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Nearly everybody believes they can write. That’s understandable these days given the pervasive presence of social media.

Some reckon they can write to professional copywriting standards, and unfortunately this sometimes includes clients.

While they would never dream of telling an accountant how to balance the books, or advise a lawyer on a point of law, a small number of clients feel free to write copy that often misses the point.

It’s mainly because they don’t recognise the copywriter as a professional, because writing is something they do on a daily basis so it can’t be that difficult can it.

I was once told by one of the biggest oil companies in the world to use “We care” as a payoff slogan. There were three problems with that instruction: first DHL was using the phrase locally; second it did not fit the creative brief, and third it was demonstrably untrue at that time of multiple oil spills, environmental degradation and financial exploitation of local labour. “We don’t care” was much closer to the truth. 

The professional copywriter will avoid such encounters by agreeing a creative brief with the client before a word is written. The signed brief should act as a focus, a boundary and an inspiration, and will serve to nip in the bud the banality and inaccuracy of “We care”.

A tight and comprehensive brief also allows the copywriter to avoid hyperbole or outright falsehood and set standards that the agency and client should respect.

A professional copywriter’s mindset should be that he is employed by the user of the product he is advertising. In the creative process the agency is not his boss. Nor is the client. His true employer is the purchaser, the consumer, the ultimate user.

As David Ogilvy said as long ago as 1955 “the customer is not a moron, she is your wife.” 

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