Stretch The Possibilities, Hire A Copywriter

My friend Doug Lowell has recently chosen to transition from agency principal to freelance copywriter. He also started a new blog, as one way to promote his offerings. The title of the blog, “Doug Lowell Is A Copywriter” is certainly to the point (I’m sure The Google will agree).

While the new site features Doug’s five star resume and a page where he asks for the sale, some of his first posts are matters to pause and consider (the sign of a real writer in the room).

In Mommy, am I going to hell?, Doug questions the value, or lack thereof, of what we do as advertising professionals. He also explores how we might add more value.

With the advent of brands as engines of meaning (see the white paper on Brand Culture I co-authored), and with people now shopping not so much for things as for the meaning and values attached to those things (or services or whatever), we can actually remind brands, and the people who temporarily are their custodians, of the real values that lie at the heart of the brand…

We can be, for our clients, the better angels of their nature (to use Abraham Lincoln’s words). We can steer them back (or forward) to the things that people really care about today, which is the values that drive a company.

Doug then follows that post with Hell, part 2, where he claims, “we can make this business of ours meaningful in the same way the carver of a Haida spoon made cranking out tableware meaningful.”

Just yesterday, I mentioned to Doug that I recently finished reading The Idea Writers by Teressa Iezzi, wherein she paints a picture of how copywriters want things to be, but not how they really are in most cases. “If this book has a philosophical point of view,” she writes, “it’s that you the copywriter are responsible for putting things into the world, and those things should be useful, entertaining, or beautiful, or all of those things. They should make people feel better, not worse, about themselves, the brand involved and living in the world in general.”

We can and sometimes do bring “beauty” to the projects we work on, and I like that goal a lot, but it is utility that clients seek and pay for. I understand that the best agencies (and freelancers) can and do rise above the mundane considerations of clients, and I appreciate the inspiration they provide, but that’s not THE story. It’s the exception to the story.

With all this flowery thinking perfuming the air, I asked Doug about the client who just needs a tri-fold brochure, not a cultural artifact, or a thing of beauty. He told me a story about a client that he helped move from the solution they initially sought, to one they hadn’t considered. And that is our job, no doubt. You’ve got to come in with what the client asks for and another idea that you really believe in–to stretch them, yourself and the possibilities.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.