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In Praise of Chameleons

LIZARDO

One of the Queen B's earliest creative inspirations was a copywriter and agency executive named Joy Golden (June 30, 1930 - August 29, 2015). According to her Ad Age obituary ...

"In 1984, she gained international recognition when a client asked her to write a 'little schtick' about Laughing Cow Cheese. That 'schtick' became a hit, winning her shelves full of awards that included ADDY, Clio, One Show, Effie, Mercury, Andy, IBA, International Festival Grand Prix, among others.

'Little did I know that would make me famous,' Ms. Golden said in a 1992 interview. 'I went from nothing to international fame. I was in the New York Times, Museum of Television and Radio and I said, 'Goodbye' to the world and said 'I'm opening my own business.' I was 55 and I was a hit, kids.'"

Golden developed a particular voice and built a successful career putting that voice to work for a variety of clients. Of course, there were many companies (and entire industries) for which "Joy Radio" would not have been appropriate. (Funeral Parlors and Cancer Hospitals come to mind.)

The industry's best copywriters (and Golden was certainly one of them until that signature moment in the 1980s when she started to specialize), don't have a single voice or a signature 'schtick.'

The best copywriters — like the best art directors — are chameleons.

A new client of ours was frustrated because he had worked with a young designer who was a bit too attached to her own style, and a bit resistant to the style the client needed. This isn't uncommon. But, it's not exactly a recipe for success. Working closely with the client, we were able to evolve that existing design work into something more effective — and, more effectively his.

As agency creatives, we have to be able to create myriad voices, looks, and feels for our clients. We have to become adept at discovering (and uncovering) what makes each of our clients truly unique. What will feel and sound and look like them, not us. And, what will resonate with their specific target audience.

That's why it's so important that every project we tackle is a collaboration. We know our craft. (After a combined near-century of crafting, we certainly hope we do.) Our clients — and yes, we think of them in that most gratuitous and overused term, "client partners" — know their company, its history, its culture, its position in the marketplace, and its audience, not to mention the products and solutions they sell. We invest time upfront to understand all of this, as well as their personality, so that we can believably communicate it through the words and pictures we make.

Since time is always of the essence, there are lots of tricks and tools that help us do this.

• We insist on a Creative Strategy meeting or, at least, document
• We immerse ourselves in the client's brand
• We read the appropriate trade pubs
• We review (and sometimes gleefully dissect) the competition's marketing
• We interview sales reps, product leads, and — when possible — customers
• We mystery shop
• We Google — we Google a lot

We've been known to create "war rooms," where the team is literally surrounded by the client. We've studied customer personas, going as far as finding photos that best match a typical buyer and taping them up next to our monitors. So when we're writing or designing we're doing it with a particular person(a) in mind.

At B Direct, we don't have a signature look or a typical voice. Our colors change constantly to complement the colors of our clients.

That's part of the challenge. And, for us, that's a big part of the fun.

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