Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Marquis Piece

This is the ad that was good enough to appear in two portfolios.

Permit me to elaborate.

A little less than twenty years ago, I was an Associate Creative Director at Team One Advertising. We had been experiencing rapid growth and needed to expand our staff of writers and art directors. The call to recruiters went out. And the portfolios came in.

This was before the Internet, when creatives actually had a box or a leather case with all their laminated work and 3/4 reel of their TV spots.  Now it seems all Creative Directors want to see are tiny flash-animated banners and social media prowess ("that's a nice Tweetdeck"), but I'll save my diatribe on that for another day.

It doesn't take long to spot a good portfolio from the rest of the dreck one normally sees. And my partner had singled out a promising young writer whose work he suggested I see. I was very impressed with all the work in his book. Particularly a long copy print spread for the Nissan Pathfinder.

Why was I so taken by this one piece? Because I WROTE it.

That's right, this ambitious go-getter had pilfered my ad and posed as its author.

So I did what you would do, assuming you harbor a persecution complex and an overblown sense of indignation. I called the aspiring writer from Canada who was aching to join the Team One team.

"Hey, ______ ________, we're looking at your portfolio and really like what we see."

"Great",  said the clueless one.

"We need writers who can actually write and from the long copy ads in your book it appears you might be one of them." I said exercising unprecedented restraint.

"Oh, I think long copy ads take some real craftsmanship. Not many people can do it well."

Clearly, I thought. 

"This Pathfinder ad is beautiful", I said never missing an opportunity to pat myself on the back. "Did you write it?"

" Yep", he replied without a moment's hesitation.

"Really? Cause according to several awards annuals I was the one listed as the copywriter" I shot back.

You could feel the air being sucked 1753 miles through the telephone line.

Then he gave me some half-hearted bullshit about having to resize the ad for a different publication and filling out a widow or two. But in no way did he write the 1526 word double page spread.

After a long silent pause on my end and much to his credit, he fessed up. And admitted he had made a terrible mistake. We Fed Exed his portfolio, minus one Nissan ad, back to him. I also included a finely worded note about integrity. If you haven't noticed after 642 entries here, I'm kind of a stickler about integrity, particularly since there's so little of it left in our industry.

Two days later, he sent a heartfelt letter of apology with a plea to never air out this ugly piece of dirty laundry. And true to my word, I haven't mentioned the young man's name.

But now I've had a chance to reread the ad and I cringe at how poorly it's overwritten. It's slow, it's meandering -- not unlike this story -- and the phrasing is abysmal. I don't know what I or my Creative Director was thinking.

With the benefit of hindsight I realize I should have removed the ad from my portfolio and let him keep it. He would have been doing me a favor.

1 comment:

geo said...

Actually, and with a similar level of oddness, someone about a year back was copying posts word for word from my blog.

He started linking to posts of mine. Then copying sections with no attribution. Finally, he pilfered whole posts. Like three days out of seven.

I emailed him and said it was wrong. In fact I had looked at his book and told him he wasn't a bad writer. Why did he have to steal from me?

Especially from my blog where my writing is done quickly and journalistically--not how I write real copy.

He was contrite.

He pulled down the blog.

I haven't checked to see if it's back up.

The thing I said to him is that writing is work. Yes, I work at what I do. I don't have any special talents. I work.

If he wants to write like me, work like me. Stealing is for pussies.