Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is there a copywriter in the house?

Having done marketing copywriting myself, I can tell you that it's no piece of cake. You have to say as much as possible in a (typically) short space.

I can also tell you I don't envy those copywriters whose accounts include food items.

Is it just me, or could you, too, have trouble being inspired by a bottle of red sauce, or a can of water chestnuts?

My guess is that's why they sometimes have little "histories" of foods on the side of the box, bag, or can. E.g. my box of cornflakes, even though it is the Trader Joe's brand, has the history of the cornflake. The writing, which takes up the ENTIRE side of the box, evokes details about its place in history in what would become the Kellogg's cereal company.

Now that would give me a headache, attempting to come up with that much material about a fucking type of cereal. I feel for the poor SOB who got that assignment. Ditto for the one who had to write (invent?) the history of General Tsao's sauce.

But nonetheless, I must complain about some of these people, because I am a voracious reader and out of habit when I'm eating alone, I often find myself, out of habit, reading these panels, labels, etc.

I know copywriting pays well. I think these scribblers should earn their money if I'm forced to read their work, don't you?

So let's start with a few ground rules, shall we?

Rule #1: You MUST know how to spell. This means you, the hack who put apostrophes in all the wrong places on my bottle of Trader Joe's red sauce. You don't spell it "taco's" unless you are referring to something in the taco's possession - perhaps some lettuce or cheese, which is apparently what your brain is full of. Ditto for "enchilada's." Who did you blow to get this job? Or were you someone's fuck-up cousin Mitzy who was related to the owner of the company and you got this one, golden chance not to make a complete ass of yourself? You blew it, Mitzy.

Rule #2: We all know the importance of allergy labels. My particular favorites are the ones that advertise the fact that the product is "made on equipment shared with shellfish, peanuts, feathers of old roosters, and your cousin Gertrude's naughty sex toys." Just kidding about those last two. But seriously, don't you ever wash it? Or does it go something like this:

Hal: "We've got just four minutes to get the rest of that taco sauce ready to ship."

Joan: "Holy shit! Hurry! Let's use the conveyor belts that also process shellfish, brownie mix and frito pie!"

Hal: "Good call!"

Inquiring minds want to know!

But getting back to rule #2 - how about this: don't try to be CUTE when you are writing the allergy information. And I don't mean I think that those little bags of honey-roasted peanuts they give you on airplanes should have to say, "Warning: contains nuts." Well shit, I hope so! What the fuck else would it contain?

Anyway -

Case in point: the cute little bit o'copywriting that inspired this post, which came from a box of brownies that my dad sent. (Yes, yes, he is a cool pops, isn't he?) So right about the point that I realize that my husband and I have plowed through about half of the brownies and I am surely in danger of turning into a chocolate whore, I see this little note: "Note: The Farm Bakery is not a nut-free place."

Well, knock me over with a fucking feather! Who could possibly expect it to be a nut-free place?
Surely not the reader of that neat little note.

I'm just wondering...which of these options is the translation of that message?

A. Some of the Farm Bakery employees have a few screws loose?
B. There are random peanuts, cashews, pistachios, etc., hanging out around the Farm Bakery?
C. This is some kind of code that only pot-smoking individuals can understand.

So, copywriters, there's your challenge. I'd hold my breath waiting for an answer, but then I'd have to write something here to explain it.

5 comments:

Darth Weasel said...

that is hilarious...and true.

JLee said...

haha..that is an underappreciated job for sure. My sister used to be a copywriter for JCPenney catalog, and it would crack me up the stuff she would come up with!

jrwoodchuckette said...

jlee: did she write copy for that hilarious 70s-era catalog? LOL!

Jessica Foster said...

I share your pain!!! I can't stand how much apostrophes get used! Esp. with years!!! Or when people sign a Christmas card with their last name and it says "Merry Christmas, the Foster's. Again, it's a freakin' plural people!!!

Ok, rant done, but you started it! :)

Leslie said...

The copydesk at my workplace is famous for screwing up and not caring about it. The other day we got into a big argument over "camaraderie" vs. "comradery." I thought I settled the issue by pulling out the AP Stylebook, which says never use variant spellings, but two days later we had a headline with "comradery." One of my editors who actually cares flipped her lid: "Is there some rule now where we HAVE to spell it wrong?"