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Truth 24 times a second April 8, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing.

I do quite a bit of copywriting during the day, enough to know a good sentence when I see it, but also enough to know simply being paid to write would be largely unsatisfying for me to do all on its own.

I was writing a piece for a client recently though, having been thinking about candour, how honest this client was with its audience. I’ve seen a bunch of writing recently touting context as being king; I certainly agree but I don’t think it’s anything new. Candour however people are still struggling to come to grips with

This client is about as high profile in Australia as you can get, and renowned for no small amount of pomposity. I thought long and hard about it, staring at a blank screen before furiously punching keys for 3 or 4 minutes. I turned to the room I share with everyone and read out what I’d written. When I looked up from my screen nobody said a thing, and the account manager simply stared back at me, jaw hanging loose. I hadn’t said anything offensive, I hadn’t ranted or raved. I’d spoken in the client’s voice, only I’d told the truth.

And nobody had ever heard this client tell the truth before.

My then CEO thought it was spot on, though he sided with the account manager who said “You can’t say that.” The AM knew the client would never go for it, even though it was everything that needed to be said. And it’s been bugging me ever since.

When did truth become something to fear? When did we become so shocked at hearing it we would only fall silent and squirm uncomfortably in our seats? When did it become something we got fired for?

The sad reality is the piece would barely have been a foot note had it been published. It would not have started the revolution, it would not have unleashed the barbarians at the gate. It would hopefully have resonated with the small audience who saw it before being swept under the rug, never heard again. To have stopped the people in the room with me should have been enough. But it wasn’t. And we’re all poorer for it.



1. Josh - April 9, 2008

That’s interesting. I’d love to know who your client was. Was it Commonwealth Bank? Because then I’m sure your approach would’ve been a lot better than their current set of ads… 😉

2. David Gillespie - April 10, 2008

Hah! Love it! 🙂 It wasn’t CBA, though definitely that sort of profile! I look forward to the day when Australian companies (or companies in general) have the guts and the foresight to recognise the power in telling the truth. Long way off it would seem…

3. How hard can it be? « Wide Open Spaces - May 3, 2008

[…] Joel sang honesty is hardly ever heard, and mostly what I need from you. As I’ve said before, truths are invariably harder to swallow than we first make them out to […]

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