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HELP ME, SAINT BERNARDINO
By the grace of a national newspaper, I am able to reveal to you a startling fact. There is a patron saint of advertising. And if this is news to you, it was certainly news to me too. He is, for his sins (or otherwise), none other than St Bernardino of Siena and, as the newspaper so neatly puts it, one of his functions is to protect the silk-shirted back against the ready dagger.
Well now, reading all sections of the advertising press and listening to current gossip, I’m inclined to think that Bernardino hasn’t actually been applying himself 100 per cent to his job.
I usually don’t like taking issue with saints because there’s no future in it – or maybe there’s no indefinite future in it, what with the saint holding all the aces and being perfectly able to conjure up a few more if necessary. But when, I ask you, was the last time Bernardino flung down a handy bolt of lightning on the head of a client who left a project until five minutes before copy date and then carped afterwards because ‘it wasn’t up to your usual standards’?
When was the last time he visited a plague of boils and pustules, plus a touch of scrofula, on the client who seizes on a piece of perfectly good copy and systematically emasculates it in order to satisfy his wholly mistaken literary yearnings?
What did he do about the egregious folly of banning advertising for cigarettes and imposing impossible rules for the promotion of hard liquor, when everybody in the business knew that boozers and smokers took absolutely no notice of the advertising for these products anyway – they drank and they smoked because they enjoyed it. And they still do, by the way. Which proves my point quite nicely. I happen to believe that if there’s one thing worse than promoting a (supposedly) deleterious product, it’s having people going around saving us from ourselves and applying their own particular prejudices to what they consider to be the public weal.
In any event, all that these bans achieved was to remove the jam from the bread and butter of the country’s benighted copywriters and designers.
What, also, has old Bernie done about the stupidities perpetrated by those well-meaning people at the Advertising Standards Authority, who spend their lives dreaming up rules which render it virtually impossible for the innocent advertiser to make anything approaching a direct statement? What they, and similar bodies have achieved, as they safeguard everyone’s rights, is to hamstring almost every radio commercial with a tag-end five seconds of mandatory gabble talking about such things as: ‘if you fail to keep up the payments, etcetera’, and ‘your statutory rights apply’, which everyone bar an idiot already knows and accepts. It has all come to a ridiculous pass, especially when one sees the legend on a pack of peanuts that ‘this pack contains nuts’. Unreal.
I’m not even going to mention St Bernardino’s patent lack of effort in respect of the government-proposed ban on smoking in pubs. I despair of our two-faced politicians who, on the one hand want us all to be politically correct and lily-white, but have no compunction whatsoever about bombing women and children in far off places.
There’s an old saw about ‘I disagree entirely with what you say; but I will defend to the death your right to say it’. This is one of the fundamentals of a free-ish society; but unless we keep on kicking and screaming in defence of this principle, it is likely to be continually eroded until it dies of that killing disease known as apathy.
And by we, I mean people like you and me. And, I sincerely hope, St Bernardino.
© Markethill Publishing 2005.
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Patrick Quinn is a copywriter, with 40 years' experience of the advertising business in London, Miami, Dublin and Edinburgh. Over the years, he has helped win for his clients just about every advertising award worth winning. His published books, include:
The Secrets of Successful Copywriting.
The Secrets of Successful Low Budget Advertising.
Word Power 1, 2 & 3.