BACKGROUND: In 1996, MRF celebrated its Golden Jubilee (50th year). They needed a booklet / brochure to be distributed to their shareholders and partners and corporate customers showcasing the achievements of their 50 year journey. We, being their lead BTL agency were keen to win this prestigious project and the Copy Head was asked to come up with hard hitting copy that MRF would approve.
I was still a junior writer then and was busy with the day to day MRF btl jobs that had to be rushed out. I was aware though that the booklet copy was still not approved and that MRF wanted something more which the agency couldn’t pinpoint.
Our Copy Head and another senior writer (both from journalistic backgrounds) were baffled. They had written neat copy in journalistic tones about the achievements of MRF…about a page. Can’t do much else with a brief that was almost non-existent.
CLIENT: MRF Tyres LTd (Chennai)
AGENCY: Goldwire Chennai
PRODUCT / SERVICE: MRF Golden Jubilee
BRIEF: A brochure/booklet celebrating 50 years of MRF. That was all that the verbal brief said…nothing written down, no extra information. It was upto me to interpret and write – the client and agency themselves were not sure what they wanted (as usual :-)).
MEDIA: Brochure / Booklet
ART: Sandesh Talpade
COPY: Umesh Ponnusamy
Facts and figures are a copywriter’s best friend. If you are wondering about that quote, I made that up now. It could also have been a quote by anyone of those copywriting legends. Because I remember reading something similar in some of those famous books on advertising…Ogilvy on Advertising, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor (this book was one that Aubrey always asked young recruits to read…the other one being The Hidden Persuaders ) etc.
The perfect brief will have a lot of facts and figures. This will automatically write the copy for you. Facts and figures are what authenticates your copy and create a sincere and persuasive advertisement…which is what you as an advertising professional have to achieve.
Facts and figures were what the previously written copy for the MRF 50 year Booklet lacked. Though it did contain some facts, it was all a repeat of the same old corporate spiel from the countless MRF brochures that had come before it. I realised this as I took a cursory glance at what had been written before. My copy head and the senior writer were at a loss for words since they had exhausted all their approaches, each being rejected.
One of the traits of a good copywriter it is said, is a love for information and an ability to curate and archive information that you can retrieve at the required time for work that needs it. This or something similar was what I had read in a book called “The Creative Connection“, a recommended text when I was doing my Visual Communication degree at Loyola, Chennai.
True to that above trait, when I had joined Goldwire, I found a lot of scattered MRF brochures and annual reports strewn around the creative department. Nobody had the time or inclination to sort them or get them organised in a shelf. The first thing I did was to get the whole bunch organised. I got the office assistant to get me some plastic covers and I sorted out the different brochures and annual reports by client name or industry and had them neatly shelved.
I reverted to this information repository, to find out if I could glean some new information on MRF. I struck gold in the old MRF annual reports that I had taken the pains to preserve and archive.
These annual reports dated back to the 70s and each annual report had some interesting information about what MRF had achieved in that year.
I opened up my writing pad…
(Digression: In 1996 though we had a few computers in the creative department and though Goldwire being the most wired advertising agency in the whole of India at that time – another story for another post – not every copywriter had a computer yet, but we eventually did get one for each one of us after a few months)
…and started jotting down these nuggets of information. I was doing this the whole afternoon. Late evening, the account manager checked on me to see the progress, I showed him the notes. He asked me to stay back and complete the draft the same day itself. Goldwire was an accounts driven agency, I think most btl agencies are.
After extracting whatever I could find from the annual reports, I repeated the process with other brochures and also borrowed some information from the copy written by my seniors.
I started compiling, writing, editing and crafting the copy into a computer I think around 8pm and didn’t stop until 2am. I took printouts and left a copy on the Account chief’s desk and made my way home.
The starting quotation in the Introduction was something that I recalled from numerous quotations that I had read. This quote had struck me as being very powerful and symbolised the spirit of entrepreneurship, what the beginning of MRF was all about.
The next day, I was called by the CEO (Aubrey). He wanted to know from where I had gathered all this information. I told him. I think they were surprised and maybe didn’t even remember that these annual reports existed.
MRF approved the first draft without much changes and filled in the gaps by providing us with annual reports from the 50s and 60s and suggested a few more inclusions. All in all I didn’t have to rewrite and I didn’t think of revising the drafts, as I was again sucked into the whirlwind of daily activities at the agency.
Aubrey later lambasted the Copy Head for not improving the quality of what I had written as I think there were a few crafting errors. My first draft got printed as is!
1) Facts and figures are a Copywriter’s best friend.
2) Fancy words and literary soliloquies (hope you get what I mean-get the dictionary if you don’t :)) won’t get your copy anywhere.
3) The amount of respect and love you show towards information (in this case my preservation of old annual reports and brochures), the same is what you get back.