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.


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.


Gratitude

November 24, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

Thanks for reading this blog. Just saying thanks makes us feel good.

Here are 465 ways to say thank you. That’s nothing compared to the millions of ways to express the sentiment. Each and every one of them makes everyone in the world happier. Nothing works more productively, consistently, euphorically to make one feel happier than saying and being thanked.

It’s old fashion good business. Even if you text it! Saying thanks is a payment that enriches two ways at once; the receiver gets nourished just as much the giver. Plus it’s 100% tax free!

Future NYCAer, Kamryn

At NYCA, if we have one holiday that captures our spirit it’s Thanksgiving. We sit around the floor, eating pie – you know we are big pie eaters here – and share what we are each thankful for. It’s not about being clever ad people with pithy zingers. Quite the contrary. The room fills with warmth, openness, respect, love, appreciation. Sweet sincerity pie with enough to go around and around.

Thanks again for reading this.



Why I have the children and pets of NYCAers on my wall.

September 17, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

I have been told to take the cute pictures of the children and pets down, it’s too emotional.  And emotion can blur the ability to see and execute with great accuracy.  I can see that.

I keep the pictures of family members up because they remind me that decisions we all make affect more than what is right in front of us. When we are so focused on one thing we lose the concept of inter-being and the truth that we are all, and everything we do is, deeply connected. We must consider that our actions and words have an effect, often lasting. We must hold ourselves accountable. This is a way of living, thinking and acting mindfully. And that will keep us all on task with accuracy and compassion.

So the cuties stay.


The Harvester

September 14, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

He stands tall outside of our NY conference room offering his last food. His hand extending a bronze apple is a reminder of the power of generosity and the strength of our servant mentality. When the collective ego is in the goal of growing the business, this is not a sacrifice but a show of power. NYCAers are generous in spirit. Each fully offers their experience, their talents and passion to growing our clients businesses, growing each other, themselves, and the world around us. Hungry to succeed. Full of optimism. Always giving.