Copywriting – taking things slowly

Jess Wootten

Jess Cameron Wootten in his workshop

Before I started The Ink Bureau I was freelance copywriting, but not full time. I was working for clients on weekends and after work. One of the people I did some writing for was Jess Cameron Wootten, who had just opened his own shoemaking and leathercrafting shop, Wootten. He needed some website copy.

I went and visited Jess at his workshop in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran to have a chat, get an idea of what he needed and see how he plied his craft.

The word “inspiring” is grossly overused these days – I avoid it like I avoid the startlingly white-teethed attractive people holding clipboards who stand on street corners and lure people into their monthly charitable donation lairs. But I have no hesitation in using it here.

I’ll get to that in a moment, though. Continue reading

On Brighton Grammar’s bullying article

Try hard

Earlier this week a private boys’ school in Melbourne got a lot of unwanted media attention for publishing an article on its website on the topic of bullying.

You can read the article here and Brighton Grammar’s responses to the uproar here.

The article was written by Melissa Anderson, who describes herself as a “resilience coach”. She’s also a counsellor and a pharmacist.

My first reaction to it was astonishment, disgust and a kind of despite-myself amusement. I admit, I spent a good half an hour ridiculing it on social media.

As I read and re-read it, though, I began to wonder: what if it deserved the benefit of the doubt? What if this wasn’t the work of a person with very bad ideas, but merely the work of a very bad writer?

What if somewhere past the corporate tinniness; deep within the thick, barely penetrable forest of the gardener anecdote; beyond the jarring non-sequiturs and sudden change in addressee there was something worthwhile?

What if this was… salvageable?

So I went through it as a kind of exercise in morbid curiosity. Here’s what I came up with: Continue reading

On delivering value

delivering value

The uniform I use when delivering value to clients

Value. is the world’s most precious resource. Every organisation desperately seeks it – from their employees, from their partners, from their copywriters, from their carpet and upholstery.

However, value is a bit different to other prized commodities. Unlike iron ore and gold, for example, it’s intangible, infinite and entirely subjective.

That doesn’t mean, though, we should strut around the office feeling confident that we’re all “value adders”. I mean, let’s be honest, we almost certainly are. Because value is so nebulous a concept, we can pretty well be unconscious at work, and as long as we’re not slumped on the CEO’s desk wearing only a doily, we can make a case that we’re “adding value”.

My point is that in 2015 adding value isn’t enough. It’s a bit passe, actually. We need to be delivering value to truly earn our swagger.

So how do we do that? 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”

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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