A Copywriter’s Blog

He’s not kidding, you know. That document is completely true. You can tell because only a brand manager would ever compose a memo that sounded like a buzzword-bingo cheat sheet.

Here then, is a bit of insight into what I do for a living. It’s my job (with the help of many, many people, usually smarter and cooler than I am) to take that, and make it something like this:

I’ve never worked on Old Spice, but I guarantee you they have the same sort of guidelines. They have brand managers and strategiests who say things like “Old Spice is not an exclusionary brand” and who want the ads to inform people that “Old Spice’s line of unique scents help teens 12-18 feel empowered and individual.” There are lines explaining that “the Old Spice product should never be shown doing something cool. Old Spice doesn’t do cool things, it gives the people the confidence to do cool things themselves”.

Is any of that actually written down somewhere at W+K? Who knows. But that’s the kind of language you get handed, and it’s your job as an Ad Man to – in the parlance of the business- “solve it.” And it is a problem that needs solving.

This may come as a shock, but I don’t actually have anything against brand managers, and certainly nothing against strategists, who are liable to say things like “The message we want to communicate is that Old Spice helps me feel empowered.” Yes, on paper it sounds ridiculous. Hell, it is ridiculous. But it’s also necessary in order to make great ads. I once had a legendary Creative Director tell me, “I know how good a campaign will be just by the strategy team assigned to it.” You get the right strategy, the ads practically make themselves.

And brand managers? Well, look at it this way- without brand guidelines, Apple’s website could be hot pink. Sure, it doesn’t match the aesthetic of the iBooks, iPods, and iPads, but who cares? In fact, forget all this iStuff- let’s call the next iBook a jBook. Cause, see, “j” is the next letter after “i”, and this is a newer version, so… Sound crazy? Some moron would try it, trust me.

And so you take this ridiculously corporate, soulless language, these documents full of “extreme” “unique” “inclusive” “shareable” and the like. And you try to make something human out of it. “Old Spice’s line of unique scents helps teens 12-18 feel empowered and individual?” Let’s tell people when they use it they Smell Like Power. In hindsight it sounds incredibly easy. In actual practice, when you’ve only got a couple of hours and a sheet of paper so pompous it can be thrown as-is into a Stephen Colbert skit, it’s a bit trickier.

So let’s all raise a glass of whatever you like, and drink it alongside no more than 16 wheat thins, which will perfectly compliment whichever beverage you’ve chosen. To the brand managers. To the strategists. And to my mother, who may or may not have any better idea of what I do for a living after reading this.

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The rumors are true. Ben Levy 23, February

Canadians actually are obsessed with hockey. They’re straight up silly for it. I…I honestly couldn’t even make jokes about it, after a while. They were just like, “Yeah, eh? Love them Maple Leafs?” And while they said it, they were wearing sweatpants that had beavers on them. And in four days, it happened so often I couldn’t even find the humor in it anymore. It was just a bizzarre law of frozen nature. America’s Hat is a weird place.

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Going Dark Ben Levy 17, February

Sorry, internets. I know it’s been kinda quiet over here. Work’s been mildly insane, followed by frantic baby-planning on weekends. My brain started screaming last Wednesday, but luckily no one can hear it but me. Shh, it’s trying to communicate.

Point is, I leave today for the frozen wastelands to observe a primitive ritual my people have practiced for generations (ie- going to Toronto for cousin’s Bat Mitzvah). It’s a forced break, but I’ll take it. And so I’m going to leave all the electronics here. Even taking a dead-tree book as opposed to my Kindle.

If all goes well I shall return at a slightly silly hour of Monday morning, with maple syrup and beaver pelts. See you then.

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Happy St Stupid Day Ben Levy 13, February

This was originally titled “Happy forced outward sign of affection ruining what would be an otherwise sweet gesture causing rising levels of stress and tension in your relationship day” but it didn’t fit.

Or as XKCD puts it: The Valentine Prisoner’s Dilemma

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The most popular Super Bowl ads, according to USAToday’s readers, as of this morning:

Screen Shot 2012-02-06 at 8.12.19 AM

You’ll note that three of the top 5 ads contain dogs, one contains a baby, and the contains anthropomorphic chocolate. Which makes me think about this Fed Ex spot from 2008:

I thought overall the ads were a hell of a lot stronger this year. There were a few notable exceptions. VW might have looked better if they hadn’t felt the need to end their spot by reminding you how much better last year’s spot was. or whoever that was sucked. And GoDaddy still wanted to make me and everyone I know secede from the human race. But then, they pride themselves on being such enormous douchetools that even the average frat boy feels the need to apologize to any girls around when their spots air. So good for them, I guess. Anything about Bud Light bored me.

But aside from those, I thought we had some actually funny, decent, ads. Hyundai had a great start. Audi made me angry right up until the last 10 seconds, when they made me laugh. The Tax company that talked about feeling free while a kid ran around trying to find a place to take a leak was priceless. For the first time in a good three or four years, I felt like people might be able to talk about a few of the ads the next day. Rather than just the 2 that didn’t suck that hard.

I am sad I never saw this ad for FirstBank air, although it was leaked a few days ago. Must have been a local buy, but I really like it anytime someone sets themselves apart by spending all the money for an ad buy and then doing nothing with it. Intelligently, of course.

FirstBank – Super Bowl Commercial from TDA_Boulder on Vimeo.

Check ‘em all out here.

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Satan needs a space heater Ben Levy 2, February

This post may have kicked off an entire category on BrokenJPG that’s produced some of my most popular rants. But make no mistake- I was using humor as a defense against the horrible, mind-searing agony of the monumental fuck-fest that was the first live-action GI Joe movie.

It still stands as one of the shittiest piles of excrement to ever get squeezed out of Hollywood. It didn’t have to be the greatest film of all time. It just had to be campy. Or have over-the-top action. Or avoid putting an entire generation’s beloved childhood heroes into fucking mech suits like some kind of anime fan-fiction.

But the live-action GI Joe film failed all these things. It failed them so badly that even though I didn’t ever see this crapfest, when the trailer for the second came around, I called it shit again. My friends told me I was wrong, that ninja’s fighting on the side of a cliff was pretty damn awesome. But my eyes were blinded by the stinging remains of the feces from years past. I would not- nay, I could not- take a chance. Some trauma is too deep.

But then, this morning, I saw this.

That is a trailer that starts out with Dwayne The Rock/Roadblock Johnson quoting Jay Z. And then using the song that was just quoted as the soundtrack. Which includes ninjas shooting bullets at shuriken, ninjas stabbing other ninjas on the side of a cliff, and Bruce Willis shooting a machine gun out the back of a pickup.

Do you hear that, dear readers? That’s the sound of my cold, blackened heart beginning to beat once more. Am I scared? Terrified. Would I have thought it possible that I would even consider seeing the sequel of the cinematic sin that launched a thousand (or, like, ten) angry posts? No, I would not.

But that looks like a great “bad” movie. And that’s all we ever needed it to be.

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