Friday, April 07, 2006

Today, I am a CEO.

(An open letter from a copywriter writing a letter for a CEO)
Dear Valued Reader:
This is one of those banner days in ad copywriting where I get to write a letter for a CEO. That's right. Mr. High Tech Genius, Creator of his own proprietary high tech product, Founder of his own high tech company, doesn't write his own high tech letters to his own high tech customers. No, he gives the assignment to his MBA marketing manager who, instead of writing it, gives the assignment to our tech-savvy MBA account executive who, instead of writing it, gives the assignment to me——Mr. 2.8 GPA Son Of Appalachian Trail Hillbillies Who Spelt (sic) At A 5th Grade Level When He Was In 8th Grade. This will be about the 100th time I've had to do this. I know U.S. Presidents have speech writers, but they are always, you know, smarter than their CEOs. There are only two explanations here: 1. Mr. CEO is lazy. 2. Mr. CEO has no arms. Here's how I'm starting the letter:
Dear Valued Customer



Blogger ElMachino said...

Always a debasing task. You may want to review "Confederacy of Dunces," specifically the letter Ignatius J. Reilly wrote on behalf of Mr. Levy of Levy Pants. Then, you can lead the factory workers in a revolt.

9:27 AM  
Blogger David said...

Fortuna, Whore!

1:25 PM  
Blogger francophony said...

i generally agree with you, copyranter, but as one who writes a lot of things for a lot of people myself, i beg to differ this time around. a letter to a customer is not much different than any other piece of consumer communication. it's copy. as a copywriter, you're a "specialist," so it makes sense that the task goes to you. there are plenty of very smart people who aren't great writers (or even spellers). i consider myself smart and a good writer, but i suck at math. different people have different stengths, you know? you should thank your lucky stars that you've got a way with the pen so that you can rake in the dough writing for those who don't.

7:18 PM  
Blogger ElMachino said...

Interesting point, franc. Gogent, logical and well-stated. But ultimately, I don't know that I buy it.

There was a time when someone who owned/ran a company was the heart and soul of that company, and could tell you about it with honesty and feeling. Those days are, apparently, long gone. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare, it just has to come from the heart and be truthful. Otherwise, it's talking points and marketing-speak, covered with a sheen of style courtesy of "my writer." If the guy can't write, then he should consider other ways to communicate - maybe video conference his "sincere message" to his his customers (they are a high-tech firm, after all).

12:05 PM  
Blogger ElMachino said...

OK, "cogent."

That's why I don't write letters for CEOs anymore.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mind that ceo passes it off per se, but siding with elmachino somewhat, at least they could attempt to some basic points down even if they aren’t written well. Having shot a lot of CEO's, the same can be said for how photogenic (read : uptight) most are. I wouldn't be surprised if there’s a connection between them and the ones who can’t write their own corporate messages.

12:16 PM  
Blogger concha said...

i wrote spam the other day. my english professors would be so proud.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, one of the CEO's principal responsibilities is defining and articulating the vision, direction and culture of the company to its investors, customers, employees, suppliers and the community at large.

In fact, CEO's are a lot like politicians in that they have a standard stump speech that they repeat to audience after audience, day after day. Y'know, repeat something enough times with enough conviction and it becomes the truth.

With all due respect, I can't imagine how a disengaged copywriter can capture what a CEO feels compelled to communicate to his customers via a print ad.

My guess is the CMO or some other marketing asshole thought the open letter would be a nice touch. Unfortunately the CEO said something along the lines of, "That's a stupid fucking idea if ever I heard one. YOU write the fucking memo, 'cause can't be bothered with this horseshit -- BUT YOU BETTER LET ME SEE THE FUCKING THING BEFORE YOU RUN THE AD!"

The bar is set VERY low on this one.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

one time during a copywriting internship many years ago I had to sign the company CEO's name on business form letters over 2,000 times because he didn't think that the jet ink printer's recreation of his signature looked "authentic" enough.

sometimes -- if the letter was addressed to someone like ROGER PENSKE OF PENSKE OIL -- I would sign the letter like a little kid. or upside down. or with my left hand (I'm right-handed).

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to have a job that required I ghostwrite letters on behalf of the CEO to customers (not mass letters -- individual escalated customer issues).

On one occasion, the customer sent a thank you to the CEO commending me for the legwork I had done in resolving a fairly gnarly issue. The CEO decided that I should receive a letter of commendation for my efforts on behalf of the customer.

Which I also had to ghostwrite.

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You not like to write leter? I want to be writer. Many times I make attempt. But don't to hire. Try very hard. But never hire. Say look like Yoda and smell like old monkey poop and write not well. Pass it. I write good letter for you CEO. I write so many good he ask you to write him again never. Promise. Cross my fingers and hoping to die.

Pass it!

1:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay this will probably piss you all off, but this is what you get paid for... It might not be strictly your job but possibly it's your ability and flexibilty that they're employing you for. Maybe your CEO wants someone else's opinion or maybe they're too busy to deal with it. Whatever the reasoning, you're being paid to do a job, just get on with it. Do the best you can and with the right attitude matbe you'll progress and see a different perspective.

9:30 AM  

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