There’s a TV show called Bron | Broen. You should watch it if you haven’t seen it. The writing in season 1 is almost faultless.
When the script starts to lag in later seasons (most would argue it doesn’t – I’m a tough cookie), the slack is picked up by Saga Norén. A Swedish homicide detective and the show’s leading character.
Thankfully she thrives at catching the baddies, because she’d be a rubbish copywriter.
Why? Because in season 3 she says this:
My emotions never interfere with my work. My impulse control is extremely well-developed.
Saga’s employers, I’m sure, value her ability to leave her emotions at the door. Copywriters, on the other hand, should be encouraged to bundle their emotions into the building each day like a parent doing the school run.
Once the training montage is complete at copywriting academy, the first lesson you learn is to write yourself out. Aim to leave no identifiable trace of yourself in your writing. Write in the brand’s voice. Not yours.
But here’s an important distinction I’ve learned – write yourself out and put yourself in.
Before you attempt the copywriting hokey cokey, here’s what I mean.
Make every effort to remove your voice and your style when writing for brands. But getting rid of these calling cards from the scene of your copy doesn’t mean you can’t put yourself into your work emotionally. In fact, letting my emotions meddle with my work has made me a better copywriter.
Caring about your creative contribution to a project (and the brand you’re working for) is vital if you want the end result to be anything other than a bloody mess.
It’s a copywriter’s duty to get to know a brand inside out, and to do that you have to invest emotionally. This attitude means you bring more to the table. You produce stronger work because you care about the brand and the outcome.
Don’t learn to control your impulses
It makes sense for Saga to exercise impulse control. She’s allowed a gun. Sensibly, copywriters aren’t. The best weapon we have to stop our targets in their tracks is our brain. And that always fires best with the safety off.
Writing is all about instinct. Good copywriters can have 10 ideas that answer a brief. The trick is deciding which to focus on and which to let go.
Most ideas will be rubbish. Some will be passable. And every now and then a real one comes along. One that doesn’t answer the brief but exceeds it.
These are the golden moments. Where you know you’ve hit on something solid and the whole concept unravels in front of you. You can see how it flexes for audiences and mediums. It’s all there.
That doesn’t happen if you keep your impulses in check. Following the brief word for word is fine. You’ll find a way to answer it. But you’ll never know if there’s a better solution unless you follow your instinct.
Give yourself licence to look for clues beyond the rational. Surrender to your instincts and emotion. Copywriters have a nose for knowing what’s good when they stumble on it, so let your gut guide you. You’ll be surprised how intuitive it can be.
If you can keep your impulse under control then it might be time to start chasing mad men rather than being Don Draper. Yes, I just referenced a different TV show to end. I acted on impulse. It’s staying.
Photo News Oresund: Carolina Romare 2012-10-23 © Filmlance International