The business of outrage

People are so busy being outraged, it’s as tiresome as an all-nighter on a box set binge.

If there was ever one thing the advertising industry is certain to display, it’s a dog-eat-dog approach to life. Advertising has never been kind.

When I worked as a copywriter in large companies such as one in the WPP building, I felt this more keenly. People could hide behind their screens and avoid eye contact to indicate they were on deadline, but really, they were reading something vaguely interesting to them instead.

Real-life interactions were fairly London-standard: talk if you have to, but only as a last resort.

Now we have social media to express ourselves, the interesting articles take a back seat and we absorb information that someone else has seen fit to write. Yet increasingly, that something was written not by a professional writer, but by a person like anyone else.

Social media: the end of professional journalism

Journalism is a dying art. Chasing it as a career option is like wanting to be an ostler at an inn at the turn of the twentieth century. Sadly, if you’re seeking good career prospects, there is little to zero point. One can only hope this isn’t the same for copywriters!

Yet it’s this ‘noise’ that is sucking us in and driving our creative processes.

But is that right? What value do these words have? If anyone can write something inflammatory and drive news headlines into a storm in a teacup territory within seconds, what chance do the rest of us have? Anyone, it seems, can be a writer. Question is, should we be giving any of the writing our attention?

Is it best to simply leave the social media playground to the kids with less focus and return to the pages of actual printed books and other intellectual stimulus? Practice free thinking and absorb the mind in other matters? Observe, give where you can, but don’t get dragged into the undertow?

See it for what it is, like the big ad agencies with their swipe cards and free canteens – something fleeting and precious to behold, but also full of smoke and mirrors; real life happening beyond its doors.

Creative work without Creative Direction

We’re told that to be shocking and provocative is good – but ideas need creative direction. And these ones are often limited by a lack of life experience and agency (business) wisdom.

Recently, a bunch of creatives took this approach and their work was viewed as sexist and misogynistic. Clearly, that was where a Creative Director would have said, “Er, guys, what’s that about?”

But.

One person’s outrage, another’s chip shop statue?

I do wonder if work like this ever gets through to the Chip Awards? There is a category ‘In Bad Taste’ and I once saw a Creative Director submit an ad about bombs on the underground. Having lived through that fateful day, I was personally a little taken aback about this, but he said it was alright. He submitted it and it made it through to the finals.

Back to outrage.  Like a client do that ends up in the Bada Bing strip club, advertising hasn’t exactly got a great rep.

Twitter doesn’t have a Creative Director. Yet it goes to show that experience counts for a lot in this fast-moving world of outrage.

Get it wrong and you serve up all sorts of pain in nano seconds. It’s why sales of business insurance amongst copywriters and creatives are in demand by recruiters.

Everyone is liable, yet no one wants to be liable. They want to play and eat their cake at the same time. Real life rarely works this way unfortunately.

Mix this with advertising and what have you got? A dog-eat-dog world where the dogs have been replaced by zooped up ninja sharks on steroids.

Play along at your peril – but whatever you do, play nicely.

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Happy New Year

Nothing says ‘Happy New Year’ like a good grammar debate about syntax. I’m sure other copywriters will agree, the use of the term New Year can be a total room 101 moment.

So, should it be new year or New Year when it comes to good grammar? Should you capitalise New Year or should you keep it in lower case?

The answer is in the context.

If you use a greeting, followed by the downtrodden exclamation mark – yes, it is still good grammar to use one! – then you should use uppercase lettering.

For example: “Hi Jane, Happy New Year!”

But if you are talking generally about the new year, it should be lower case. Do not mix your cases! I’ve seen this a lot on Twitter recently and it’s guaranteed to turn every grammar pedant purple. No ‘Happy new Year’, please!

It’s a Proper Noun, dude…

The reason is that the New Year in ‘Happy New Year!’ acts as a proper noun and as such should be capitalised. When it is a common noun (usually preceded by an indefinite article or ‘a’) it is lower case, just like every other common noun.

…but it’s not always proper

But if you’re talking about ‘the new year’, this is where it gets a bit more tricky. Because you’re using the definite article. If the reference is talking about the actual event of New Year’s, it should be upper case, e.g. “The New Year’s performance was given by Robbie Williams.”

When common, think lower case

However, if you’re saying “Spend over £50 in the new year and earn more points”, it should be lower case, because it’s talking about the new year in general and includes more than one day in the reference.

And there we have it. Your copywriting new year lesson in how to suck eggs in 2017. Have a happy, healthy new year and remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss. So tap me up for some freelance copywriting. Or if you need any freelance tea making, I can handle that too.