David Ogilvy’s Guide To Writing Ads Explained Part 5

This rule (#5) of David Ogilvy’s is one I am very fond of. We’re told that being perfect is wrong. That “good enough” is good enough. That striving for the ultimate goal with every fibre of our being is just another form of procrastination, and that we should stop doing it right now.

Why? What’s wrong with trying to be the best? What’s wrong with doing everything we possibly can to position ourselves at the top of our tree by actually going to the top of the tree?

Telling people to stop trying to be perfect is like telling them to fake it till they make it – and we all know where that ends up (misery, fakery, lies, cheating, and perhaps stealing – no fun in that at all, it’s way too easy).

Ogilvy calls his rule “A First Class Ticket”. It’s why the average cost of a Hollywood film is now a hundred million dollars (only fools cut corners – and I should know, I’ve cut plenty of them in my time).

The producers know the investment is required even if the film is a flop (no one can ever second guess what is going to be a blockbuster, although the James Bond franchise and a few others seem to have broken that – but they are hen’s teeth).

Whatever you put out there needs to be the best you can do for one reason: it represents YOU. It is your position. Your line in the sand. It tells the world (whether that’s one person or a billion) who you are and what you care about.

It’s why I edit every piece I publish here in the Science of Copywriting multiple times (I write it, leave it for a while, come back and read it, edit out what sounds naff, add in missing bits where it seems vague, leave it again, reread it, make any other edits, and when I’m happy – I mean when I’m saying to myself “hell yeah!” I publish it).

Today in the ICA I had a member ask me a question on this very topic (pure coincidence by the way). He said “…It seems like I’m never going to finish editing”. Yet he posted his question.

The reason he had no problem writing and posting his question is this: he was using HIS voice. He was happy with it. The reason he’s struggling with editing is because he hasn’t yet found his ‘copy’ voice. Few do. My advice is this: start with your own voice and you’ll never go wrong.

That’s exactly how I write every piece here. The only difference between my writing voice and my speaking voice is that I get to edit my writing voicing to remove all the ums and errs and other crappy stuff that comes out of my mouth.

When you’re stuck on a piece of copy because it sounds naff, it’s almost certainly because you’re trying too hard to sound like someone else.

PS. This piece took around 30 minutes to write plus another 40 to edit (it was read through 4 times and edited 3 times).


ogilvy, procrastination

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