Do people read anymore?

They say you should never speak ill of the dead, but Steve Jobs, widely considered to be a visionary, and to many a god, made some predictions that suggest he was neither omnipotent nor even particularly far-sighted.

In 2008, for example, he suggested the Amazon Kindle was doomed to failure. Here’s the full quote from the New York Times:

It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore… Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.

Let’s put aside the fact that referring to less than one book is a either a peculiar way of saying “no books” or a missed opportunity to delve into the fascinating world of book fractions. And let’s ignore the fact he was flat out wrong about the success of the device. And let’s, for a moment, look at his reasoning: “People don’t read anymore.”

He said it twice. He must have been sure about it. Continue reading

When a copywriter should step back

A copywriter thinking

A very fine copywriter in deep contemplation

It may seem odd that in just my second post for the Ink Well I should write about copywriters having no business getting involved in certain marketing activities. But that’s exactly what I’m about to do.

In most instances I think a writer is an essential member of any marketing or communications group whose objective is to persuade, disarm or enlighten. If they – the copywriters – are not wielding influence, they should at least be wielding a pen with vigorous intent.

At least. Continue reading

Bill Bernbach’s “trap of bigness”

Ink Bureau cards - Bernbach blog post

I love the blog Letters of Note. If you haven’t come across it in your digital travels, it’s well worth a look. One of my favourite letters (among many) published on the site is written by famed ad man, Bill Bernbach.

He’s described in the introduction to the letter as “a real-life Don Draper… one of the greats”. But in 1947 at the age of 35 he didn’t have that reputation. That was the year in which he wrote to the owners of the quickly-expanding Grey Advertising, where he worked as the Creative Director, warning against what he saw them turning into:

Our agency is getting big. That’s something to be happy about. But it’s something to worry about, too, and I don’t mind telling you I’m damned worried. I’m worried that we’re going to fall into the trap of bigness, that we’re going to worship techniques instead of substance, that we’re going to follow history instead of making it, that we’re going to be drowned by superficialities instead of buoyed up by solid fundamentals. I’m worried lest hardening of the creative arteries begin to set in.

I’m intrigued by this trap of bigness and have been for a long time, but until I read Bernbach’s letter, I didn’t have a name for it.

Continue reading