Brian Barrett over at Gizmodo waxed rhapsodic over the "rant" in this online ad for an inkjet cartrtidge. And he wasn't the only one. As if it really were a Howard Beale moment in the world of copywriting. Really?
There's a process that we copywriters go through. Nothing is unmediated. Forget that things go past supervisors, account people. Let's just stop and notice all the spelling errors in this piece. It wouldn't get through proofreading.
I suspect this was an extremely clever viral strategy that everyone fell for. Because this has turned up all over the web today.
I can be certain this was a plant because way before the Internet became a public wall instead of a Defense Department tool I was living in Tokyo, where I worked as an English language copywriter at Japan's largest ad agency, Dentsu. And I created an ad for a very rare daring Japanese client who ran it knowing it would become a subject written about with humorous condescension in Tokyo's many English language newspapers.
If you follow sites like BoingBoing and Gizmodo, you will on occasion find hilarious examples of Janglish — that weird combination of Japanese and English that comes from either a misunderstanding or spelling errors. My client, the New Otani Hotel, had a steak restaurant on the premises called The Rib Room. In Japanese, the R and L sounds are very close, and the B and V sounds are very close. So a Japanese person, in trying to pronounce the English work Live might say, and for that matter, spell this word, in a way that a native English speaker might hear as Rib.
Taking out the copywriter tool box, which includes using familiar phrases and playing with them to make a headline more memorable, I wrote the ad you see below for the restaurant. I told the client that some in the local press and letter writers would make merciless fun of them for running the ad. And that others would recognize that the restaurant was in on the joke. But that it would be reprinted and talked about. It was.
I make no claims to this being award winning or wildly creative. When I was a 30 year old writer in Tokyo, I was proud to have found an opportunity to do something fun, and happy to find a client brave enough to play.
Today, the internet makes such opportunities both harder and easier to recognize. But when done well, and when picked up, the rewards can be a worldwide business bump, instead of simply a few more seats filled at The New Otani.
Mind you, the only reason there was an open position in Tokyo so that I got the job was that a writer before me had mischeviously written a headline for a now defunct Japanese bank that took advantage of the fact that the Japanese client didn't recognize the semi-salacious word-play.
The logo of the Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank was a heart. So this writer's headline, which ran in the Japan Times and the other local English language papers was: Dai Ichi Kangyo Has A Heart On For You.
I don't get opportunities like this much anymore. My work does in fact go through account people, proofreaders, lawyers lawyers and more lawyers. So you might understand why I don't believe the ink cartridge ad was a real "rant." A great copywriter sees opportunities on match book covers if that's the media to work in (and that tells you how old I am!).