Advertising And The Renaissance Man

I turned over some copy to a client. The client’s wife went to work improving it. She systematically removed all of the specific points I’d made and replaced them with clichés. She insisted that the phone number be included several times. Finally, she was emphatic that we use the business street address rather than the “next to” directions, because she “didn’t want to give them any free advertising.”

I argued. I explained. I implored them to let me do what I do well. They informed me that they were the clients.

They’re right. It’s their checkbook and their final decision.

I resigned the account.

Oh, I do understand the urge to do it yourself. In high school I taught myself to play guitar, then built my own 12-string. After recording in commercial studios, I designed and built my own mixer, my own compressor, my own microphones. They worked. Perhaps one could say surprisingly well. I don’t use any of them any more.

As I became more descriminating I became less enchanted with doing it myself. The commercially available equipment worked better, was less expensive, and could be depended on for more satisfactory results.

Eventually I completely changed my mind about doing everything myself. It seems that I purchased a pair of radio stations, and in the process of being totally responsible I learned that not to use a specialist is a false economy. (Or incredible arrogance).

Oh, it’s a great concept: be so versatile that you can do every job at your company.

However, when you’re busy producing an ad you can’t be simultaneously responding to a customer complaint. When you’re making a sales call you can’t be simultaneously covering for a sick disc jockey. When you’re repairing a broken transmitter you can’t be simultaneously developing a new listener promotion.

I finally figured out that when I tackled a piece of broken equipment it could take me as long as ten hours to finish the repair. Some of that is lack of practice. Some is me second-guessing my own diagnostic skills. Either way, when it comes to electronic repairs I’m slow.

On the other hand, when I hired a local electronic technician he finished in two hours instead of my customary ten. I paid him $15 per hour. (Hey – it’s an old story).

Hummm. I spent ten hours saving my company $30.

I effectively “earned” $3 per hour.

Surely I could do something worth more to the company than $3 per hour.

I could have made another sales call and earned more than the technician’s $30. I could have spent a couple of hours creating a new sales promotion that would have generated several hundred dollars in new revenue. I could have made any number of more productive choices.

But, there I was holding a soldering iron and feeling proud that I didn’t need to spend $30 of my company’s money.

There may be satisfaction in being a “renaissance man,” but there isn’t much money in it.

So let me try to make this point one more time. We can file it away for use with some future client:

“Dear Mr. Client:

“You understand the technical work of your business, floral arranging. It’s obvious that you also understand the business of selling flowers.

“You don’t, however, understand the marketing of that business. That’s why you called me.

“Good copywriters write, and re-write, and then re-write some more. Then they begin to polish. They agonize over every syllable. They explain precisely why the words they chose to carry your message were not just good, but were in fact the best choices available.

“Good copywriters only make it look easy.

“A good copywriter can explain why one verb will resonate with your potential customer, and another will pass by unnoticed. A good copywriter will know when to use industry terms and when to use everyday language.

“With the exception of those businesses built on a core of marketing, (catalog companies come to mind) most businesses don’t understand why those word choices are so critical to their success.

“An advertiser who re-writes a professional copywriter’s work is the equivalent of a $3 per hour electronic technician. Worse, actually, ‘cause it’s obvious when the tech plugs the broken equipment back in whether or not it’s been fixed.

“Mr. Advertiser, when you “improve” your own ads, you’ll never know whether you’ve really fixed them, will you?

“Sincerely,
Your Copywriter”

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