Copywriting is harder than writing, much.

April 26, 2011

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

I love ideas. Not all ideas. Truth is I am a proud snob about the extremely rare ones that have the power to grow businesses. I pander to those. I’m brutal on the thousands of weak ones I toss away with as much regret as swatting a mosquito.

Ideas kidnapped me away from an intended career of writing poems, plays, TV shows and novels. I found writing prose beautiful, empowering, challenging.

Copywriting is an entirely other and more demanding enterprise.

At the essence of advertising is the idea. The advertising idea, as I think of it, is that intensely concentrated energy form destined to change behavior. It’s not easy to make a person cry or laugh with small black characters crawling on a screen but to get people to spend their money on a product when they set out to buy a different product — well, that takes some deep voodoo science.

Twenty-seven years into it, the hunt and cultivation of that kind of idea keeps me up nights ruminating, conjuring, Maaloxing, celebrating, praying; alive. The voice in a novel is a powerful current running through it. In advertising there are many voices, accents, dialects, languages to harmonize into a distinct chorus; more like a play, in my mind, with stage hands, actors, set designers, producers, musicians — and you must include the voice of the audience, not just listening but inviting them to coauthor, to get the mix just right. Of course, with these many variables, you realize, it is never ever right. This is also true of any writing. Copywriting is just more cumbersome, the odds are more stacked against you. That’s why there are more good novelists than copywriters.

Often, in advertising, you are working on a brand that already existed before you started tapping away to get to its core so there’s history you’re beholden to, invisible relationships that you will need to understand, nurture. Like marrying someone with step-kids.

In copywriting, your main medium is not words. You are working with preconceptions, competitive positions, visuals, the clock, evolving positions, sacred cows, relationships, ghosts haunting the brand from the past. And as high as you raise the volume on your headset to tune out the voices of the world into a powerful harnessed energy-force, you are on a team — a loud, then murmuring, un-unified, insistent, collective with (too often) different agendas. You are involved in a dialogue not just with your audience, but with your planner, your clients, your partner, your medium, your client’s customers, your competition, your own ego. These, more than words, are what the copywriter must work with. And when so many livelihoods are involved, all of a sudden clever just doesn’t seem so important, does it?

Also, unlike in a novel or a play, if you are a good copywriter you never write the ending. There’s no “Curtain gingerly lowers, catches on a piece of light, then darkness,” no “The End.” No “Fade Out.” If you are a good copywriter, you write for the action to continue and you wait for your next cue and you re-stimulate. The brand must go on. Like your kids, it should outlive you.


NYCA president, Michelle Edelman, contributes to Progressive Grocer’s report on Baby Boomers

March 16, 2011

…”Recent research has uncovered a trend called ‘boomer bummers,'” notes Michelle Edelman, boomer expert and president of NYCA, a Solana Beach, Calif.-based integrated marketing and ad agency. “As [older] boomers pass into the typical retirement ages — as they get their AARP cards and turn milestones — they start to get depressed.”

Edelman, also a contributing author/editor for two baby boomer-related books, notes that the rates of suicide and clinical depression for these older boomers are rising. After all, they were part of the generation that wanted to change the world, but now are facing realities they cannot alter.

“Much is not controllable,” she adds, “particularly as age affects health and appearance.”

In contrast, younger boomers are still in the “family forming” stage, Edelman says. Many still have children at home; they are actively pursuing careers and were not greatly impacted by the turbulent times of the 1960s…

To read the full article, click here.


Michael Mark featured in Direct Marketing News blog

January 11, 2011

Michael’s perspective, “Creative director is the title, but not the job” ran in Direct Marketing News’ Direct by Design blog today. Read the full article here.


SHOOT’s end-of-year POV with Michael Mark

December 23, 2010

NYCA Creative Director & CEO, Michael Mark, was interviewed as part of SHOOT’s end-of-the-year recap featuring POVs from industry leaders. Read the full article here.


If you build it incompletely, they will act.

December 9, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Dr. Evil had it right when he said to his Mini Me, “You complete me.” Healthy interdependence is a wonderful and productive state for people and brands. (Must have worked for the villains, the Austin Powers films have pulled in $670 million. Wahahahaha!)

This vulnerability is a challenge. It’s the craftsperson’s nature to create with all the details buffed and shined. But if they want their work widely appreciated, they must build a connection point – a place for buyers to grab hold. This is true as well for the communications we build if we want recipients to act.

The incomplete idea is a cooperative effort. It goes from my work to our work; beginning in need of information from others to make itself whole. It has an inherent call to action: Like button. Comment. Contest. Fill-in-the-personal-info-blank. Upload your face on this head of a celeb. In other words: participate.

Once that action occurs three things follow: 1- the communication is furthered and 2- the recipient is changed into an owner; they are invested in its well-being and have the motivation to share their idea by the millions, which leads to 3- the incomplete idea now completed has become an idea worth advertising vs. an advertising idea.

We can see the difference between attribute and benefit-oriented work where a headline might go: “This revolutionary pencil has three points to write, color and dream with.” Now, the community building idea: “One pencil. 3 points. Show us what you can do with them and post your creation for all to vote on.”

The first comes complete and tells the product story. The second won’t be finished without the responses and endless stories, and a new perspective from a target could even change the product!

I used to get papers back with red marks from grade school teachers saying my work was incomplete – payback time, Mrs. Breudermaker! (Wahahahaha!)

Create work that has roles for your targets to make it their work, because your work won’t be complete unless it starts out incomplete.


We run communications for our boss: the consumer.

July 20, 2010
This is a guest post from an old-time creative who we keep around for his stories about the “good days of ad-makin‘ when creative was for creative.” The comments below do not reflect the opinions of NYCA or its collaborative community.

By O. Codger, Creative

Yeah, I read the trades. All about how the consumer is the boss these days. Endless subservient chicken-hearted articles, whined by marketing officers and reporters who never looked in the empty heart of a blank page and created an ad in their lives; about agencies needing to give up control to the consumer.

Really? Ever see these consumers in action? Power-hungry and completely self-centered divas, the lot. Forever hijacking the conversation, never listening to what advertising experts have to say. And it’s not like these big shots always know what’s best for the business. Let me see their shelves of Mobius or Addy awards, and Clios.

Sure, I saw how the consumer made the best Super Bowl spot again this year, according to the polls. (Then again, who owns the polls? Yup, these guys own everything!)

But that’s not my issue.

I know this is counter to data-driven intelligence these days and I also realize the inmates are running the joint but I got this gnawing — and you can say it’s a control issue (the consumer/boss undoubtedly will) — it’s about responsibility and accountability. Remember those values?

We’re trained professionals; craftspeople who have devoted ourselves to the breakthrough idea. We know what’s best. We get paid for this stuff. Is it too much to ask to be empowered by the powers that be? Consumers should consume and creators should create things for them to consume. That’s the natural order of things. Mess with it and mass confusion occurs; not to mention, lack of confidence in agencies.

The consumer/boss not only wants to create the work, they want to star in it too! They want to represent the brands they buy not just to their families – they want to share their opinions with the world! They want to be the advertising agency and by that I mean the account people, the creative team, the media planners, buyers – all! Just because they spend their money or have a friend (don’t get me started on the word “friend” these days!) who has had an experience with the product or service. And they listen to each other – and act on it. In packs. And the truth is their work is spotty at best. Just ask the award show judges!

Just saying that everyone has a spot in the food chain. The consumer needs to be put in their place: in front of the TV, watching funny spots, eating stuff we told them to eat. And liking it.


3 steps to 6 times the results.

July 9, 2010

By Dan Henry, Senior Business Manager @ NYCA

Advertising Age recently reported that clickthrough rates from ads on the iPad are between 0.9% and 1.5%, which is 6X the benchmark for click-to-expand ads on the web. Think about that. Six times the results.

Here’s what came to my mind as I read – will these help your business grow?

  1. Demand a higher level of relevancy. Not only the message should be relevant. Not just the message and the medium together should be relevant. The message, the medium, and how that message interacts with the content it lives with should be relevant. Then your not just asking for something from your consumer, you’re also offering them something. A better experience. Consumers reward brands that provide a better experience. The iPad isn’t the only way to do this, but the consumer reaction and business results at this stage seem to be saying there are benefits of delivering a higher level of relevancy.
  2. Don’t ignore the importance of the execution. All these ads on the iPad have one thing in common. They are executed to the highest level.  Apple is making sure of it – to make sure the ads are in line with what their product is offering – an unsurpassed user experience.  It would be difficult to argue that the level of the creative executions isn’t one reason these ads are performing so well. Of course you want to invest in really smart ideas, but spending the right time and money on truly beautiful creative really does improve results. Apple is a perfect example of this – yes good ideas, but also flawless execution. Our digital age requires us to work faster and cheaper, but this doesn’t mean we sacrifice the details of the execution, it only means we have to work harder at it. We actually have to ‘sweat’ the details.
  3. Experiment. In AdAge’s article a Ford executive speaks of their investment in iPad ads as an experiment. I think it’s safe to say most marketers who are investing in iPad ads right now would say the same. Again, iPad isn’t the only way to experiment. Augmented reality is an experiment. 3-D is an experiment. And here’s one that did both – here and here.  I say experiment smartly, but experiment.

Some of you may be thinking, ‘yeah, but it costs double!’ However, what costs twice as much but gets me 6 times the results doesn’t really cost twice as much, does it? I wasn’t a math major, but am I not actually paying half what I would for the same results the old way?