Wednesday, December 11

Writing The Iceberg: Advertising And Content Marketing Depth

I was a junior in college when I took my first formal copywriting class. It was taught by the creative director at what was then one of the three largest advertising agencies in Nevada. We never hit it off.

We never hit it off because he always presented himself as cool and aloof, even showing us the couch where he would nap away the afternoon at the advertising agency where he worked. The nap idea was a remnant of how advertising agencies worked during the golden era of advertising. Whatever got the creative juices working was all right by the account and accounting side of the house.

I wasn't bred to be that kind of creative. I was more of a workhorse, spinning clever ideas out of nothing (a few of which he riffed for his own work). Half the time, I didn't think he noticed my work. He and everyone else always praised the kid who would turn every ad a motocross analogy. Boring.

It wasn't until my final that this professor left me a cryptic half compliment on my final assignment (we were asked to produce advertisements for ten different organizations, most of which were real-life accounts for his agency). "Rich. You're the only one in this class who will make it as a copywriter, but only if you learn that clever is not enough. Advertising is hard work. These ads are just clever. A+" Maybe you can see why I was happy to be done with him at the time.

Advertising And Content Marketing Needs Depth 

It wasn't until years later that I understood what he really meant. Had I known then what I know now, I would have appreciated the depth behind his cool facade and recognized his persona was an analogy for the work. Advertising and content marketing doesn't have anything to do with being clever, even if the deliverable — the concept, creative, copy, content — seems to prove otherwise.

I would have better understood this point had my teacher had the tools to explain it better. He might not have known it, but he was talking about Hemmingway's Iceberg Theory.

“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows," said Hemmingway. "And the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them."

While Hemmingway's words are generally confined to creative writing and not business writing, the observation is transferable, if not even better suited to advertising and content writing. The clever headline or image you see in an advertisement that works is only the smartly distilled tip of an iceberg.

Below the surface, there resides a massive collection of customer research, organizational history, brand value, reputation management, mission, vision, values, testing, measurables, competitive analysis, core message, and scores of crumpled paper balls (most of them virtual nowadays).

So if you are wondering why marketers who jumped on the bandwagon to produce variations of Maurizio Cattelan’s “masterpiece” of a banana taped to a wall (which sold for $120,000 and was then eaten by another artist in the name of performance art) get a failing grade, now you know. All those in-the-moment social media mocks are akin to being cliche because it's all surface ice with no substance beneath it. Maybe it's worth a chuckle, like, share, or whatever. But beyond all that, it's just another message that distracted from whatever you want consumers to know.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Blog Archive

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template