No 1 – Buy A Dog And Bark Yourself
It seems a statement of the obvious to say that the copywriter should always be present when his/her work is presented to the client. But there can hardly be a copywriter alive who hasn’t had the experience at one time or another of an executive arriving back from a client meeting, to which you weren’t invited; but at which some of your work was presented. I remember one such occasion when I was a young copywriter and a big blustery agency exec came into my office and told me the meeting with the chocolate manufacturer had gone very well.
‘They liked your copy …’
‘Just a few small tweaks.’
I looked at the radio script in his hand. It was covered with pencil scribbles. There was hardly a single line of the original intact. I looked at him incredulously.
‘A few small tweaks?’
Well, we talked, argued back and forth for half an hour about the rights and wrongs of each individual sentence and word. In fact, it looked worse than it was. I was actually able to salvage most of my script. But eventually we came to a sticking point. The phrase ‘The key to the goodness are the gallons of full cream dairy milk we use’ had come back from the client meeting. But that’s not what I originally wrote.
The exec – lets call him Peter – said he and the client had taken a long time to arrive at this particular form of words. I said ‘well it’s up to you but, as a professional copywriter I should point out that it’s grammatically incorrect.’
‘What? No it’s not!’
Well this started another round of buy a dog and bark yourself. He’d say what about if we say this, and I’d go how about we say that. Round and round. Eventually I said, ‘look, how about we say:
We use only full cream dairy milk. The goodness is guaranteed.’
He looked at me. Considered for a moment.
‘Okay. I think we’ve got it. That’s the best version so far.’
‘Are you sure now Peter?’
He considered again, like a sommelier sampling a new wine. He said the line out loud to get the feel of it on his tongue.
‘Yes, definitely. The best version we’ve had.’
I shook my head and held out the over-scribbled text that arrived back from the meeting.
‘Because that’s what’s in the original script.’