Where are the writers?

I wrote my first post on the subject of “words” back in 2009. I’m returning to it now because I had a thought.
Every year, around this time, the trade pubs publish their lists of the best and the worst ads of the year. I pay more attention to the “worst” ads. The critics cite a variety of reasons for why each one fails. I know better.

The culprit was the creative brief.

No matter how talented the creative team might be, no matter how well suited they are at overcoming a bad brief, the brief is what they have. The information contained within is often the entire scope of their knowledge about the product or service, especially if it’s the first campaign.

There’s simply no escaping the adage: Garbage in, garbage out.

The creative that earns a spot on an annual “worst” lists is there because the creative brief was garbage.

You can argue with me on this one, but I submit that because the creative brief is the first step in the creative process, if the information is wrong here, the results (the creative ideas) will be wrong no matter how talented the team is.

I’d love to be in a room with the a team whose work ended up on one of these “worst” lists. I don’t mean the creative team alone. I mean the client/account/creative team, the whole shebang, everyone who had a hand in contributing to, reviewing and writing the creative brief.

Start with the brief and that’s where they’ll find the short circuit.

It’s there, I promise you. Seek and you shall find.

Words matter. They are taken for granted. People assume. People are often inept at writing in the first place, which is why committing words to paper is a scary thing. We now rely too much on short cuts. If you use email, especially texts, you know what I mean.

It gets worse.

I read in a recent opinion piece posted in a Talent Zoo email by a marketing professional who claimed that the advertising industry is in sorry need of writers. Real writers. He said that clients and agencies would rather hand off “writing” assignments to non-writers (sometimes called content creators) or designers and art directors and the industry is paying the price. I believe him. He’s spot on.

David Ogilvy pleaded with copywriters to learn the arts of direct response to hone their skills at writing copy that pushes emotional buttons, that persuades, that closes the deal. In other words, he advocated training in real writing, with nouns, verbs, a few adverbs…substance!

I shudder to contemplate the writing skills of the planners and account people responsible for writing creative briefs. If copywriters–the very people supposedly responsible for brilliant creative–are barely skilled at writing complete sentences, whither brief writers?

C’mon! Joe Citizen can write just as cleverly as some copywriters. Just look at the personalized license plates on the car in front of you!

Words matter. A bad idea comes from the same place as a good idea. Someone’s brain. Or a team’s brain.

There’s brain food and there’s brain junk food. A well-written creative brief demands the best ingredients. Start with well-chosen, well-thought out words.

Because they matter.

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