Copywriting is not about the print ad anymore and hasn’t been for some time. But that doesn’t make the skill set any less important. You don’t have a website without words; try building a wire without them.

Providing clever, provocative and powerful copy to web designers and the like is critical. For many copywriters, feeding them content that inspires their work is the job. Just as art directors and designers have had to evolve so have writers. When the dust cleared from these early transitions both writers and art directors realized that what they do is essentially the same. New media still uses words and pictures. Creating a “look and feel” for this website or that social campaign has new obligations but the fundamentals are the same.

For example, I’m asked to help create a website for a B2B start up. The first thing we need is an “organizing principle” or key idea that drives the whole thing. This means a strategy line and a creative line – just like it does for any mass media campaign. Without it, you’re flying blind.

In a sense then the landing page functions as your “anthem” or “mantra.” Clients need, want and demand this asset the same as they did 25 years ago. So we write it. I present these to my clients much like I did in the beginning, when I was creating brand campaigns at Leo Burnett. Poetry and power had better be there.

Subsequently, each page of a website operates like a print ad, with a killer headline and precise and compelling copy. Every vertical needs an “ad” that wholly demonstrates its unique offering while at the same time adhering to the covenants of the organizing principle.

The email campaign directing targeted customers to the website is not much different than your classic teaser campaign. When we make advertising it is still advertising, be it online or off. And it damn well better be magical.

The lesson for clients and agencies alike is not to forsake the core skills of writing and designing in a chase for so-called digital natives. If they are mediocre designers or write like they text the output will suck. Don’t go there. Look for brilliant writers and art directors. The modern world is not an excuse for creating superficial tactics.

For magical copywriting and creative direction, no matter what: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

There’s some controversy over this so-called bit of “prankvertising” LG did on behalf of its high-definition television. Maybe you’ve seen it? A handful of people interviewing for a fake job are scared shitless by what appears to be the beginning of World War III.

A case can be made the unwitting interviewees are innocent victims of unnecessary cruelty. They appear genuinely scared when the fake bombs start falling. And they appear genuinely pissed off when the joke is revealed to them, especially considering they are, in fact, its punch line. Hell, I’d be pissed too. Though maybe more for having gone to a fake job interview than for being frightened by a malicious advertiser.

Bottom line the questionable taste of the prank and its subsequent controversy are all part of the campaign. If people weren’t scared and if the media wasn’t critical then the campaign would be a failure.

Therefore, like it or not, it is not a failure. My guess is LG will get sufficient lifespan and social currency out of this “work” to consider the piece a moderate to major success. Last I checked, the video had over 4 million views…

So, is it evil? Or is it genius? Or is it a combination of the two: evil genius?

One thing it is not is original. Pranking people is a tradition dating back a lot farther (or is it further?) than social media. Back in the early days of TV, Candid Camera was a most popular show that made fun of unsuspecting people on hidden camera to the delight of millions. The show ran forever. As far as I know it was seldom criticized for hurting people. It was, as they used to say, all in good fun. Granted, I doubt Candid Camera did many episodes depicting the end of the world; that said humiliating people for entertainment was its purpose.


More recently the found footage genre (pioneered by The Blair Witch Project and insidiously perfected with Catfish) has heralded in new levels of embarrassment and fear. I’ve said this before: awkward moments are no longer avoided. They are entertainment. From Candid Camera to Courting Controversy!

I don’t like this content on Facebook or follow it on Twitter but I do share it as a fact of our existence. I recognize that to be contemporary in marketing one has to at least be able to speak to it. To turn away from courting controversy entirely is to excuse one’s self from the modern world. And as I’ve said before, more than anything else irrelevancy is a death sentence to creative professionals.

So, while I find the video unsettling and frankly unoriginal I did find it. In this age of massive distractions that is saying something.

Final note on the topic of originality: For a long time, Memorex (remember them?) ran a famous ad campaign working essentially the same conceit as LG’s. Their line: Is it Live or is it Memorex? Both LG and Memorex campaigns are examples of the oldest form of product advertising on earth: the product demo. So word to the under-30 set, who think this shit is fresh. It ain’t.

Wanting drives every advertisement ever made. Sometimes, it passes as “need” but let’s call a spade a spade. We want. And we want a lot. Whether it’s a new car or world peace human beings are defined by this unnatural urge. I say unnatural because wanting is not an impetus for survival. Animals need sustenance and they take what they can get. A Bear eats salmon when they’re running. Berries when they bloom. It does not crave one for the other.

When born, we are much like other animals. Helpless. Dependent on our parents. A baby needs food and it is given to him. Oddly, an infant remains this way far longer than any other creature. It takes an inordinate amount of time for us to become self-serving. But when we get there we arrive in style.

By the time we’re children, the wanting mechanism is in full flower. We want more than sustenance. We want Cheetos and iPads and Sour patch Kids. Our crying out of need becomes warped, narcissistic. As we get older we crave an ever larger, more expensive and baseless array of things. Want has taken over for need.

So utterly commonplace, the only time we hear about of want is when we are in church, listening to a dusty sermon on greed and gluttony or faced with those who are seemingly without it. Like the Amish. Buddhists. Or Sinead O’connor.

Which begs the question: Is ‘wanting’ a bad thing?

It’s tricky. Unraveling the ball of yarn to get from ‘want’ back to ‘need’ is no easy feat. Does one have what he needs in order to survive? If yes, then it’s everything after that that is in question. The defect (if it is a defect) becomes pronounced when we want better versions of what we already have (car, house, boobs) or when we want what we don’t have (two cars, Cartier watch, mistress) or what someone else has (all of the above).

Keeping up with the Joneses is nothing new. This is the ‘longing’ all of us in Adland cultivate and exploit every day. For without it what would be the point of marketing? Does advertising create it? I think so. Like the header on my blog reads: We make you want what you don’t need.

I’m no socialist. I’m not even Alex Bogusky. And I’m as culpable (if that’s the right word) as any of you. Likely more so. But when I observe my young daughters pining for all the stuff they see on TV, the Internet and, most poignantly, when visiting their rich friends I am forced to wonder about wanting.