Thursday, October 13, 2005


ADVERTISING sounds exciting but try doing it yourself. If you don't have the necessary experience, it will only drive you to an early grave. Fallon McElligott knows a lot about this profession, and he has generously shared all his valuable experiences with us, the know-nothings. Praise be to McElligott!

WHEN THE last page was flipped, I said aloud, `Wow, what a great book. I
think I shall read it again.' Few books come to such a deserving end. This
book stands out like a very tall flower in a vast field of pretty blooms.
Luke Sullivan is both funny and knowledgeable. He knows his craft. He
wields his experience as a copywriter with Fallon McElligott like a
swordsman wields his blade.
This adman of the first order cuts to the core of the advertising
business. Along the way, you are liable to laugh with him as he turns a
serious problem into a comical situation. The wonderful thing is that
Sullivan's professional lessons are as memorable as his excellent jokes.
Most of them are real-life experiences.
A case in point: Sullivan talks about the `prima donna' found in almost
all ad agencies. He or she could be a writer or an art director. There was
such a man Sullivan remembers with great passion: `The hurt and anger he
left behind in the agency lingered for some time. Secretaries came out of
hiding and admitted to farting in his office when he was gone. After
awhile, we tried to be philosophical about his character. The best we
could say about him was: "If you cut him open, you'd find a heart of gold.
And if you didn't, hey, you've cut him open."'
This book, which has an eye-catching cover of a pair of hands squeezing
two rolls of kitchen towels (or maybe toilet rolls), should be standard
text for all copywriters who aspire to be great one day, even if right now
their name in the office is `mud'.
It has all the right tips, all the commonsense rules that your boss did
not want or bother to tell you. Perhaps it's because he does not know much
himself. With this book, Sullivan has bounced onto the centre-stage of
advertising and presented the holy grail of copywriting.
Anybody who is an adman of some discipline or a copywriter of no
respectable status will appreciate the tips and tricks of the trade
spelled out in clear, concise language, guaranteed to erase ambiguity.
Sullivan is a very generous person. His contemporaries may not
appreciate his kindness in exposing to the entire world the adman's bag of
tricks, but the rest of us, even if we are not in the advertising
business, will honour him for his magnanimous contribution.
Since this is a book on advertising, specifically about copywriting,
everything in it is simple and straightforward. Nothing obscure. No
sentence to befuddle the uninitiated. The author's writing skills shine
through like a powerful torch on a very dark night.
Sullivan has this to say under the category `Write As You Talk': `Write
with a smooth, easy rhythm that sounds natural. Obey the rules of grammar
and go easy on the adjectives. Short sentences are best. One-word
sentences? Fine. End with a preposition if you want to. And if it feels
right, begin a sentence with "and". Just be clear. Through it all,
remember, you are selling something. Easy to forget when you start
slinging words.'
An excellent English language teacher couldn't have put it better to his
class of attentive pupils.
As the eye scans the pages just as the TV camera pans across the studio,
this copywriter extraordinaire with some 20 advertising medals of merit
under his belt comes up with some sterling advice on writing TV
Rule No. 1. In order to be a great TV ad writer, you must write a great
piece. Sounds easy enough.
Rule No. 2. Before you start impressing the rest of the world, make sure
you know how big a budget you are playing with.
Rule No. 3. Study the reels that have gone before you. In other words,
look at what's happening in the field. There are plenty of strange and
marvellous works produced by others obviously smarter than you. Don't be
Rule No. 4. Solve the problem visually. That means, stick to images.
Don't lose sight of your medium.
Rule No. 5. Look for a splendid image and build a story around it.
Remember everybody loves a great story.
Rule No. 6. Start with a shooting technique and back it into a concept.
For a detailed explanation, read the book. This gem of a tip is what
separates the white-belt holders and the black-belt masters.
Rule No. 7. Be simple. Yep, human beings are such simple creatures. If
you want to tell them the story of the hydrogen bomb, they would prefer
that you give them the latest salacious details of the Kenneth Starr
report. Therefore, for TV commercial, make it simple and sweet. Time is
indeed big bucks.
There are five other rules but space constraints forbid a lengthier
explanation. Suffice it to say that they are all essential to the craft an
aspiring copywriter wants to master.
Altogether there are 11 delightful chapters. Each one has a chock-full
of helpful hints and bits of useful information that will point you in the
right direction.
There is a chapter on writing for the radio. Advises Sullivan, `Make
sure your radio spot is important or scary or funny or interesting within
the first five seconds.'
He draws a fascinating scenario. `Your spot just interrupted your
listener's music. It's like interrupting people having sex. If you're
going to lean in the bedroom door to say something, make it good: "Hey,
your car's on fire."'
At the end of Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, I concluded that this great
guidebook is like a Swiss Army knife which has multiple functions. It is
compact, folds neatly into a portable size, its usefulness is indisputable
and it is definitely handy during emergencies like times of mental cramps.
Luke Sullivan has done his peers, young and old, veterans as well as the
inexperienced, a monumental service by putting his thoughts in permanent
form. He obviously does not expect to become a millionaire with the
publication of this book. Few writers ever end up becoming permanent
members of the jet-setters club.
By all accounts, this book carries with it a triple A rating. All
copywriters across the globe who have read this book and have benefited
from it should say a silent prayer in deep gratitude to Sullivan.
This book probably won't make you as smart or as famous as Luke
Sullivan. But by the power of Luke, one of these days when you emerge
victorious from the ad wars, you are going to be extremely grateful that
you once sat at his feet and listened to his little sermon.

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