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Good on paper

6 February 2013

You know, some things don’t make the transition from idea to execution all that well. Sure, I’m a writer, and I know that’s where I’m qualified to speak about things… but let’s take a quick side trip into the world of advertising, where I also used to work.

One of the main places I see failed execution is TV commercials. There are some that are just painful to watch for various reasons — someone thought a concept would be “funny” or “cool” are two of the main ones. Sometimes it works. And sometimes, you end up with an ad that makes you wonder if this guy’s own kids make fun of him:

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I don’t want to pick on Chase unfairly, and they do have some great ads, too — the Drew Brees ad is outstanding. It’s just the luck of the draw that their horrible Footloose ripoff is what got me thinking of this topic. It’s one of those commercials that makes me think how the hell did this make it to the national airwaves?

Didn’t one person ever stop for a second and say “Hold up, this is idiotic?”

Of course, no one did, or if they spoke up, they were ignored.

So how does one avoid this mistake in their own writing — the “clever on paper, crap in execution” trap?

One thing I’ve found is to read everything you write out loud. Perform that shit like a dramatic monologue. Record it and play it back — sometimes the ears pick up what the eyes can’t.

Then? Beta readers, beta readers, and more beta readers. Don’t just send it to your friends and people who like you — send it to people who won’t spare your feelings, and, if you can find some, people who actually wouldn’t mind seeing you fail. Get the nice feedback and the nasty feedback, then figure out the average of the two.

Of course, that’s just what works for me — find out what works for you, and share!

Also, what’s the worst national ad you can remember seeing? The best?

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