Creative Corner: Lose the Attitude
I loved my dad dearly, especially for his remarkable aptitude for being wrong about just about everything. He was actually right about everything, but something in his complicated psyche made him say the exact opposite.
My dad used to tell me, “You have to be tough to survive in this dog-eat-dog business world. Nice guys finish last.” Once I learned that his advice was 180 degrees from what he really meant, I knew he was telling me that it pays to be nice when you can.
What Does “Nice” Have to do With Direct Marketing?
I was thinking about this question yesterday when I came across a direct mail package I’d received in late August. The package was a “call for entries” for creative awards. There was a fake coffee stain on it and, on the top in faux handwriting, this copy appeared: “Lois, saved this from the trash—it seems you’re hotter than backstage at a bikini contest.” On the bottom, in the same handwritten type, “They’re calling you the midwife because you always deliver! A friend.”
Quelle crock! Sure, the package was personalized, but it was the opposite of nice. I guess someone thought the attitude was cool in that super hip, sardonic way.
This reminds me of what the president of car rental giant Hertz told Lee Clow, ad agency TBWA’s renowned chief creative officer, years ago when they were shooting commercials: “Any competitor can duplicate our claims,” he said. “I want people to like us.” So next time you’re writing or approving copy—regardless of whether it’s for a letter, brochure, commercial, ad, e-mail—read it a few times, out loud at least once. Then think about whether you’d like the person writing to you. If not, write a different draft to better achieve the personality you want to convey.