave you a deal and she’ll think you spent over $200 on her."

    "You’re not wrong there…"

    Yes she is! This girl you’re both talking about isn’t real, you dipshit!

    She had me. By the balls. And the worst thing was, it was mostly my doing. All because I have terrible insecurities about my marital status. Why create this facade? Who knows? Perhaps later, I’ll deal with it my means of expensive therapy.

    But, no matter how much she made me believe I was buying a present for a beautiful, flawless-skinned 22 year-old who was waiting for me at home, I could have always pulled out.

    Nevertheless, a card swipe and a pin-number later, I had bought a $125 Christmas present for no one. There was no reason not to take the deal and my girlfriend was going to love it.

    Except the girlfriend didn’t actually exist.

    Sigh… Fuck my life.

    ***

    Merry Christmas,

    Dan