Copywriting and Ego


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Over the years I’ve worked with a huge number and variety of writers, many amazing, some stellar, the majority are “good enough”, and a few are frighteningly confident with a lack of ability. Typically the bad ones are the ones who are good writers, but have developed an inflated ego that has made it impossible to deliver copy that works.

Take for example one from the archives. A client was a long standing dairy farm promoting their brand. The owner wanted to engender a time of long ago nostalgia while also touting the quality of their product. Makes sense, and dairy farms easily lend themselves to those objectives.

The first I saw of the output was the final client approved mock up. The creative team loved it, the client loved it, and there was much ego stroking going around. As the strategist on the account, I had been excluded from the process. The first comp included the copy:

“Our Milk has been fresh for 42 years.”

I threw up a little in my mouth as visions of chunks went through my head while being able to taste that one sour glass years ago. I held out hope for the second one.

“If our Milk was any fresher it would still be in the cow.”

Oh you’ve got to be kidding me. The president of the agency started to explain the meaning behind the copy. I was thankful for that since it gave me an opening to give a more work safe critique rather than what immediately came to mind. I merely said that if you have to explain it, it doesn’t work.

The decision had been made. The campaign went forward. The launch included banners that were appropriately vandalized, customer complaints, social media backlash, and a horrified disgruntled client who held the agency responsible for sub-par work, despite his approval of it.

He was right.

It’s the job of marketing, whether in-house or as an agency, to provide solutions that the audience will respond to. It is not the job of marketing to stroke the ego of the client or the boss. There’s no room in marketing for egos. When they show up, that’s the kind of campaign you get. Every single time.

A copywriter is a special breed, and at the core, is a marketer; someone who is able to switch between voices and styles, to deliver a message that results in an action.

And please, it can’t gross them out.

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