Should You Play It Safe?

Photo by Orin Zebest

Photo by Orin Zebest

I’d like to share an anecdote with you. I’d just started out as a junior copywriter, and spent my days writing quick copy samples for potential clients. Not glamorous or particularly exciting, but exactly the sort of thing that teaches you to write for a variety of audiences.

One sample that sticks in my mind was for a clothing company. They had a MySpace page, a strong design aesthetic and a quirky name. The theme running through all three was a post-apocalyptic flavour that pulled in phrases and themes from old Cold War propaganda.

Just my cup of tea. So I set to work and crafted my sample. I went to town. Sound effects, wailing sirens. The lot. Something that I thought would at least demonstrate to the client that we knew where they were coming from.

It got pulled up by one of the senior guys. Some of my wording contained negative connotations, so he thought I should re-write it in a more upbeat manner. More sedate. Closer to the more corporate copy we produced most of the time.

I did what any young and inexperienced writer would do. I took the feedback on board, rewrote the sample and sent it on to be presented to the client.

They never signed up for the service.

I often wonder if sticking by my original piece would’ve had a different outcome. Whether taking that risk would have paid off where playing it safe didn’t.

I’m almost certain that it would have.

3 Comments comments for "Should You Play It Safe?"

  1. Rob says:

    Great post. A big part of the job is fighting for your tone of voice – not just rolling over because someone’s nervous that a tiny minority might read it the wrong way. Most of the time they’re not the people you’re writing for anyway.
    .-= Rob´s last blog ..Ground pepper day =-.

  2. Rowena says:

    I find that it’s often the clients who make a big deal about wanting something ‘edgy’ who end up picking the safest option. But sometimes those you think look for safety may surprise you. Always give them the option – if nothing else, it keeps you on your toes.

    I say that having stuck with safe for far too long – it’s a difficult habit to break out of, once you’ve been ‘corporatised’ by senior people who ‘know better’.
    .-= Rowena´s last blog ..The eureka moment =-.

    • Andrew says:

      That’s true. They can have a very sanitised edginess with strict boundaries that just limit your creativity.

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