if you want it (words) done


Advertising copywriters may be some of the best <and worst> writers in the world.

I admit … the bad are really bad. And it is also a truth <in general> that the youngest need experience to be really really good. Or, maybe better said, they need someone experienced to edit their raw brilliance into a whole brilliance. It takes practice and experience to become good at simplicity <and word people, because they are word people, love words so inevitably they like to use them>.


Just like poets great copywriters seem to be able to capture the essence of something big, really big, in a very very small group of words.

I keep a folder of some of the best things I have seen written by copywriters.

I have been really fortunate to work with some great writers. I have seen and heard sentences that have made me sit up in my seat and think “wow.” I have seen and heard sentences that have made groups of people go “can I hear that again?”

I could write pages of those things from some of the most underappreciated writers in the world … copywriters.


I thought I would write this because of the Nike tv spot that was aired during the Olympics. Because if you watched the Olympics <at least in the USA> you would have seen this Nike commercial featuring Nathan Sorrell, a middle-schooler from London, Ohio. Called “Find Your Greatness,” the one-minute spot shows a runner in the background getting closer. The reveal is that the athlete is no Olympian, but a determined 5-foot-3-inch, 200-pound preteen. We’re all capable of greatness, says the voiceover. Oh. How about … “greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it. All of us.”

(full version) Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is only for the chosen few, for the superstars. The truth is, greatness is for us all. This is not about lowering expectations; it’s about raising them for every last one of us. Greatness is not in one special place, and it’s not in one special person. Greatness is wherever somebody is trying to find it. Find your greatness.

Beautifully, and brilliantly, articulated. Not a wasted word.

Find Your Greatness Jogger: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsXRj89cWa0

To me? This is a spectacular commercial. Simple execution driven by words of thought … and hope. The message could have been communicated a hundred different ways but this one didn’t waste a word … or thought … in the way it was written <well done Nike>. I also like the UK version but thought it was more expected <Greatness UK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=gHFhGDWP9Fs&NR=1> therefore when put side by side with ‘the jogger’ I would suggest the UK version montage makes you feel good … but the jogger goes deeper reflecting the greatness within an apparently non-great exterior. That execution showed the geeks and nerds and non traditional athletic build kids that somewhere inside is whatever they want … if they work for it.Once again. Brilliant.

Anyway. The following three examples showcase what a great copywriter can do <all from advertising campaigns>:

“Everyone is in such a hurry. People haven’t found meaning in their lives, so they’re running all the time looking for it. they think the next car, the next house, the next job. Then they find those things are empty, too, and they keep running. Once you start running, it’s hard to slow yourself down.”

“If you want to see something done, just tell some human beings it can`t be done. Make it known that it`s impossible to fly to the moon, or run 100 meters in 9.9 seconds, or solve Fermat`s Last Theorem. Remind the world that no one has ever hit 62 home runs in a season or stuffed 18 people into a Volkswagen. Dangle the undoable in front of the world. Then, consider it done.”

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They are not fond of the rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.”

In the end I tend to believe the great copywriters are able to capture a glimpse of hope, or what ‘could be’ somewhere in what they write. As well as an every day humanness. We get a glimpse, regardless of whether we are red, black, white, green, indigo or blue, of something within us.

It doesn’t have to be the entire thing they write <although those are the things that truly are the best because they are stories and not just a thought> but somehow … someway … they take the trite, the obvious, the common sense, the banal … and inject a small dose of hope which lightens it in such a way it floats a little higher in your conscious and shows you that it … well … can be better than it is.

As Microsoft suggested … they enable you to ask …

“Where do you want to go today?”

Written by Bruce