Tuesday, March 06, 2007

25. Writing Copy and Copywriters

with Gary Flores
In the Copy department there were four people doing the writing chores. Three of them were full time while the fourth one was a temp who was waiting for the results of the bar exams. I wasn’t sure if Ronnie Zamora was writing ad copy or PR articles for the Davids. Ronnie was a very bright fellow who eventually topped the bar, a feat that he aspired for to equal the track record of an older brother. He went on to a successful practice and later ended up in politics. One copywriter, Jorge Arago, was much too offbeat and literary for comfort. His writing style did not have any use for punctuation marks. His reason for this was he did not want to impede the fluidity of his expression by extraneous technicalities of grammar. I thought that it was carrying “stream of consciousness” to another level…to an extreme. The two others, Gary Flores whose brother, Rico, was also in advertising and Cynthia Reyes, the daughter of the then Press Secretary, were good writers in English but their lifestyles and backgrounds were from safe havens and comfortable middle class cloistered habitats.

Copy writing is a unique trade. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maugham, Thomas Mann, Vonnegut great writers that they were will find it hard to write effective copy to the mass consumers. The successful copywriters have lifestyles that are attuned to the classes of people that they write their appeals to. They would be the best persons to know what their audiences would like to see, like to hear and know what symbols would be meaningful to “Aling Mila” or “Mang Ponso”. Being able to write stylishly and grammatically is good but not enough and at times it may even be irrelevant. Copy and visuals are inextricably intertwined…a combination of coherent sounds, symbols, situations and replicated sensations is needed to create a compelling piece of advertisement.

I was hired because I had a degree in English literature and was looked at as a potential copywriter. That was the thinking in the sixties. I wrote reasonable ad copy but they were not close to the works of the truly great copywriters in the industry like Minyong Ordonez, Ben Kanapi, Tony Mercado or Greg Garcia who were spawned during that era. These copy greats had an uncanny and unerring feel of consumers’ likes, dislikes, aspirations and angst. With this they were able to establish a friendly rapport with consumers and were rewarded by a positive response to their advertising pleas.

These copywriters, even then, already knew in their guts what are now being espoused in communications. The advertising world has moved on from that time and had introduced a lot of enhancements into the practice. Those tasked to create advertising are now required to have an in depth understanding of the day-to-day existence of their audiences. Living the life of consumers is urged through immersions both by marketing and advertising people to help them know the nuances in the life of the ordinary consumer. Lifestyle and personality rather than academic background would be given weight in choosing recruits for creative work.
 seated: Pablo Tolentino, Henry Wong, Bob Stewart, Lucky Borbon
 back: Ed Roa, Chiqui Ruiz

Thanks to the demands and cajoling of some multinational companies a bit of science has crept into advertising. Advertising has become accountable to set objectives as laid out in the marketing plan. These were evaluated and looked at against standards earlier set. You cannot manage what you cannot measure was the buzzword. Research became an integral part of the marketing effort. Clients were demanding proposition testing, copy testing and ad material testing before campaigns were launched. This was not only in creative but in media planning as well. With research, definitions of target markets and audiences were sharper and with the use of psychometrics, went beyond lifeless demographic descriptions. While advertising still sought the big creative idea, the marketing brief demanded that it satisfied commercial ends.

 front: P. Tolentino, Henry Wong, Anthony David
back: Rudy Martel, Mr Padua, Lucky Borbon, Ed Roa

One of the senior executives at Great Wall was Rudy Martel whose wife Aleta is the sister of Imelda Marcos. He was vice president for market research but soon left presumably to attend to their business holdings that were resuscitated with the advent of great opportunities. Rudy’s forte was quantitative research. While advertising made good use of statistics on demographic data for macro views it also helped the copy people identify who, how many and where the consumer groups are. Marketing research came of age and the demand for information went beyond quantitative data.

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