The only copywriting rule here is that there aren’t any copywriting rules. Nonsense.
Rules give us context, they are glue, the common ground, the ways and the means that values… have value. They offer relationship and relativity. An axis, a framework. Whether we know them in detail or only share a vague familiarity, they join the dots, paint the backdrop. A ruleless world would be terrible. No pricks to kick against. No ‘man’ to stick it to. Tension’s essential. Essential tension. Think Prince post Warners. Cantona released from football’s prism.
Bend them, break them, ignore them, follow them to the letter. Rules do serve the purpose of preventing a listless, dull anarchy.
Smart players understand this. They study the rules, learn them. They work with them, weave in and out of them, they bend rules to their will and to their advantage. They ignore them. “I hate rules,” writes original Madman UK copywriter David Ogilvy on the cover of Ogilvy On Advertising. How about this from Bill Bernbach? “Rules are what the artist breaks; the memorable never emerged from a formula.”
There’s a copywriter called Ben Settle – to other copywriters who have a strongly rule driven approach to their writing the guy is a monster. He’ll miss-spell, swear, riff and street talk his way to wherever he needs to go without the slightest regard for convention. ‘Rools are for fools’ he says. A ‘contrarian marketer’, he’s got my ear. Drayton Bird has name checked him recently too so he must be doing something right.
What about other norms? Other conventions, perceived wisdoms or intuitives?
Here’s one area constantly under debate – productivity. Spotify on? Spotify off?
Dave Johnson on Bnet wrote an article recently based around the idea of using counter intuitive approaches to be more productive.
Stop scheduling your day he says: “ A little randomness and unpredictability can be invigorating… work without a wire.”
Open yourself to distractions. The old, ‘a work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, line. Be open to creativity.
Ignore the work-life balance. If you really enjoy what you do for a living then go for it. Time out for the sake of it can be stressful. The worst of both worlds. Take strength and inspiration from your passion.
What do you do that’s counter-intuitive yet successful for you? That goes against the grain.
What rules do you break?
Thanks to Rolleh for the Flickr image