Thursday, 5 December 2013

Have I Got a Deal For You...

Hello Friends.

I have recently applied for the best job. It’s back in the Big City, so competition is surely fierce, and I probably won’t get it, but that hasn’t stopped my hopes from skyrocketing. Basically, the job is to be part of the copywriting team for the brand new ad campaign of an established product. I can’t get into specifics, but it’s like if Tim Hortons, or Roots, or Little Red Stick Industries decided to clean house and market themselves anew (Little Red Stick Industries, by the way, had its biggest profit increase in 80 years when it partnered with the HandiSnak people).

Jokes aside, it would be incredible to get a job like this one. The advertising industry might be suffering due to people skipping commercials, reading print journalism less, and avoiding overt marketing like banner ads on the internet, but surely that makes the people behind marketing campaigns smarter, savvier, even at times subtler in their techniques. It’s a new age, and I want to be a part of it!

Dream: Write ad copy for a living.

Goal: Achievable. I worked writing copy full time last year until the company went up in flames, and for all the headaches inherent in working for an organization in peril, I really enjoyed the work. These days, I sporadically freelance for a marketing company doing much the same thing, but assignments arrive pretty infrequently, and they can’t pay the bills. If I got this dream job, or one like it, I’d get to be creative and make money, which is practically unheard of.

Plan: Figure out what I know about the ad industry in preparation for my role as an ad man. I might not have a degree in marketing or communications, but I know the following things to be true about advertising:  

Sex sells. This truth is undeniable, but not very comforting. The way corporations market to us using sex is problematic. Jean Kilbourne discusses these issues brilliantly in her Killing Us Softly films. But I do think there’s a way to subvert these tropes while still kind of adhering to them. For instance:
In her bathroom at home, woman zips up the back of a revealing dress and gives herself a sexy face pout in the mirror.  In his bathroom at his home, a man buttons the top of tight jeans and gives himself a cologne spritz, leveling an equally smoldering look to the mirror. Man and woman are shown leaving their (separate) apartments, looking great. Out at the club, woman is being approached by a group of gross “player” guys. At another club, man is shouting his drink order to a bartender who can’t hear him over the noise of the music and crowd. Woman tries to dance on the dance floor, but it’s so packed that she can barely move. By contrast, man has the dance floor nearly to himself thanks to his awkward, off-rhythm, ultra-white guy dancing. Woman tries to recreate her sexy look in the club bathroom mirror as she applies mascara, but she is bumped by a drunk girl stumbling in, and she pokes herself in the eye. Man goes to his club bathroom, unbuttons the top of his pants and groans appreciatively as he lets his gut hang out for a moment. Woman heads home in a noisy cab full of girlfriends. Man stands shoulder to shoulder on a crowded subway. Man is in his elevator, looking worse for wear and just as the doors are about to close, he holds it open for the Woman, who has just arrived! She thanks him. He smiles at her. She smiles back at him. They share a little laugh together. Text on the screen reads: The sexiest thing about you is your smile. And it’s ad for Crest or whatever.  You could easily cram that into a 30 second spot.

Funny sells. A lot of ads use humour to sell their stock, but trying to be funny in ad can often backfire because the need to sell a product overrides the humour, and a lot of jokes come off lame and toothless. I think one way ads can be successfully funny is if they can make fun of the tropes their industry uses. Remember when Kotex had that ad campaign making fun of other tampon commercials? Brilliant! Necessary! I could do that. For example:

We open on a woman, flatteringly lit, lazing about in bed in her underwear. She eats a spoonful of yogurt, while laughing in a, “Aren’t I naughty to indulge!” kind of way. Then we see a group of women, laughing on a couch, legs tucked under their bums, all eating yogurt and laughing together. Then we see a man lazing about in his underwear like the first woman, eating yogurt and laughing to himself. We see a group of male friends, legs tucked under their bums, eating yogurt and laughing. We see a burly man in a bathtub filled with bubbles, surrounded by candles, eating a yogurt. We cut to a group of men on a different couch, screaming at the tv during a sports game, yogurt in your mouths and spewing down their faces. A group of men in a bar knock back shots of yogurt and cheer. The tagline would be something like, “X Yogurt tastes good, no matter who you are.” Something like that, I don’t know.

Realism sells. Truth in advertising is rare, but isn’t it a jewel when we can find it? What if, instead of being perfectly made up and exquisite in the morning, we saw a lady in an ad who looked like the rest of us? Her alarm goes off and she groans. Her hair is matted, her face is rumpled and sleepy. She turns on the shower and groans louder as the cold spray hits her face. She emerges with wet, still messy hair, in normal person pajamas (stained sweatpants, oversized t-shirt, bunny slippers). She makes a beautiful looking egg, then groans at the toaster for taking too long. She eats her perfect egg with toast while watching tv. A perky morning show hostess says, “I love to get my day started with some exercise and meditation” and our lady laughs, her mouth full of egg. She checks her watch, grabs a blouse from a pile at her feet, and puts it on. She sits at her desk, runs her fingers through her still wet hair, and smoothes down her blouse. She clicks on a video-conferencing type icon (Skype, for all intents and purposes), does a few hacking coughs, and then when Skype connects, is all business. “Good morning, everyone. Are we ready to begin?” While she looks perfectly professional in her chat window, we can see that she still has her stained sweatpants and bunny slippers on. And it’s just one of those “Get Cracking” ads for eggs.

Sentimentality sells. Imagine this: A man is rushing around his house, cleaning and straightening everything, while another man follows him, calmer.

MAN 1: I’m so nervous, she’s gonna be here soon!
MAN 2: Don’t worry, everything is fine.
MAN 1: How can you say that? We need more time! We need more information! We’re not ready!
MAN 2: Of course we are. Will you relax?
(MAN 2 steps into the kitchen, pushes a button on one of those Keurig One Cup Coffeemakers, emerges a second later with two cups of coffee. He gives one to MAN 1, keeps one for himself)
MAN 1 (Taking a sip, absently): Mmm, that was fast.  (Doorbell rings) Oh wow! Okay! She’s here! This is it…
MAN 2 (As they walk to the door): Just breathe. People do this every day. Everything’s going to be f--
(MAN 2 opens the door and involuntarily gasps)
(A lady in a business suit smiles in their doorway, holding a baby)
LADY: Ben and David? Meet your baby girl.
(MAN 1 takes baby into his arms and MAN 2 hugs them both. Both men are overwhelmed and teary)
Tagline reads: Keurig. Ready whenever you are.

AWWWWW, right? I don’t know why those two guys couldn’t go to the airport to meet their baby (assuming it was an international adoption—I wanted to put in the treatment that the baby was Asian but that seemed insensitive somehow). The point is, manipulative though it might be, ads that hit you in your feeling parts will make you spend those dollars faster.

I don’t know if I’ll get this Dream Job, or one like it, anytime soon. The nice thing is, no matter where these jobs open up, I have the support of the Doc to pursue them as hard as I can. We live here now, in large part, because of his Dream Job, and he knows enough to let me go after mine, and we’ll work out the details later.

I wish there was a way to convey, in a job application, just how hard you would work and how grateful you’d be to be given the chance. I wish resumes and cover letters were given more than cursory glances and arbitrary dismissals when they land on the boss’ desk. Coincidentally, that’s about how long a good ad has to grab your attention, draw you in, and make you a consumer. I don’t know the best way to sell myself except to say that I’m capable, and ready whenever you are. Oh, and also,  

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