Doyle Dane Bernbach Inc. Vice President, Copy Supervisor
chuukyuu What is the quality of a good copywriter?
Mrs. Parker I don't think there is a single quality, but a combinationof qualities.
And the absence of anyone of these things might ruin things.
A good copywriter must first of all have talent. Talent is something you have to be born with---something you cannot acquire by any amount of education and experience. If the talent isn't there, you might as well forget about being a copywnter.
But talent is only the beginning. The first thing you have to learn---and this is something you can learn---is how to discipline this talent and how to exercise judgement. And this is where many of our junior writers have the hardest time. They come up with six or eight or ten ideas, and are unable to pick the one good idea out of the lot. You have to be able to be your own editor.
I might add here that a good advertising "writer" is not strictly someone who is good at writing, but someone who is good at coming up with ideas. Writing---the use of words---is the least of it. It is only the clothing of the idea.
One example of this that comes to mind is the Avis campaign---"We're only No.2, so we try harder." There are no clever or dramatic words here---no pun, no poetic or elegant writing". As a matter of fact, the words are very plain---almost ugly. What malters is the psychological concept.
Then there has to be a certain amount of plain, old-fashioned professionalism. Many of our bright young people think that breaking rules is all that counts. But it's not as easy as that. You have to know what the rules are before you break them. You have to really know your field---study what others have done---and then go out and not just do it different, but do it better.
Then there are, of course, personality facts that help make a good copywriter. One of them is the ability to live with the many disappointments and setblcks that are inevitable in this business. We are dealing with multimillion dollar budgets, and people are going to say "no" to you. It may be your supervisor, or it may be the client.
Some writers go to pieces if one word of their precious copy is touched. But if you're a pro, you sit down and re-think your copy and then come up with something equally good or even better. There is never just one-absolutely only one idea that will solve an advertising problem. It's not like a mathematical problem that has only one correct solution.
Also, you should be reasonably co-operative, because you're not working in an ivory tower. You're not a novelist sitting in your attic, writing your big novel all by yourself. You're in a very social situation, and your work must be able to intermesh with art directors, producers, clients, actors. You must be able to get along with people.
What does not matter is whether you're hip or square, outgoing or introverted, Jewish or Italian, a family man or a gay blade, a flashy or a conservative dresser. We have all types at DDB.