Can advertising copy be as stunning and beautiful as a Porsche?

September 10, 2009


Most people got that my last post was more of a thought starter than a fire starter. In it I “accused” art directors of being more culpable than anyone for the rise in scam-ads. Most of your comments were insightful but I still like my case!

One of the reasons I called out art directors for shunning copy in their ads is based on the old saw: “nobody reads body copy anyway.” You know I heard that line my first year on the job. Didn’t believe it then. Don’t believe it now.

Fact is many people don’t pay attention to ads at all. For them, it’s not a matter of how long or short the copy is; they’re just not interested in being sold something at that particular time. Doubtful any amount of art direction would make much of a difference. A fun concept might grab them but a targeted virgin usually flees the aggressor.

It’s the people who value advertising (be it for emotional or pragmatic reasons) I’m looking for. Even if capturing new users is the brief I still like writing for an audience. Whatever the media (I always think of print first, but that’s me), I imagine I’m writing for someone who is interested in what I have to say. Doing otherwise does you, your client and the consumer a disservice. That’s my opinion. Assuming advertising must be intrusive in order to succeed is, most of the time, a bad call. Ads need to be relevant to an audience. Then they’ll read them, talk about them and even tear them out of a magazine.

I found a piece of copy in Vanity Fair that kicked my ass, for the new model year of Porsche 911. Understand something: I was on my own time, not playing creative director. I was enjoying a magazine that, by the way, has no equal. (For that matter, neither does Porsche.) I am pretty damn sure I am just the audience the copywriter envisioned when he or she sat down to write. It was my pleasure copying the text word for word:

The first time you experience a Porsche 911, you notice a degree of purpose to the car you may not have anticipated. Every component, every technical advancement is there to advance one cause: the drive. You notice the key is on the left; it was put there originally so a racer could start with one hand, shift with the other and hit the track faster. You, car and road bond like brothers. You suddenly remember that driving can be a thrill. Is a thrill. You feel alive every time you get behind the wheel. You note, amazed, that a 385-horsepower car returns 27 miles per gallon. You appreciate its founding belief of getting more from less. You strain to think of something else that has stayed this true to its ideals for 46 years. And you come to the realization that, in the age of the superfluous and superficial, the unrooted and the unserious, the 911 is necessary. Very necessary. The Porsche 911. There is no substitute.

I particularly like the way the writer turned a luxury item into a necessity, making a solid case for Porsche, even in this economy. In other words, he sold me the car. And he did it with words not pictures. I already know how badass the 911 is yet I am not willing to buy one. Seeing another photo of it would do nothing to change my mind. Reading these words could. Indeed, I am considering Porsche’s new sedan, The Panamera next go around.

Kudos to CK, an agency in my backyard, for making copy as deft and beautiful as the cars they’re selling.


11 Responses to “Can advertising copy be as stunning and beautiful as a Porsche?”

  1. Brook said

    Large amounts of copy is not something all art directors shy away from. At RPA we did full spreads that were all copy with a little Honda Civic in the corner then turned around and did an ad with a massive picture of a car and one line of brilliantly written copy along the bottom. I personally look forward to both. The typographic challenge is just as fun as the a great conceptual image challenge. (that almost made sense)

    As for the Porsche copy. It’s good. The real challenge comes from writing something that poetic for Hyundai Sonata.

    Time to get back to work.

  2. rich said

    I remember attempting a body-copy driven campaign for Jaguar (a car deserving of romance and prose).
    I had written 8-9 ads for the campaign, each with a short passage –about as long as the Porsche copy.
    After reading the first ad to one of the senior marketing execs, I was told, not asked, to turn the foamcore board over and move quickly to the next campaign.
    I like to believe it was less about the copy being worthy and more about this particular executive being unworthy.

  3. migrane66 said

    it’s well-written. but it seems to be ad copy written in about 1986–with no consideration at all to what the world has gone through the past few years. people have less money. there are are fewer jobs. yet, it’s the age of the superfluous and superficial? the unrooted and unserious? strange.

  4. SRP said

    Migrane66 (great name) makes a fine point. Here’s my rebuttal. Porsche (and Vanity Fair for that matter) is not for the Prius/Ford Focus crowd. They have more room for introspection. Still, you’ve exposed a chink in the armor. Good job!

  5. z-bon said

    I like that Steffan at Euro takes time to compliment a writer at C-K. Seems like a small thing, but it’s nice to see that award shows aren’t the only time to congratulate one another on a job well done. Sure, we’re competing against each other for business, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t give each other a pat on the back every once and a while when it is deserved. As a copywriter, I also particularly like that it is a compliment on body copy. Proof that whether or not all people read body copy, some people do, and those who do read it deserve to enjoy what they’re reading instead of being bored by it. Know and remember the negative, but focus, acknowledge and produce the positive, I like that.

  6. Tim G said

    I read this very same piece of copy on the plane, and I rarely read a copy chunk all the way through. I was impressed.

  7. Patrick Scullin said

    Great review on great copy. Gossage said it best: “people don’t read ads , they read what interests them… And sometimes that happens to be an ad.”

  8. Al said

    First I should say that I own a Porsche, in fact I have owned 3 since 1984. Let me share a few insights as to why I have and will continue to shell out a significant amount of money not once but three times for what others might consider very expensive transportation.

    I have been asked on numerous occasions why I drive Porsches.

    First – I will say that I love cars, all cars in fact. I appreciate them for both being a great invention that makes modern life possible and for the fact that they are marvels of human design and engineering.

    Second – let me say that at the end of even my worst day, when I get into my 911 and turn that ignition key (yes still on the left) I’m happy.

    Third – a Porsche is a unique combination of power and grace. It is a car that you can “dance” with. It in many way is like a wonderful yet elusive lover and your best girl all wrapped up into one. Treated with a light but firm touch she rewards the driver with an unparalleled experience almost like flying. She can be taken for a hard ride through the twisting backroads until the engine is crackling hot without complaint and yet will be ready for the daily drive the next morning.

    Fourth – design and engineering excellence! The body shape is functional, classic, and sensual with its smooth curves, flares, and not a single non-functional wing of air scoop in sight. Form follows function. It is not a pretender with faux features adding only visual horsepower and branding the owner a poser.

    Your Porsche is a partner that shares your journey down life’s path allowing you to explore new places and to discover the boundaries of Newton’s laws and your own courage. Owning a Porache is a lifestyle choice like playing golf. You meet fellow kindred souls on the journey and discover the best in yourself.

    Porsche – There is no substitute!

  9. Joe said

    Citroen C5 is beautiful, but not a sport car at all 😦

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: