Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Freedom of speech? It's hard enough writing it!

In a previous column (SEO – Integrity or Dominance) I’ve bemoaned the negatives that client side copywriting can bring, but tongue in cheek firmly back in check, I can’t deny that there are many benefits to working, as my job title states, “in-house.”

The sheer variety that being the only wordsmith in the office brings means that I’m often kept engaged by different writing challenges for several target audiences. The other week however, I was asked to do something I’d never really done before. As much as my colleagues would revel in it, I shall desist from here inserting a humorous quip about ‘making the coffee’ or staying late in the office but get straight to the point - I was asked to write a speech.

The company’s Australian branch is attending a forthcoming advertising conference and as part of this, has to film a thirty-second commercial to be broadcast at the aforementioned event. Anything the company requires writing plops into my inbox amongst all of the virals and “funny” animal pictures my girlfriend insists on spamming me with, which is were I unearthed this latest copywriting task.

I relish any new writing challenge with real vigor.I can do this,” I thought to myself as I stared at the blank screen before me. Look at World President Obama – he recognizes the importance of speeches, hence the appointment of Hollywood favorite Jon Favreau to his speech-writing team – Barack’s boys really are “with it.” Quite fancying myself as a Favreau-esque maverick speechwriter, I started penning my prose.

Two and a half hours later and it transpires that I’m not quite ready for my move to the glitz and glamour of L.A. Having asked my Marketing Executive to read through the initial draft with me, it turns out that we speak a lot more slowly than we read, leaving my humble speech way over the required thirty seconds.

Literally back to the drawing board, I whittled and whittled – tipping my hat to ancient Homeric similes, if my mighty speech had once been a sturdy oak of idiosyncratic marketing musings, rhythmic rambling and poetic prose, it was now a veritable acorn. As the previous sentence illustrates quite wonderfully, I like to populate my copy with flowery and often unnecessary verbiage, which as I discovered, are NOT good traits in a speech.

This said, I finally completed my task and whisked the copy off to the Sydney office, where luckily, it was received with approval and commendations on the speed of turnaround – little did they know that there was a frustrated copywriter, six cups of strong coffee and a severely chewed biro behind that tiny assortment of three sentences. I guess my plans for CSI London are going to have to remain firmly on the shelf for the time being, since this copywriter is sticking firmly to writing for reading…

(This article was written for and appears on

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