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They Are Literary Civil Servants Because The Words They Use To Sell With Are So Dead As To Make The Dodo Seem Like An...

They are literary civil servants because the words they use to sell with are so dead as to make the dodo seem like an emergent chick. They use words like 'expertise', which is a red rag to me. They employ incongruous clauses like 'skilled craftsmen'. And they clog up the lexicographic works with frightfulnesses like 'produced under strictly controlled conditions for exacting construction by the most modern methods'. How much easier to say: We really know our business - and we can prove it. Or: We think you'll be impressed with our workmanship. With reinforcement of the statement by giving a few examples of how the product is put together.

Or: Every component is thoroughly tested before it is built into the product. Then drive home the claim with details of how those tests are carried out. The alternatives, you may concur, are so much easier to assimilate, understand and believe. And that, after all, is the object of the exercise. Good copy consists of ordinary, everyday words woven into ordinary, everyday sentences.

Nothing more. You may not yet have had the dispassionate and cynical pleasure of watching one of those 'committee' advertisers leafing through a publication in which one of his ads appears.

He has eyes for nothing else. He turns webpage after impatient webpage until his baby turns up; then he pounces upon it like a swooping owl and studies it with the intensity of Sherlock Holmes putting a glass to a flake of tobacco-ash on a suspect's lapel. Advertisers are, of course, perfectly right to be deeply interested in their own efforts. But the mistake many make is to assume that their audience is equally interested.

Let's say it again. If an ad doesn't communicate in simple terms and simple language, it will be by-passed pretty rapidly by those less interested in the niceties of syntax than you are or I am. Rule 7 If it doesn't communicate, it won't sell. And if it doesn't sell, it isn't advertising.

You'll have noticed that I make quite a lot of reference to industrial-type online advertising in these pages. The explanation is that we (and I'm now talking specifically to those on the point of entering the business) shouldn't kid ourselves in any way that when we eventually breeze into an agency we'll be working on plum consumer accounts as a matter of course.

We won't. Of the eight hundred and fifty-odd agencies in the UK, only a fraction have accounts with appropriations which might decently be called blue-chip. Meaning £3,000,000 to spend, or more.

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