A Copywriter’s Story

from Dirty French Novel: For the past few months, I’ve been writing catalog and newspaper ad copy for a local retailer. I noticed something odd the first week or so I was in ad strategy meetings: the big buzzword here is “story.” What story are we trying to tell in this spread? What’s the story in this ad?
Except when they say “story,” they don’t mean story. There’s no rising action-climax-denouement progression.
I don’t consider it a story unless something happens. (Or it’s by Raymond Carver.)
My theory is this: once upon a time, someone at an executive level was told that advertising is more effective if it tells a story. “Great,” the unknown executive said, “we’ll tell a story on every spread!” So there were meetings, and strategic initiatives, and discussions of best practices, and at the end of the day it was decided that from this day forward, every spread would tell a story.
And the next day, nothing changed but the words they used to describe what they wanted. Instead of talking about an ad’s message or takeaway point, people talked about the story, and by story, they meant message.

About David Burn


  1. I’m in complete agreement. I love how clients love to bat around the term “story.” But when you try to inject come conflict (the essence of every story) they start to sweat and start to chop.

  2. Carl LaFong says:

    Whenever I try to tell a story, it always ends with Chapter 11.