For the past few days, even longer, I have been working on a manifesto for one of our clients. Actually, I’ve been working on two. Even more actually, I’ve been working on manifestos for 25 years, since becoming a copywriter.
Nothing suits me more. For like many a creative soul, I am by nature a show off. And this is the way I can do it. I know I am not alone. Most copywriters get off on writing manifestos. At least they’d better. Writing such documents is at the heart of what we do, and can do, for our clients.
Most of you know what I’m talking about. For those unawares, a manifesto or mantra or anthem is the bringing to life in words the highest and most noble aspirations of its subject matter, aka the brand.
Yes, it is advertising copy but in the best sense of the word. Recall Apple’s great script to the modern world: Think Different. Consider the lines that first and forever defined Nike to a generation: Just Do It. We know these iconic tags because we fell in love with the manifestos. Frankly, neither line would have lasted this long, or even gotten out the door, if not for their beloved manifestos.
The power and glory of a brilliant manifesto cannot be overstated. They raise the hairs on the back of your neck. They make CMO’s smile. They win pitches. Most of all they change things: attitudes, behaviors, even lives.
At least the good ones do.
Alas, we’ve all heard or, God forbid, written our share of shitty ones. They can be purple or redundant or both. They get long pretty damn fast. They turn into cheesy rip-o-matics. Yet, in a weird way, even the bad ones sound pretty good. They are like pizza that way.
Because we slave over them. Into these haloed paragraphs we put everything we know or think we know about writing, about persuading, about life. Here you won’t find speeds and feeds, racks and stacks or friends and family. None of that. These are the best neighborhoods in Adland. No trespassing!
Author’s note: Because I have been busy writing a manifesto I had to refurbish this blog entry from a previous post.
November 15, 2015
In my last post I made an argument for the idea that God exists using emotionally rational arguments aka copywriting. No psychic mumbo-jumbo. No beatific platitudes. No doctrine. I didn’t apply one single faith-based point in my brief argument. When I’m done, I wrote, you may still not believe in a higher power but you will be closer to Him, Her or It than you were before. I did this not to be a missionary but rather to make a case for my skills as a copywriter. In addition to being deeply interested in this topic, I’m currently excited to be looking for a new job and I figured this would be a good, if unusual, way to augment my credentials. While some people debated my arguments (unsuccessfully in my opinion) the tactic seemed to generate buzz as well as looks at my portfolio. Thank you!
For part two, I’m going to flip my position and attempt to dissuade you in the existence of a divine entity. Generally agnostic myself, it seems only fair I give the opposing view equal time.
To begin, I’ll employ a version of the same argument I used to make a case for the existence of God; namely that no proof exists on way or the other. Belief in God is, was and always will be faith-based. Therefore, all things considered, there is a 50% chance that God exists and an equal chance that He doesn’t. Maybe the shinier half is the contrary one? Atheists make an excellent point when they say God has never made a case for himself – that he had to be invented by people. The only reason, non-believers argue, that they have to refute God at all is because human beings brought him up in the first place.
Ask yourself: Why is it that different cultures have different ideas of God? The answer is because they each made up their own. There can only be one creation. That there are many wildly different stories prove that God is just that: a story.
Humans are the only creatures on earth aware of their mortality. In addition, we have plenty of time to think about it. We grow fearful, haunted by our own inevitable demise. To mitigate this fear, we create mythologies that make sense of our time on earth. So we can tell our children, indeed ourselves, that we exist for a reason. That we are special. That, unlike beetles and slugs, we have souls. This is all quite romantic. And patently false.
Most believers insist that God “doesn’t make mistakes.” So, what do you call us? Our depravities and frailties are too numerous to name. As I write this, CNN is grimly broadcasting the details of yet another heinous act of terror, in Paris (ironically in the name of religion.) Human beings are hopelessly defective, particularly if you apply a God given moral standard. On the other hand, if you take God out of the equation, we are just creatures –apex predators- skirmishing for territory and resources.
God narratives keep society from reeling into chaos by asserting morality. God stories placate the elderly and young, dispelling the fear of death as being a cold, dark and one-dimensional ending. God is the story we tell ourselves to keep from going insane.
There. A compelling case for the lack of God and I didn’t even have to use the most commonly used argument, which is evolution. Evolution is real and can be proved six ways to Sunday. Even the smarter faithful have had to modify their God stories to accommodate it, naming God an Intelligent Designer. Well, I have always valued designers.
If I can move you to believing in a Higher Power imagine what I could do for your creative department.
November 9, 2015
I am excited to find a new job. A permanent one as well as freelance. Here are my credentials. However, to prove my chops as as elegant persuader I’m going to sell you on the idea that God exists using purely rational arguments. No psychic mumbo-jumbo. No beatific platitudes. No doctrine. I won’t apply one single faith-based point in my brief argument. When I’m done you may still not believe in a higher power but you will be closer to Him, Her or It than you were before.
First a proposition: If anyone can definitively prove God does or does not exist I will give them all the money in my bank account. Non-believers and agnostics crave proof of God’s existence and, of course, it never comes. But why is it we rarely flip the question and demand proof that God doesn’t exist? It’s just as impossible.
Let’s go totally left brain and talk numbers. Percentages to be exact. Bearing in mind the above proposition, one must concede there is a 50% chance that God does not exist. However, that means there is a 50% chance that God does exist. In other words, after all is said and done, it’s 50/50 whether a divine entity or Creator exists. Now if you had those odds on the lottery –or anything really- you’d take that bet. You’d be a fool not to.
Yet, so many of us are ambivalent about God or even the idea of God. Why is that? Because we can’t see him? Well, you can’t see gravity either. “That’s different,” the unbeliever claims. You can prove gravity. There are equations.
Okay, smart ass. Do you “believe” in love? For your children? For your wife? Of course you do. Prove to me that love definitively exists. Of course you can’t. You feel love or not depending on your circumstances but you’ll never see it. Therefore, if you can believe in love why not God? They are both faith-based concepts with no rational foundation. Why is one different from the other? It isn’t.
Do you covet money, prestige or status? Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Have you ever been? What about chocolate or coffee? Or your boyfriend? We often make higher powers out of people, places and things. The alcoholic knows this all to well. When she wakes it’s all she can think of. The addict’s drug of choice brings him to his knees every night. They will put spirits ahead of everything else, including jobs, loved ones and personal health. Even the sanctity of human life will not deter the devoted from blindly worshiping. That’s fanatical. That is what ISIS does.
Yet, God forbid we believe in God. No one is more cynical than me. But I believe –even know- that God is a 50/50 proposition. Have I moved you even five percent closer to believing in a higher power?
So, how about that freelance?
September 10, 2015
Do you know where you’re going to?
That’s the signature line from the Theme from Mahogany by Diana Ross. A lovely number, back in the day it was a sensation. But that line. Well, as tuneful at it is it also happens to be wrong. As a sentence it’s grammatically incorrect. Ask any 7th grader. it ends in –or should I say ends with- a preposition. Spell check will tell you the same thing. That “to” is tacked on. Technically, the line should be, “Do you know where you’re going?”
However, the correct line would also be the wrong line. Without that tiny,”incorrect” word the song may very well have failed. Theme from Mahogany might not have even happened.
Which got me to thinking about copywriting. How many times have we also used poor writing (grammatically speaking) to deliver stunning creative results?
“Think Different” anyone?
It’s what we do. It’s what we’re supposed to do. Good copy takes poetic license with the written word. And sometimes that means ending a sentence with a preposition. Or starting one with one. Or repeating words like “one” to make a point. To stand out. To shine. That’s the same reason I just used two phrases as complete sentences, even though spell check implored me not to. And look at that. There’s “to” at the end of another sentence. For that matter there’s “that.”
I realize all this may seem quaint in the age of social media and texting. Never before has the written word taken so much abuse by such a mass audience. Brutal spelling, abbreviations and the like have manhandled the world’s languages into grotesque shorthand.
But that is how people choose to communicate. We like it. And for the most part, any and all marketing communications must adjust accordingly or risk dying off like big words and good manners.