It’s happened to you before.
You’re talking to a client, explaining them how to do something, when they cut you off with a, “Yeah, yeah, I hear ya. But how about we try it this way.”
You close your eyes, grit your teeth. Outwardly, if you’re talking on the phone—inwardly if in person. As calmly as you can, you explain that you appreciate their input, but you’ve been doing this a long time. You’ve weighed the different options, and the way you’ve suggested is the best one.
Left unsaid—what you really wish you could say—is why on earth are you always stuck dealing with people who know nothing about copywriting.
I empathize. I really do.
We’ve all been there.
But I’ve also discovered that it’s important to not be too stubborn.
Because a lot of time those clients are amateurs. They really should not be giving an opinion about copywriting.
But sometimes, they’re not amateurs at all.
Sometimes you’re in the wrong.
Sometimes, it pays to listen to what they’re saying.
Here’s a story of such an experience.
I recently wrote a commercial for the Ruggard Dry Cabinet. It’s a technical, somewhat boring product. Both I and David Ben-Yshay—the director I was working with—felt it was our job to inject some humor into the screenplay to make it interesting.
You can watch the final product by clicking here, but I want to share with you something that happened while I was still writing the screenplay.
I sent it to my manager for review, and he told me that the script was taking too long to get to the pain point. I needed to address that off the bat. He sent me some examples of the Harmon Brothers’ commercials to illustrate his point.
I responded that I understood his point, but this screenplay wasn’t like those ones. It was more like the Avocadoes from Mexico Secret Society commercial. The commercial took so long to get to the pain point because it was a story. If I interjected the pain point too early, it would disrupt the story and ruin the tone of the script.
He replied that he understood, but he’d like me to try it his way.
So I tried. Kinda. I sat down, played around with the script, and came up with a way to move the pain point closer to the beginning. And I was right: it sucked. It completely ruined the video.
I sent it back to my manager and told him that I had done as requested, and I still felt that the original version was superior.
It sounds silly to say it now, but I was in a pretty bad mood during that process. I’d grown emotionally connected to the script I’d written, and being asked to make changes to it felt like cutting my own arm. (We creatives are a weird bunch, I guess.) And I had no guarantees that my manager wouldn’t tell me to sew that arm back on again.
That night, I thought about the changes I’d made, and I realize that my emotional state had affected my work. I’d told my manager that I would try to make his suggestion work, and I had officially given it a shot, but the truth was that I hadn’t tried. Not really. I had been too emotional. I’d gone in believing that I was wasting my time and had not given it my best.
The alternative script didn’t work, but not because my manager had been wrong.
It didn’t work because I hadn’t tried to make it work.
When I got to work the next morning, I immediately emailed my manager to disregard the script I’d sent him yesterday. I wanted to take another shot at it.
And, for the next hour or two, I sat down at my computer and considered the two factors before me.
And tried to figure out a way to stay true to both of them.
It ended up taking a single paragraph. One, lone paragraph, right at the beginning, that addresses the pain point of the product without altering the tone.
If you’ve watched the commercial, or are planning to, it’s the one that starts, “Kneel puny mortal.”
And here’s the funny thing. I’d done as my manager asked. I’d managed not to butcher the commercial in the process.
And when I thought about it objectively, I realized something.
The script was better now.
So that’s my story. It’s important to trust your instincts and your experience. It’s important to fight for the approaches you believe are right.
But it doesn’t help to be needlessly stubborn.
Because sometimes, you just might be wrong.
Eli Landes is one of those weird writers who just can't get enough. A marketing writer by day and a fiction writer whenever he can squeeze in the time, he spends his spare time working on his novel, writing short fiction, or daydreaming (I mean, researching). His main genre is Jewish fiction, but he's been known to dabble in the weird, the absurd, and the truly dark.