Copywriter Turned Consultant

Well, as eventful as it was, 2015 whizzed by like a speeding train.

In fact, my almost 5-year stint as a fulltime freelancer has gone by as if I was in a 100 metre dash.

And yeah, while I’m at it, my 18 or so years as a wordsmith in a creatively constipated industry now feels like a vividly twisted dream.

So here I am, awoken from what seemed like a pseudo-comatose state of mind – anxiously wondering where my career is headed as I approach my 40s.

Freaking 40s, nuts!

But to be honest, it hasn’t been as delusional or convoluted as I’ve made it to be. Yes, putting 18 years of your heart, soul and neck into something ought to be paying dividends.

And it has, for the most part.

pulpSEO
Pulp Optimization…

Strangely, something else has begun to happen over the last couple of years. I have found myself doing much less writing, while being thrust into situations where my overall know-how in marketing began to take the lead. I’ve gone from churning copy after copy after copy; to work on strategic, conceptual and the business side of marketing.

For a long time I thought I would be just generating content till the day I slump over my keyboard, or at best overseeing other lost souls churn out mindless garbage, and then set myself on fire on a pile of badly written client briefs while screaming “no more reeevissiooonnnsss!”.

Yes, people have mentioned I have a warped mind.

So, in essence, I am not just a copywriter anymore. I am somewhat in transition, or maybe I have already transitioned to become a marketing consultant of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, writing is still my first love, and I will continue to be a keyboard slave for a long time to come.

Maybe, just maybe it’s time I pursue my other writing interests. After all, no time to waste as 40 approaches in haste.

Oh…  better late than never, so happy new year!

Different

I’m one of those weird kind of copywriters. I don’t really read.

Well I do read a bit of non-fiction; but nothing specific, just what I happen to fancy when I’m in a bookstore or while browsing Amazon. When it comes to fiction though, I’m hopeless. The last novel I finished was probably a John Grisham in my teens.

… and sometimes I read what I say and don’t like what I’m thinking…

Even watching my sister go through almost a dozen books a month when growing up didn’t rub-off on me. I’d rather sit on the rooftop of the house I grew up in listening to Tupac’s Me Against the World while admiring the surrounding greenery.

Ahhh… the simpler times.

Despite my lack of reading, I ended up in the writing business. Most copywriters are or ought to be avid readers, and I’m pretty sure it helps them to become better wordsmiths. But me, I’m different, I tend to read the world that’s in front of me as opposed to blocking my view with a book.

There are beautiful stories playing out right in front of our eyes, no matter how inconspicuous.

I constantly take in the sights, sounds, atmosphere, ambiance and nuances of my surroundings, which in its own way has helped me become a better copywriter over the years.

How you ask? Some examples, if you will:

People watching > Analyzing consumer behavior
Watching TV > Errr… competitive analysis of other ads, provided I’ve not recorded the show
Noticing a gecko on the ceiling > Aspire to greater heights / there’s always (gecko) shit to clean up
Watching the sun go down > Holy crap, there’s a deadline tomorrow!
Hearing birds chirping > Holy crap, the deadline is today!

Well, I’m just… different.

True Lies

“I love advertising, because I love lying”.

It wasn’t me, I didn’t utter those words. I’m not as bold and brazen as veteran comedian Jerry Seinfeld; who when accepting an honorary Clio – one of the ad industry’s highest creative accolades – spoke with brutal honesty about advertising.

Though the acceptance speech was meant to be a satirical take on the industry, you could just feel the audience’s amused yet disturbed reaction. For me though, it was 4 minutes of ROFL… a must-watch if you haven’t already:

Yes, I admit it. In my 16 years as a copywriter, I’ve done my fair share of lying. They may not be outright lies, but by Mr. Seinfeld’s definition…

I have duped innocent people out of hard-earned earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services.

Sounds terrible when you word it that way, doesn’t it? But in true advertising traditions, you could also say:

I convince innocent people with relevant, timely information so that they spend their hard-earned earnings wisely on products and services that deliver the best value.

Or maybe something slightly more client-friendly:

I help consumers make smart purchasing decisions with appealing, compelling and concise information that allows them to choose the products and services that best fit their lifestyle.

Essentially, all of the above versions say the same thing. It’s just the wordplay that took Mr. Seinfeld’s observations and spinned it to something more, well, acceptable.

Same message, different interpretations, multiple executions.

But then again, there’s no substitute for honest, emotionally-driven, insightful communications that consumers will appreciate and eventually trust. If you ask me, that should be the only way to execute an ad campaign instead of the usual mumbo jumbo.

Overpromise
Thou shalt not lie in wait for customers... mislead them!

And to Mr. Seinfeld, we addies aren’t all that bad. We mostly just misdirect and sometimes hide the truth as opposed to blatantly lying to people’s faces.

Unlike this ridiculous promo for a movie you did some years ago…

Funny Business

Advertising and humour often go hand-in-hand. But do funny ads actually work?

As you may be aware, I am a fan of comedy. I just love being humoured; by comedians, sitcoms, friends and sometimes, ads too.

For a copywriter like me, humour offers a much-needed respite from all the mind-numbing chaos.

So here’s a recent ad from Maxis that I thought was really funny. Yes, I am amazed at myself for showcasing a Maxis ad positively, considering how I whacked them the last time. But credit is due where it is due I suppose.

But wait. On with the ad first…

Now, if you are like me – someone who absolutely hates online videos that go into buffering mode – you may have found the ad funny. But did the ad compel any kind of action from you?

Again, if you are like me – someone who can be a real lazy arse sometimes – you didn’t take any action. As in call Maxis, look for more info online or run to the nearest Maxis outlet to register for this wonderful fibre internet.

Clowning
Don't clown around, unless you are promoting a clown...

This is the problem with funny ads. While they may steal your attention and be memorable; it doesn’t guarantee a response from consumers.

And don’t for a moment think being funny improves brand awareness either.

People usually only remember that a particular ad is funny, but often struggle to remember the brand or product. Think about your favourite funny ad; do you remember the product?

Ace Metrix – a television and video analytics agency – studied funny ads in the US for over a year and drew the following conclusions:

  • Funny ads were memorable and appealing, but were less likely to increase desire or purchase intent
  • Humour in ads work better when it is used as a supplement rather than a replacement

When consumers are not compelled to take action after seeing your ad, it usually means money down the drain.

So be funny at your own peril, or risk becoming a joke.

One Year On

I never wanted to believe the little creatures that would keep whispering in my ears. “Go easy on your meds!”  I’d say.

This week marks my full year of being self-employed. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but holy crap how time flies!

MyCreatures
My fugly little inner voices, don't be fooled by their charm...

The little creatures are of course not real, they are more like my inner voices. Yes, I said voices, with an ‘S’. Seriously, the kind of baloney that goes on in my head will leave you gasping for air.

Anyway, these creatures have been insisting that I quit the rat race and plunge into the dog-eat-dog world of self-employment. I finally relented around 12 months ago, after years of annoying pressure. Damn you creatures!

Even when I did give in to the inner pressure, I gave myself 6 months. I figured I’d be scurrying back to the sanity of a fulltime copywriting  job in no time. Just like how a rat would sprint toward his hole in the wall at the first sign of trouble.

But it didn’t happen; though I’ve contemplated it during numerous lean periods over the past year.

This is no declaration of victory though. I am still only giving myself another 6 months. Thinking too far ahead only makes a person overconfident I’ve learned.

To my fugly little creatures, I’m sorry for not believing in you guys. And please, forget the meds and let’s bring out the bubbly.

Life of a Fulltime Freelancer

A lot of people ask me about how my liberation from employment has been. I always brush them off with a vague “ok laaa” or “surviving” or more recently, “it’s not bad, I’ve made new imaginary friends”.

Yes, as a fulltime freelance copywriter, I do tend to spend the majority of my working hours on my own at home. And as a writer, that’s a good thing, except when my upstairs neighbor decides to rearrange their furniture all of the sudden… damn you!

FreelancerSwin
Row, row, row your boat... until you become a robot... all together now!

Solitude let’s me tap into whatever is left in the inner reaches of my mind, where incidentally my imaginary buddies lurk.

Okay enough about my imaginary friends; they are apparently blog-shy.

So as a fulltime freelancer, things are quite different these days. While my work still revolves around clients and deadlines, there is always this sense of uncertainty that lurks over my head.

But to be honest, it is the same feeling of uncertainty I felt when I was employed. But now, I am in control – everything is entirely up to me – which is a feeling like no other. It is a feeling of exhilaration and pride one moment, then anxiety and insecurity the next. Not for the faint of heart for sure.

Ahhh yes, I’ve also become quite adept at ‘freelancer speak’, which are things freelancers say to make things look better than they actually are or just to be nice, for example:

When I Say  > I Actually Mean

I am in between projects > I got nothing to do
I just came from another meeting > I had better things to do
Sorry I didn’t answer, I was in a meeting > Sorry, I just woke up
This weekend? Oh… I’m out of town > You crazy arr?!
Let me know what you think >  Don’t think so much

Errr… you guys know this post is just for laughs right?

So We’re Bashing Up Customers Now?

If you can’t serve your customers, bash them up. A method practiced by a certain KFC employee; allegedly of course.

But you can’t refute the video evidence. Even if he was provoked, this is still no reason for an employee of a global fast food chain to get all Bruce Lee with anyone; let alone a customer.

But strangely, I wasn’t all too surprised.

That’s because I’ve been noticing the lowering standards of customer service in Malaysia for many years now. I’ve also written about my own experiences and the possible reasons behind such dismal customer service.

The KFC tagline these days is “So Good”. I guess they are not only referring to the chicken (again, allegedly), but also to the whacking that one would get from disgruntled employees.

But that’s the problem isn’t it. The brand spends millions to say something and the employees – who are probably working long, unforgiving hours for pittance – say another. There is hardly any synergy between what you see and what you get from Malaysian businesses these days.

KFC is Smackin Good
He was, after all, a Colonel... don't be charmed by that smile!

And the worst part, no one is bothered.

Like the many customer service mishaps of the past, this video will be forgotten and conveniently dismissed as a one-time-only incident beyond the company’s control.

But I would really like to see is Ronald McDonald kick someone’s ass though… that would be awesomely funny!

Why It Cost 1.8 Million for 6 Facebook Pages

Here are the real secrets why the agency that developed the Facebook pages charged such a ridiculous amount…

  1. Because the client only opens 1 counter during peak hours
  2. Because the client went for coffee at 10.45am, then lunch at 1pm and the tea at 3.45pm
  3. Because they had to complete Borang FB/003/11, Borang FB/112/14A and submit along with photocopies of their IC, Audited Accounts and Birth Certificate
  4. Because the system was downlah!
  5. Because the Person in Charge Cuti Bersalin
Why 1.8 Mil?
The question is why they like to throw our money down the drain?

6.   Because the Nombor Giliran for today has finished
7.   Because this issue can only settle in Putrajaya
8.   Because the approval process takes at least 2 to 4 weeks
9.   Because someone wore a short-sleeve blouse

And the top reason why it cost 1.8 million for 6 Facebook pages *Drumroll*

10. Because each e-mail sent and received cost the agency 50 sen

If I had to go through all of the above, I’d freaking charge 2 million… per page! But for my dear readers, I’ll do it for RM59.95… interested?

Kicks for Geeks?

Check if applies:

1. I spend most of my time online (   )
2. I discuss about the latest viral video with my friends (  )
3. I Keep in touch with friends via instant messaging more than on the phone (  )
4. I often have lunch/dinner in front of a PC (   )
5. I check my Facebook or e-mail the moment I wake up in the morning (   )

If you checked any two or more of the above, then you can now display your allegiance to the wired way of living by sporting internet-themed basketball shoes.

These shoes are a perfect complement to your style; which probably includes nerdy glasses, a transformers t-shirt and an unwashed for months denim. What’s more? The shoes’ built-in geo-location technology will also let your friends know about your whereabouts every step of the way. (You know I’m taking a piss right?)

In case you’re wondering… these shoes were designed by a certain Brass Monki (the name says it all ain’t it?) and not by Nike (phew!).

What’s next? Facebook underpants that come with a ‘Like’ button?

I’m going to log-off and have a life right now.