Architects don’t give away their blueprints. Diners don’t fork out free meals. Personal Trainers don’t sign over their intellectual property on spec. This video pokes fun at the speculative creative bidding process in new business pitches. We believe there’s a better way for agencies and clients to find the perfect match.
Autumn is here and you know what that means: the winter holidays aren’t far away. For many businesses, it means end-of-year sales activity. For nonprofits, it means holiday appeal letters and special event announcements.
My father was a photographer who ran three photo studios in southern Idaho and Oregon. He had his own business for over 65 years! He told me that half of his business occurred in the last three months of the year. I suspect that may be true for other businesses and nonprofits, as well.
Now is the perfect time to begin planning and executing your fall/winter holiday promotions. You don’t want your messages to get lost in the avalanche of other communications and distractions at the end of the year.
It takes time to convert your ideas into a finished marketing piece. For example, I recommend four to six weeks to create a printed piece from concept to postal mailbox.
1. What are your plans for a brochure, ad, mailing, calendar or signage that needs to be done?
2. Do you need to announce any upcoming events?
3. How soon do ads or announcements need to happen?
4. Have you written out specific deadlines and due dates?
Dick Paetzke is an advertising legend in the Seattle area. He worked as an award-winning writer and creative director on countless campaigns for every imaginable client and industry. Recently, Dick, nearing 80, shared what he has been doing in his retirement years. I was amazed and inspired. So, with his permission, I’m sharing it with you. The following is an edited version of his email.
I took up portrait drawing—actually learning how to draw. I’d had an affinity for it as a kid, and did some yearbook cartoons while in high school, but my primary focus as I matured was always writing.
I mostly teamed with an art director in an ad agency creative team, and as an agency creative director, I frequently felt a strong tug to put my oar in my partner’s water and make graphic suggestions. They were usually clearly met with, “Hey, I’m the guy who’s trained in this, butt out.”
As a major agency creative director, I had to supervise both writers and art directors and developed a very good sense of what was required on both sides. Enough to much later speculate, “I wonder if I could do that?”
I took a North Seattle community course in portrait drawing, eight two-hour sessions on Saturdays.
The instructor had spent years in the University of Washington Art Department and was at the time teaching the same class in about four local community colleges.
He was the worst teacher I’d ever had in my life. All he did was talk about himself and how he was far better than his teachers. With us, a bunch of ignorant novices, he only bothered to fill us in with some basic information about art tools and gave us a whopping supplies list that cost me almost $200 in an art supply store. We used hardly any of it.
His art instruction went like this: “Got your pencils or charcoal? Alright, Terence Brown is our life model. Okay, draw a portrait.”
At the end of each session, whether we’d drawn from a life model or a large , projected photo of someone, we’d put our drawings up on a white board rail and the students (who didn’t know zip) were asked to critique them. Then Jon, the instructor, would pass in review with comments like, “Well, this one looks like a favorite uncle of mine.” No definititive direction.
While we were drawing, Jon also would draw the same subject. After we had all floundered through the student critique, he would triumphantly tape up his drawing at the end of the row. Given, his art technique was far beyond any of the rest of us. Except, you couldn’t recognize the face of the person he just drew, which seemed to me to be the whole idea of a portrait.
Fortunately, on the first day of class he had mentioned several books, which I noted on my drawing pad.
So I ordered a book of John Singer Sargent’s charcoal portrait drawings. I spent hours just looking at it. Jon had also said the one valuable thing that stuck with me: “They say that to master anything you have to repeat it a minimum of 1,000 times.”
I later read elsewhere that mastery of anything required at least 10,000 hours of doing it. I didn’t think I would live that long.
Before I finished the entire class I had already decided that I would try to learn on my own. But I set at least an achievable goal, regardless of how well I did the work. I committed myself to finishing 100 graphite portraits as a self-teaching apprenticeship. I am now starting on No. 68.
I’ve been having fun and have even sold a couple of portraits that were commissioned. I’ve framed at least three as gifts for widows of three men I have known, including Seattle copywriter David Hyman.
I can’t tell you how much joy and gratitude those three gifts returned to me. They alone have made all the rest of my effort enormously more meaningful.
So far, as you can probably tell, I haven’t managed to achieve very great consistency, but I’m grinding away at it. The process has a certain amount of pain to it, kind of like striving to master a consistent, controllable and predictable chip shot out of a sand trap to borrow a simile from your favorite sport.
TAKE THESE. I’ve written a lot of copy through the years–as a freelancer, an ad agency copywriter and a copywriter in the marketing department of a major newspaper. Following are some of my free tips for successful copywriting.
When I have a meeting or telecon with a new client and/or about a new project, I often use the following five questions to get the conversation started and make sure I cover the basics.
In fact, I’ve had these questions jotted down on a Post-It note and stuck to the inside of my notebook. That way, I’m mostly ready even if I’m caught off guard or feel unprepared.
1. What is the piece?
Website, ad, article, mailer, press release and so on. This dictates format, communication style and other things.
2. What is the subject?
What do you need to cover? Topics, information, key points.
3. Who is the audience?
This is critical. It could be a primary audience and secondary audiences. This helps determine language, tone, benefits, call to action and more.
4. What is the purpose?
Every piece of communication should have a goal or two. Are you trying to get leads, make sales, inform, educate, entertain?
5. How will the piece be used?
Sometimes this is self-explanatory. A website, for example. Conversely, the piece might be a small brochure or rack card that can be used in a variety of situations.
Ask these five questions and you’ll learn what you need to know to start a copywriting project.
Teenagers know good advertising when they hear it. I was reminded of this fact as I sat on my couch Monday night with the television on.
My youngest daughter is quieter than her older sister who has gone off to college. She is not very talkative (sort of like her father). Sitting beside me last night, she broke the silence by saying in a matter-of-fact way: “That’s a good slogan.”
There was a commercial break on TV. Something resonated with her, even while her attention was focused elsewhere.
“What?” I asked. “Do you mean the ’15 minutes could you save you 15% or more on car insurance'”?
“Yeah,” she replied.
The “15 minutes” line has been GEICO’S tagline for, well, forever. The gecko is funny. The hump-day camel is funny. The man made of money riding the motorcycle is funny. But it’s the tagline (which is also an offer) that’s been enduring. It’s a good one.
We had a short chat on marketing. I mentioned how too many companies change their slogans, ads and marketing too often.
“Imagine if you changed your name every six months,” I said. “That would be confusing.”
“Yeah, it would,” she said.
Then she turned back to her iPod, and I resumed watching the World Series.
My friend Aly Colón, a journalist turned global communications manager, sent me an item from Seth Godin’s blog on the excessive showmanship of Super Bowl ads.
“The lesson of these ads is simple,” Seth wrote. “Putting on a show is expensive, time-consuming and quite fun. And it rarely works.”
Here’s the marketing nugget from Seth:
“Marketing is telling a story that sticks, that spreads and that changes the way people act. The story you tell is far more important than the way you tell it. Don’t worry so much about being cool, and worry a lot more about resonating your story with my worldview. If you don’t have a story, then a great show isn’t going to help much.”
I’ll add this: You can’t tell much of a story in 30 seconds — even during the Super Bowl. A 30-second spot can only reinforce the story you’re telling across all media and channels.
Related: 2009 Super Bowl Ads Were Super Duds