Business writing stories from the coalface … getting naked on the WWW

I grew up in the two-dimensional communication era when we advertising copywriters would more or less size up our key consumers and then write to them … without their having any form of answering back other than perhaps writing letters to the newspaper in which an ad appeared, or to a broadcast station which would have transmitted a commercial.

Business writing stories from the coalface ... getting naked on the WWW

The way we communicate now initially made some of us feel like we were writing in our birthday suits …

The bad old days

Those days were such fun. Oh, don’t get me wrong; our work wasn’t just thrown out there ad nauseam. No, it was subject to intense marketing surveys and studies, most of which were useless.

Often our work, prior to its publication, was trialled in “Focus Groups” which were hugely popular in the 1970s/1980s and were peopled by “typical consumers” dragged in off the street.  In the main these good folks didn’t have opinions on what this ad meant to them versus that ad, but made up an opinion to shut the researchers up and ensure they were given an extra helping of free coffee and cookies.

Many, many advertising campaigns – costing umpty-dump thousands or even millions of pounds or dollars – were launched on the basis of such “research.”  Did they work? To a certain extent, yes they did, because consumers back then tended to be rather sheep-like in their purchasing of FMCG and other products. They didn’t have the benefit of the internet to research purchases before making buying decisions.

And they didn’t question what they were told by business and marketing communicators ; not because they were stupid, however. (Remember the legendary David Ogilvy who said back in the 1950s that “the consumer is not a moron; she is your wife.” PC, he wasn’t.) People didn’t question what they were told purely because it hadn’t occurred to them that they could, or should.

And what has changed…

Quite apart from the welcome changes in advertising approaches, these days (and quite rightly so) the whole premise of “I’m a brand/major corporation/politician/celebrity/social expert/whatever, you listen to me or else” deservedly has gone down the toilet. The internet has seen to that; it has championed the underdog and told the bullying big boys to shut up and listen.

Any brand, or individual for that matter, who has the b*lls to stick their head above the parapet online is listened to – but only if they make very swift, sharp sense. Thanks to the immediacy and transparency of the online environment, who you are is becoming irrelevant. What matters is what you are, and what you deliver right now. Anyone making empty promises sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

So why “naked?”

When you think about it, the internet’s way of exposing the “Emperor’s New Clothes” – in other words, the real self – is what has shaped blogging and social media communication generally. Amusingly though, for those of us who grew up with the earlier two-dimensional forms of business, marketing and even social communication, the way we communicate now initially made some of us feel like we were writing in our birthday suits … stripped of those nice corporate or social cloaks that used to cover up all our lumps, bumps and inadequacies.

Not getting dressed again…

Now, I’m very comfortable with the fact that I’m free to be who I really am, and communicate with everyone as the person I am, or openly and honestly on behalf of the clients I represent. Naked? Maybe. But with the healthy, warm feeling I get from participating in such communications, there’s no way I’m going to put so much as a stitch of verbal clothing on, ever again.

Do you agree that writing on the WWW leaves you free from restrictive verbal clothing?

Please share your views