Friday, February 22, 2008

Twenty some years and counting

It's the weekend. That's what you say after a long week and a long Friday and you're one of the last at the office because it is Friday and it's been snowing all day so people have been slipping out bit by bit but you couldn't because of your workload. But it's a good feeling to have gotten so much done this week, and it's not even a bad feeling to be one of the last ones here. It's quiet, and the office does offer a certain degree of comfort. It's comfortable because it's known.

I've been doing this work for a long time now. It will be 28 years this September, when I moved to Boston and opened up the Globe and saw the price of rent--even back then it was a lot; Boston's never been cheap--and realized I wasn't going to be able to support myself as photographer. So I went straight to the phone book because the Internet was still almost ten years off and looked up ad agencies because I knew I could write, knew it was the one thing I was good at and was confident I could do it, have been able to string together words like circus pony since first grade, and starting at the top of the list with the A's I started calling and got a job at Allied Advertising in Park Square.

You didn't need a degree in communications back then, all you had to do was prove you could write and you did that with a portfolio. Now they won't look at you if you don't have the right degree from the right school.

Then there was no Internet and no computers. We typed copy, handed it to a typesetter who retyped it and ran it out and then a designer cut the type out with a knife and pasted it down with hot wax. There were no fax machines, just these machines with a revolving drum that you clipped the paper to and a laser or something slowly scanned the paper and transmitted it over phone lines. I remember an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper took six minutes.

We did all our work on IBM Selectrics. There was an erasure ribbon, and you erased by positioning the type ball at the mistake and typing backwards. I could type backwards as fast as forwards.

They told us at one point that we would be getting machines where all we had to do was hit a button and send our copy to the typesetters and we all didn't like that idea.

A lot has changed, mostly in the technology. The one thing that hasn't changed is the importance of messaging and features and benefits. That's the core of the business, and no matter how you deliver the message, the message still has to mean something to the person you're talking to. I said person, no people or demographic or demo or audience. Pull up one person in your head who wants to buy the product pretend you're talking to him or her one on one.

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