I didn’t sell a single home as a real estate writer (and why you should still hire me)

 

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My very first copywriting job was at a real estate agency in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I joined an in-house marketing department of several writers and some admin staff. We worked closely with outsourced photographers and designers.

The company’s owner would tell an anecdote about how this team came about:

One Saturday morning in the early 1990s, he was perusing the real estate pages of the paper, as he always did, when something struck him. Every one of the ads for homes listed by his company began in precisely the same way:

“This stunning 2/3/4-bedroom home in [Suburb Name]…”

Two would have been a coincidence. Three would have been annoying. Every single one demanded action.

Up until that point it was the salespeople who were writing the copy. These agents fueled the business’s engine with their interpersonal and negotiation skills; they didn’t need to be burdened by tasks they had no interest or training in. The owner saw an opportunity to eliminate the proverbial two birds. While removing an unwanted task from his agents’ daily schedules he could make a significant change to the way his company presented itself to the public.

That was the foundation story of the marketing team and, in a way, a foundation stone for the way I thought about professional writing from that moment on.  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