by VJ Miller, Sr.
I’ve Not Come to Praise Caesar… nor Bury Him Either
In the past I have taken lessons in Copywriting and at first blush it seemed like a good way to earn a decent living or at least supplement my current income. As I got deeper into the lessons it became apparent to me that writing copy for industry was at times deceitful by doing what I call, Creative Truth.
Case In Point:
Let me point out that it’s an absolute must to tell the truth in any kind of advertising. Falsehoods will have you blackballed from the industry in my opinion.
You’ve all seen on TV the Ads for a number of HDTV Antennas. When you listen carefully to the words spoken you will see that they speak the absolute truth. But that’s where it ends.
Their stance and voice inflections could lead you to believe that their antenna will supplant your current cable system or dish and allow you to connect directly to the signal. But we all know you need a converter box to unscramble the signal. One ad even runs all the possible channels you can receive behind the narrator. And this is so. All those channels are possible but dependent on where you live. Some stations may not broadcast in your area. You will not find Netflix, SHOWTIME, Starz, Cinemax, HBO, or any other Premium channel listed behind them. That would be a lie.
The antenna itself may be no better or worse than the antenna you already have on your roof or apartment building. But their Creative Truths can lead you to wonder why it can’t work as they imply. After all; everything on TV has to be the truth. Right?
Products & Services:
Every writer knows that a better grasp of the vocabulary and it’s nuances is a must. A lot of writing will no doubt be done on spec. How long that continues will depend on how crafty you are with words.
I was given the task of writing a long winded article on spec for a weight loss product I knew nothing about. I was expected to write a narrative on the positive aspects of the product while downplaying or ignoring the negative aspects.
Then there were the testimonials that were included with the product; all positive of course. Where were the words of the people that did not like the product? Surely there had to be some. But that’s not how it’s done. I could not bring myself to use testimonials that I could not verify. When I read a piece of copy I skip the testimonials altogether; in fact, after the first paragraph, I skip the entire copy and cut right to the chase. What do they want me to pay for the product, or service?
To my mind, the reading of page after page of copy that repeats itself over and over, but worded differently, is nothing more than brain washing.
Videos are even worse. There is no way to skip to the end to learn what is expected of you.
A small percentage of people actually bother to write reviews on what they have read but a review is not ad copy. Ad copy writes to the strength of the novel or pamphlet or what have you. If the negative aspects are even mentioned they have a positive spin on them. How else can anyone expect to make enough sales?
Of course, positive reviews or words out of context could end up in the ad copy for the manuscript.
I once did a review of a short booklet for a friend. It was poorly written and looked as if it were hastily put together. My spin on it was that this was not the polished prose of a learned writer but rather the raw written journal of a world traveler. Someone who told it like it was as he experienced it and pulled no punches to the worth of the goods and services he got along the way.
I have no idea if it helped or not but he is a decent travel writer at this time. Not famous but he has a following. And yes; I stretched a point for a friend rather than call it a piece of junk.
Copywriting is not my cup of tea and I will never tell anyone how they should, or could make a living as a writer. Writing can be and often is tough work. But that’s where the craftiness with words comes into play; making the most with the least in order to meet your deadline.
I cannot, in all good conscience, succumb to the misdirection that comes with writing a Creative Truth. In some ways it is just dishonest and betrays the trust of the reader.