Friday, January 29, 2010

I forgot she hates sports

The art director I'm in double-harness with hates sports. I suspect she hates sports with a particular virulence when I'm around because it gives male coworkers and I something to discuss that she's not part of. But, after 5 years of trying to pull the plow with her, I have given up the psycho-analysis and just try to keep my head down and do the best job I can without the bit hurting my mouth too much.

Our assignment is to come up concepts, or spins, on the same idea. That idea is: when you invest with us, you're supported by a team of professionals.

Last week, when I was not coming down with whatever the hell I have, I came up with three concepts for the art director. In a perfect world, we would do this in tandem, bouncing ideas back and forth. That will never happen with her. She's an art director because she's in love with her Mac and all it can do, not because she's an idea girl. Fine. I'll pick up the slack. While I may not be the most innovative writer in the world -- while the words I put on the page may not be especially clever or fresh or even memorable -- I'm a great alchemist. I can take elements from different genres, put them into a blender, and come up with an acceptable spin.

So, last Friday, I came up with three ideas. Three broadstroke concepts. She said she understood them and would look for the appropriate artwork. The first concept centered around the long-term aspect of the support, "we won't forget you after you open the account," kinda thing. The second concentrated on the high-level of service. The last one was like the song "Centerfield" -- "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play." You know, you have an untapped resource of investment advice, use it. Three different ways to convey the client's message: when you invest with us, you're supported by a team of professionals.

After almost a week of working on these (three days is all it should have taken, btw), we finally showed them to our boss yesterday afternoon. He didn't like the photo -- a man in a sweater standing amid others seated -- she selected for the third concept. I liked it because the guy looked like he was volunteering. My boss didn't like it because of the proportions between the guy and the others in the shot. Fair enough. Since there was nothing that could be done to fix the photo with Mac magic, it was out. Not the concept. Not the headline. Just the photo. She then shared a photo she had already found, and discarded, of hands clapping and wanted to use it instead.

How do hands clapping say, "you have an untapped resource?" They don't. So she thinks I should just write something new to match the photo.


A concept is more than the words or the graphic. It's the idea, it's the way we convey the client's message to the consumer, it's the SPIN. I could slap something together for that photo but it would be wrong for the client's business, and wrong within the presentation we're giving Monday, because it's our job to provide them with options to choose from that will each say, in one way or another, when you invest with us, you're supported by a team of professionals.

Now here is where it gets good. I told her the easiest way to solve our dilemma would be to find a picture of suited-up athletes sitting on the bench. She recoiled in horror. "Like what kind of athletes? Football players?" OK, or baseball players or basketballs players. And they don't have to be professionals. In fact, I thought a company softball team would be kind of cute.

"But why would anyone want to look at a sports team when they are investing?" I pointed out to her that in the past she had been very proud of an investment brochure cover of a couple sitting near a campfire, looking up at the stars. I asked her if she was selling camping equipment then.

"But I didn't think of 'team' as meaning sports." Oh, she had me there. No one considers "team" a sports term. Except for, where it's defined as, "1. a number of persons forming one of the side in a game or contest: a football team."

I forgot. She hates sports. And if there's anything she hates more than sports, it's working on deadline. We didn't have a tight deadline at the beginning of this project, but we do now.

I explained the concept to her again -- use an untapped resource. I could write to a light switch, a windmill, a waterfall ... any form of power, since she doesn't like sports. Of course she'd have to give me a couple of hours to do that. But I could do it. It would work and it could be effective.

No, sigh, she'll look for sports pictures. Not that she'll find any she likes ...

That was last night. Our internal review -- the initial dress rehearsal for Monday -- is at 1:00 today. I bet we'll only have two concepts to show. Is she lazy? Stubborn? Petulant? I shouldn't hurl pejoratives her way when really, it's my fault.

I forgot. She hates sports.

The good thing that came out of writing this post is that (1) I respect my client and want to give them quality and (2) I really do enjoy parts of my job. These are good to remember, because after writing for 30 years (last June 1), I could be burned out, but I'm not.


  1. Writing for 30 years. Whoa. But I shouldn't be surprised. You're an excellent wordsmith.

  2. How you didn't throttle her is beyond me.


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