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Is It The 'Buy' or Is It Brilliant?
By: Jerry Northup
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To even casual watchers of television, certain ads stay with you long after you’ve resumed life. What we remember, of course, is also reinforced by seeing fragments of those same ads reappear in our news feeds or when we glance out of our car windows. Obviously, they work. Repetition is the key to retention. But do these overly familiar snippets of advertising further the cause of quality writing or simply dumb down the playing field?

Guess what daaaay it is?
I suppose it depends on the day and the organization you work for. From my perspective as a freelance writer, I would submit that the general perception among many is that writing has become so easy, “a caveman could do it.” Of course, cavemen did write, in a sense — pictograms cut crudely into walls. But what I’m seeing, increasingly so, is advertising copy being crudely cut into text — in television, on radio, in print, and online.

Can someone call a professional?
There is no doubt that the level for what is acceptable has fallen to a precipitous state. Here are a few thoughts on how to keep your writing from dropping off the edge: 
  • Play the course, not the competition. The Masters Tournament just concluded, and from what I saw, Jordan Spieth probably didn’t even bother looking at any score other than his own. He was playing the course, not his competitors. The lesson for writers is to stay focused on what is in front of you. That local car dealership spot might not play to the world, but if it’s playing in Peoria or anywhere else, that’s the only world that matters.
  • People only know what they know. Clients can only compare your work to what they see and hear. We writers, as a segment of the civilian population, see and hear the same stuff. Use that knowledge as a certain kind of benchmark, and you’ll be able take the best and leave the rest. Otherwise, you’re just talking to the hand. Or, creating a talking hand, which, by the way, is something I just saw for a national brake repair shop.
  • Which way did he go? There are more than enough red herrings out there to mislead writers into paraphrasing the lamest of advertising concepts. But, like the heart wants what the heart wants, clients want what they want. Sometimes, mimicry is unavoidable. Yet, if you must borrow, always resolve to make it better.
I really enjoy when advertisers poke fun at each other. It shows they are paying attention, while providing a platform for really inventive ideas. That’s the way it still works. To me, there is no greater achievement than when a line of copy enters the national consciousness.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?

If that were only true.

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About the Author
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.

Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.

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