October 31, 2009

Project delivered!

Forgive the long absence--I finally delivered my best project yet. A little late, a little long and a little challenging (why do people not warn you of how hard this really is??), but she's perfect in every way.

I'll be catching up on sleep and this wonderfully topsy-turvy new life for awhile, but I'll be back! In the meantime, here she is.

October 13, 2009

A Reese by any other name...

Reese's Pieces cups--those lovely salty-sweet things--have been running a new campaign for the last year or so. So far, they've produced a handful of 15-second spots that are all artwork and music--with taglines that, for me at least, leave much to be desired. Call me an elitist copywriter, but lines like:

Stop global warming or all the Reese's will melt.

Sharing is a nice gesture. Stupid, but nice.

The perfect three way: Milk chocolate, Reese's peanut butter, and you.

...feel like first-attempt cast-offs. Despite infusing a little New Order and Fiction Factory into the spots, the messages feel dull and predictable.

But looking up the things on You Tube, I realize I may be in the minority. The comments are filled with discussions about the music, the message, the originality. And I'm left wondering if I'm overthinking what are simply nice, memorable spots that are doing their job. Still, I cringe at just how easy the copywriter got off--and wonder again how a big agency can justify the big bills for something that could have been written on the bus on the way in to work.

The writing in one spot left me particularly bewildered--until I found its alternate ending. The ad begins like so:

And concluded with the bewildering:

(Forgive the picture quality--it's all I could find!) What in the world is a Reese? And how is it plural? And just who approved this? And how did anyone think this sounded nice? Or had any flow? Or wouldn't make people stop and say "wha...?"...? Until I found this ending on the Reese's Pieces website:

Ah, much better. Still terribly uninspired, but at least it's comprehensible.

Still, I can't help feeling that all this pseudo-coolness falls flat and feels forced. If any of these win at an awards show, I may just have to eat my hat. While listening to some bygone 80's hit, of course.

October 1, 2009

Baby Talk

In this incredibly round and bulging state, I have become a prime target for a kind of advertising I've never noticed before. Suddenly, sophisticated ideas and lovely language have given way to a kind of dribbly baby talk that, I'm guessing, is supposed to connect with my inner Mommy-to-be--plying me with cute alliterations, mono-syllabic tot-speak and line after line of eye-rolling goo-gooness.

When did I turn from consumer into dribbling moron?

I first noticed this while waiting hours for a RhoGam shot (and not, as I've yet to live down, a Rogain shot) at the hospital. I was leafing through a copy of Pregnancy&Newborn, looking for quick snippits of tips and advice and product descriptions to feed my baby-info overload. Yet instead of being spoken to like an adult, I was coddled and rocked with words like din-din, tummy, meat'n'taters, pre-preggo--and, yes, the dreaded Mumsie. A quick look at their website reveals this bit of saccharine insight:

"Will you depend on convenient disposables to cover your babe's tiny tush... ?"

Now, I've never been a fan of cutsiness. I prefer Vonnegut over Harlequin and The Beatles over... well, anything on the charts today. So perhaps that explains the nauseating feeling I get reading what's intended, I suppose, to be a light-hearted conversation about the cutest subject matter around. But such drivel leaves me incredibly annoyed and, worse, wanting to turn to the woman in the waiting room next to me and say "Have you read this dreadful fluff?"

Just what do the briefs for these articles and ads say?

TARGET: Moms to be
AGE: 25-35
TONE: Write like they've lost their minds to hormones and can no longer form complete sentences

Yes, dear baby advertising people, I'm a Mom to be. But right now, I'm at home awaiting B-Day, half bored and terribly restless. Soon it will be all-baby-all-the-time, and I will--no doubt--crave a little adult conversation and intelligent insights and wit and anything else that will reconnect me to the land of the all grown up. Keep your cuteness to a minimum and treat me like the consumer I've always been.

Yes, I'm having a baby.

And yes, my mind is filled with baby stuff.

But, for the love of all things holy, keep the ga-ga for your cartoons and give Mumsie a break.

September 21, 2009

What's wrong with now?

Spending so much more time with my new friend the TV these days, I've noticed a strange phenomenon--one I'll call the TLC Syndrome, since they seem to have made an art of the practice.

In the bottom right-hand corner, the station's logo--a blotch on the screen it took awhile in itself to get used to--now comes with a little announcement. Today it reads:


What I've noticed, however, is that week-long announcement will change as soon as the new show starts--either to ALL NEW JON & KATE NEXT WEEK or ALL NEW CAKE BOSS TUESDAY AT 10. It's all new something-or-other, all the time. Which gives you the feeling that whatever's on right now is old news. It's vaguely disconcerting.

Then I saw it again yesterday while flipping across the Emmy's. While Dougie Houser was plodding through some bit of prompter reading, across the bottom of the screen flashed some exciting newness, along the lines of:


Now, this isn't the information-overload news line that drags across the screen when you watch CNN or Newsworld--meant to super-inform and keep your head in a tizzy. These TLC bits of info are, essentially, telling viewers "If you think THIS is good, just you wait."

Except you never really get to the good part. At least not according to the TV station.

What's with the permanent focus on the future? What, exactly, is wrong with what you're watching right now? It's like some constant, artificial adrenaline rush for the next best thing--leaving you feeling like you've always just missed the boat. It's like some new kind of advertising, where the benefit is perpetually elusive and what you've bought into right now will never, ever be enough.

What kind of society are we to be so unsatisfied that we can never just enjoy where we are--even for a second? It's gone beyond taking the time to stop and smell the roses. Because their incredible bloom will be nothing compared to the daisies just ready to pop out--say, next Wednesday at 6.

September 16, 2009

Home again home again...

For the first time since I was 4, I have an entire year off. Well, "off" meaning not having to take the little yellow (or big white) bus to anywhere at 8 in the morning.

I'm on mat leave and playing the waiting game.

It's odd. I love my job, and the people I work with, and most of the projects that come across my desk. I love my AD, my CD, the praise for a job well done, the breakthrough ah-ha moment when a concept comes together. I love working where people understand what "copywriter" means. I love the results of having to go back to the drawing board (even if the going back was a bit of a blow). My aunt once told me that I'm probably the only person who enjoys how they bring their paycheque home--and although I think she's exaggerating, I'm not convinced she's far from wrong.

So yes, it's odd to be apart from all that. I feel a little useless, in that I'm not contributing to the work. I feel a bit disconnected from the adrenaline. Advertising gets under your skin, drives some inner force that makes you dig deep, deep, deeper until you get it just right. It's compelling and rewarding and frustrating and satisfying. And I wonder how much I'm going to miss it.

But truth be told, my brain has turned into so much mush. My kind and lovely AD has politely asked a few times if, perhaps, just maybe, I'd, say forgotten a word here? Or a bit of punctuation there? And I look and see the glaring mistake, invisible to this bit of Swiss cheese between my ears. Plus you know the week will be long when, by 10:30 on a Monday morning, your previously comfy office chair has turned into a bit of a torture device that no amount of jiggling, shifting, scooting, or leg-raising can fix.

I guess I'm swapping one responsibility for another, altogether bigger one. It hasn't hit me quite yet, though. For now, I feel responsibility-less (unless you count the unwritten shower thank-yous that are staring at me from the kitchen, even now). It's a strange, uneasy feeling--like being disconnected from the real world. Almost like losing your place. Or watching from the sidelines. I almost feel badly for the women who run out the office door, free for a year and so glad to not have to come back for a good long while. What could be worse than an unwanted return, a year-long countdown to the pain of going back to their small corner of hell?

But, but, but... this project I've been working on since January may just change all that.

September 14, 2009

Navel gazing

I just flipped through the latest issue of a local advertising magazine. It's largely about advertising around the city, and across the province--with bits and pieces of stuff gathered from here and there around the world.

And, good Lord, what a bunch of navel gazing.

To be fair, this issue is all about event marketing--highlighting last year's big events, the agencies that organized them, the companies who decorated, the caterers who cooked, the sewers who costumed, the venues, the people who attended. So maybe I shouldn't be too surprised that they seemed to haver left out the--oh, how should I put it?--the dang message. I mean the big picture. The advertising point.

Sure, a creative awards show had a nice venue and great decor and fab lighting and lovely food--but, um, what did it communicate? (I know I know! That 2 agencies lapped up just about everything--I was there, I saw how everyone else vowed not to come back next year for what was, to put it gently, a great wank fest.)

Forgive me if I sound bitter. I don't mean to be. It's just that the more I read about advertising, and attend awards shows, and pay attention to what's going on in the agencies around me, the more I wonder just who we think we are.

Because, as a bunch, we take ourselves too dang seriously.

And we think customers--the people at the end of the line, the ones who ultimately pay all our bills--are a bunch of idiots.

I love being a copywriter. I love the creative process, the creative department, thinking in concepts, playing with words, finding the perfect fit for the brief. It's exhilarating and it sure beats accounting (sorry, accountants!). But to go from there to mistaking what I do for art, or to aim for an award when we should be talking to consumers--sorry. I don't buy it. Advertising has a terrible tendency to elevate itself to some higher plane, judging itself on what's breakthrough and cool and out of the box rather than what works.

And we all fall into it, at some point. We start to see what we do as all-important--as an untouchable bit of higher thought, smarter ideas, incomparable cleverness. But it's advertising. It's communication. It's addressing the almighty consumer.

It's not rocket science, and it's certainly not going to save any lives.

Yet here's this magazine, these award shows, these huge naval-gazing events. And for what? For the glorification of ourselves? The justification of our salaries?

A medical magazine has medical articles. An architect's magazine talks about architecture. So why do advertising magazines talk so much about the people in the industry and so little about making the message, addressing the consumer and doing our work a little better?

Awards are great, don't get me wrong. But this is our work. We should get our noses out of the belly-button lint and remember who we're working for.

September 10, 2009

It's a Small World, Indeed

So new client needs a great, big list of stuff for their website. It requires a lot of research--sifting through other websites, finding hidden gems, getting ideas, and putting an incredibly long list of stuff together so they can program the ultimate tool for their very serious program.

To help, they forwarded what they consider the perfect example to follow. Not to copy outright, mind, but to work with and get inspired from.

The source?

A page right out of a website I do pro-bono editing for. Written by people I've met in person.