Saturday, October 30, 2010

News’s doppelgänger. (I’m stupid or what?)

Now that I think about it, teaching myself to write good ads did not come easy. In Clarion-McCann which I joined in 1965 I became obsessed with making the print ads I wrote resemble news as closely as possible. This was because I thought naively that an ad qua news (even spurious news) may command greater credibility with newspaper and magazine readers than an ad with no such pretensions. I remember working on a Forhan’s Toothpaste extension product ad for more than two months on my own time at night and early mornings to develop the “perfect” editorial ad. Call it persistence. Call it stupidity. The ad got plenty of praise from the finicky client as well as within the agency. Unfortunately, the new product launch got canceled. This, however, did not dampen my spirit or my resolve to write credible ads. I looked for affordable inexpensive books, mostly paperbacks, to teach me how to write crisply and to the point. Among them were Rudolf Flesch’s The Art of Plain Talk (1946), The Art of Readable Writing (1949) and The Art of Clear Thinking (1951). For a while, I became an ardent admirer of the Reader’s Digest house style with its technique of neatly compressing stories into bite-size info-bits. In the sixties, the magazine was at the zenith of its popularity and success selling more than 20 million copies a month the world over. I got over the infatuation after a brief flirtation, though. In the process, I developed my own style and also learned a few tricks about how to vary the style for different types of ads and products. I gradually mastered the technique of converting raw facts into persuasive writing fairly quickly. Simultaneously, I searched for a reliable technique to generate ideas speedily. The one described in James Webb Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas (1975) worked for me. (Young, by the way, was J Walter Thompson’s VP for creative work and an Advertising Hall of Fame inductee.)