Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Real Men Write Long Copy

That's the title of an interesting new blog by a DM copywriter.

This chap (who so far, remains anonymous) "just got rid of my old, slightly broken art director" and has a new partner who is "competent, but rather demanding." As a result, he is beginning to miss his old art director. "The old one said embarrassing things, which at the time I felt reflected badly on me. But now I wonder if he made me look good?"

He also opines quite eloquently on the relationship between below- and above-the-line.

"It’s definitely true that we letter writers have an inferiority complex the size of Soho towards ATL-ers," he writes, before going on to point out that ATL-ers feel inferior to novelists, screenwriters etc.

Then he consoles himself with the thought that "presumably, there’s some group of professionals who feel inferior to us. Prison guards, perhaps. Or McDonald’s employees (the ones who do the rubbish and the toilets – maybe not the ones at the tills with five stars on their badge)."

Finally he concludes that "the reality is, there’s not that much difference. If you were magically transported into our department, then the creative department of WCRS downstairs, I’m not sure you’d be able to tell which one's which."

Good blog, this. I'll be keeping an eye on it.

Do you agree with the writer? If you work in DM, do you feel inferior to ATL, despite that fact that the creative departments (and salaries) are really not that different?

54 comments:

Sophie and Marie said...

We (recently graduated creatives) feel inferior to the folk who give out The London Lite. Those of us who work at Burger King, are amongst the lucky ones.

Anonymous said...

Why haven't you mentioned digital? From my experience they're the ones whom seem to have an inferiority complex.

Holly said...

An Art Director at my agency was catching up with an old friend, who asked what he was up to these days. He replied that he was an Art Director in a DM agency.

His friend's response? "Oh - don't worry mate, you'll make it one day".

Anonymous said...

So that'll obviously be someone at PAA, then... unless he/ she is lying about the geography...

Anonymous said...

What is ATL?

Scamp said...

ATL = Above-the-line, which refers to TV, press, posters and radio. However, many 'ATL' agencies now also do digital, mobile... and many 'digital' agencies are now doing TV, print...

Anonymous said...

Considering the mention of Air Miles, PAA is a certainty.

Lewis said...

I'm a junior at an agency that does DM, Digital, press and very occasionally posters. Although one day I would love to write for ATL mediums, I think BTL is a great place to start for juniors. I'm not sure, but I imagine the transition from BTL to ATL would be smoother than the reverse? At least I hope so.

Anyway, if I'm honest I probably do have a slight inferiority complex. Maybe because I'm a junior. Maybe because I'm a long copy writer.

Anonymous said...

I know who it is. How exciting!

real men write long copy said...

Thanks for the free advertising scamp, I’ve spent the morning strutting around my agency feeling something of a big shot. I’d assumed you have to pay your blog dues and have at least a year’s worth of unread posts before getting noticed in the blog world, so it’s a pleasant surprise.
The time not spent strutting I’ve been trying to get the fricking rss feed button on my blog to work in order to capture my new audience. No luck as yet but be patient reader(s?)
Dave Mance
Partners Andrews Aldridge
(there goes the air of mystery)

Anonymous said...

I work in DM (whatever that is these days).

I get paid well. I have a creative job compared to 95% of the world.

I don't feel inferior as such. I know i'm as creative as the atl folk I've met. I've written plays, published poems, written and performed music, done stand up comedy. etc.

But I just couldn't handle the wankers in ATL. They weren't as creative as they thought. They just struck me as spoiled rich kids who thought they were cool.

And if you like writing, DM isn't so bad.

All the ATL folk who end up in DM stink at it. I think ATL is an attidute as much as a talent.

So no, not inferior.

But I definitely do have some sort of complex about it. A kind of bitterness.

Anonymous said...

who's your new art director, dave?

real men write long copy said...

Richard Worrow. Don't tell him about this though, if he knows I described him as 'competent' I'll never hear the end of it

Anonymous said...

DM is shit!
ATL rocks!

Nuff said

Anonymous said...

Lewis.
I started in Recruitment Advertising, which is even lower on the perceived 'rung' than DM. But as a writer, it taught me a lot of valuable disciplines which stood me in good stead when I moved ATL. So I think you're right. This whole BTL/ATL thing is an anachronism these days anyway.
Anon 12.58 - I think you make some good observations too.

Anonymous said...

12:58pm. That's not "bitterness" or a "sort of complex". It's full blown psychopathic rage.

Intergral said...

I work in PR so I feel inferior to everyone.
Even journalists.

Was trying to get a copywriting gig but there's no jobs round these parts.
So now I seek solace in Xbox, porn, and writing silly comments on blogs.

Anonymous said...

I love the name Lewis, reminds me of that dude from Ghostbusters...

Integral said...

Oops. 'Was trying to get a copywriting gig but there ARE no jobs round these parts', I meant to say.

Goodness me. I'll never get a gig if I can't even write proper.

Integral said...

Winston is another great Ghostbusters-related name.

that french saying said...

2:15 PM

You still do that when you get the copy gig too. Always something to seek solace from.

Now where's my sniper rifle and hand lotion?

Anonymous said...

You didn't really need a comma after porn, either.

LimitedTimeOffer said...

Killface: And here I am reduced to postcards, the dry hump of marketing strategies...

Anonymous said...

Never mind all that! AMV have just made redundancies. Definitely. 100% guaranteed.

Integral said...

Can we please leave Oxford comma debates for another day?

I'm in the middle of a free-for-all deathmatch thingywotsit.

]-[appy Thought said...

As a digital creative I feel inferior to that guy who danced on a stage for six minutes and has 100million views of his work on YouTube.

I guess our own feeling of inferiority reflect our ambitions? I don't feel inferior to an ATL creative because I know I wouldn't enjoy doing it, but I feel inferior to game publishers and the guy who made Facebook.
I am fully aware that's probably just me though; "DM's shit! ATL rocks!" and all that...

Anonymous said...

3.21 are you serious?
what department?

Anonymous said...

12.58...

Do you honestly expect us to believe that you've made a choice to work in DM rather than ATL because "you couldn't handle the wankers".

It's an absurd generalisation that's clearly coming from a man who clearly couldn't cut it above the line.

Having said that, I am a spoiled rich kid.

Anonymous said...

My sources say creative. Old 'no redundancies' AMV, eh? Didn't take them long to drop that one.

Stefan said...

What's the thinking on writers being able to write ATL and BTL in the same agency? I work with some terrific ATL writers who don't have much of a problem also turning out an effective DM piece. They simply consider it part of their larger campaign idea.

Aren't these distinctions becoming more blurred these days? And, if not, shouldn't they?

Gordon Comstock said...

5.04 - Yes, DM people have being trying to propagate that idea for at least 20 years.

Anonymous said...

4.48

I promise you that it's true.

I would love the work above the line. But honestly. Ad creatives...they can be a little unbearable. And I can't suffer to compete with them - which maybe counts as not cutting it.

I still get to go to New York. I still get award dinners. I still get overseas shoots. I get to film spots. I still get to fuck fit suits.

The work is just a bit more rubbish. And all things considered, I can live with that.

I just don't see ads as art. And I can't suffer people who do. It's just a bit pretentious.

I guess, bottom line, is I don't love ads enough. I think they're a laugh to do - and a cool way to earn money. But that's all.

Anonymous said...

I kant rite

mm said...

do west midlands bus drivers feel inferior to national express coach drivers?

Wal said...

Back in uni our advertising class was split in two, the media neutral crowd (read ATL) and the integrated folks (DM). The former ones were all the cool kids, competitive, proactive but ready to stab each other for a placement. The integrated class was filled with the nice people, sitting around folding envelopes for mailings and writing complicated campaigns, less ambitious.

I think those characteristics apply to people in the industry as well, with exceptions of course. Glad they don't separate that at Bucks anymore.

Bias said...

Around these parts you are expected to do BTL, ATL, digital and the strategies... sometimes even the jingles (it's so demeaning). On top of that, you are expected to do it well.

In all seriousness a copywriter leaving the junior stalls should be able to do it all. If pressed for any kind of order, ATL should probably come first.

Anonymous said...

A DM agency is a regular ad agency for creatives who are 45 and older. Same work, same stupid deadlines, same terrible account people. But at the end of the day we don't have to apologise if the client turned the work into crap.

robin said...

I've worked in ATL, BTL and TTL (through the line) shops.
For me, the probem is, BTL people kill themselves.
Why does every letter need to have a PS?
How come envelopes must have teasers?
Sure, they work.
But that doesn't mean we apply them all the time.

The other thing - many BTL art directors disguise their lack of clear thinking by using 'origami'.
So, the envelope has a teaser, which is maybe 1/10th of the idea.
Then the covering letter header has the 2nd 10th of the idea.
After which the brochure and other stuff complete the rest of the idea.

Many BTL ADs can't do posters.

For me, it's a bit like asking a features director to do a 30-second TV spot. Many can't.

Just as Huxley and other famous novelists couldn't write copy. So claims David Ogilvy.

Wal's old school buddy said...

I seem to remember you were in the integrated group Wal ;)

Anonymous said...

I've worked both sides of the line and have noticed one very important and distinct difference.

People in DM are much uglier, their award dos are like a night out in an inbred backwater town's British Legion bingo night.

Anonymous said...

@ 6.23pm

I went to Bucks and it was nothing like that!

Yes it was split into Media and Integrated, but we weren't sitting around folding envelopes!

And I'd say the integrated lot were more ambitious than Media! Probably why more of the teams in integrated are at ATL agencies than Media.

Dunno, was a while since I was there so may have changed a lot since I left.

Or maybe you were a bad year?

Anonymous said...

The guys who did the last Barclay Card ad, the slide thing, they were originally from BTL.

There's hope for you all.

Maloy said...

I work at a BTL agency in Design. I always thought ATL peeps were the rockstars of the creative world. Until I read some of the comments they posted on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me why it's called BTL? I heard this: Long time ago clients used to have this list where they allocated their marketing funds to advertise on different mediums - TV, Radio, Print, Posters, Banners etc. Then they would draw a line, below which they would put mediums that they think would not work for them and vice versa. Since it was time of the TV and Radio they would put them above the line (means put more money into them.) That's how everything started. BTL got itself a poor name.

Is it true?

real men write long copy said...

Those Barclaycard ad guys are a good example. At college, I admit they were more talented than me (Wes, if you're there, I shuddered as I typed that). But only a tiny bit more talented :) The main difference was they were desperate enough to do telly and wotnot to take a punt at ATL, along with a fat paycut, and worked their asses off. Fairplay to 'em.

The Client said...

There is no line, there is no above it or below it. The sooner "ATL" agencies accept this, the better things will be for advertisers.

Anonymous said...

anon 10:26

I know what you mean... Seriously. But my take out was that people below the line were generally fatter as well.

I put that down to them being too lazy to get a job ATL.

This post is moderation fodder... I don't really expect it to get through...

tonimoroni said...

I think Kate Stanners started out btl...

Anonymous said...

debates like this are hilarious.
there is no them and us.
any of us could switch between agencies and disciplines with a little time to adjust.
it's obvious when you look at teams that have worked at a lot of agencies.
some (very few) don't change their style of working and as such don't tend to stay at any one place for more than a year or two. others adapt and create vastly different work everywhere they go and become a commodity.
if you switched the creative department at grey(not having a go here)with the creative department at bbh. the work would be equally as good at bbh and equally as hit and miss at grey.
it's the cultures created by the agency and clients that determine how good the work is. we're a little foolish sometimes in believing we are the be all and end all, above or below the invisible line.

wez said...

Oi Mance, I've just printed off that comment and Gaz is out buying the frame.

Lots of interesting comments here about a subject very close to me.

From experience, I believe it's much harder going from 'BTL' to 'ATL' (digital doesn't seem to have this problem).

There are great teams 'BTL' who could be huge assets to 'ATL' agencies.

Making TV ads is more fun than writing brochures or letters, but it's all great practice for your craft skills.

There are nice people 'ATL' and 'BTL'.

You get those socially inept types who take advertising too seriously in both disciplines.

I hate using 'ATL' and 'BTL' terms. In my world we're all creatives and I love you all.

Amen.

Cynthia Maniglia said...

In the new economy, there is NO ATL.

Anonymous said...

hey cynthia. you know bill spink?

Anonymous said...

the trouble is that a lot of ATL is starting to look a lot like BTL. Posters that are as ugly and ill considered as a door drop for your local Pizza outlet. eg WANT LONGER LASTING SEX?

Anonymous said...

Having worked either side of the line I can understand how clients prefer to work with BTL agencies: an enthusiastic acceptance of the given parameters, work delivered on time and on budget by people who are not intellectually superior.
All of which is the perfect recipe for crap work.