Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Coffee with Blogger/Copywriter, Farrukh Naeem

D: So lets kick it off with a fellow blogger question, why blog?

F: Blogging is fun. Blogging is interactive. Blogging is free. These are someof the basicreasons. I have always considered writing as a means to make a difference, to cause animpact. I do not seemyself as an artist who is writing to express himself and show the world howgreat his literaryskills are. I write on strategy, to get results. For God's sake, we are in abusiness calledadvertising - it's about strategy, ideas, cause and effect. That is the reasonwhy you will seethat I do not rant and whine and put others down on my blog but rather discussthe importantissues that affect the advertising industry, throw some ideas around, anddiscuss the poststhrough reader comments. Writing to get results, to evoke response, being able to assess the impact ofone's creativeeffort, is important to me. That's why I have a strong direct marketing (DM)portfolio. I haveworked with one of the best DM companies in the world - Wunderman. Blogging,with its blogrollsand comments and tags and trackbacks, is like DM to me. It's all about connecting, interaction, two-way communication. Through my blog,I have been ableto help people look for advertising related jobs, source creative talent,discuss industry relatedissues openly, share ideas, find out how advertising is in our part of theworld. I have made goodfriends. I regularly have people calling and emailing me to tell me that theyenjoy reading myblog. Many editors and clients, after reading what I write on my blog, want meto write for them.That is why, blogging! I think blogs can sometimes give a more objective, quick and personalisedaccount of events thanthe mass media, and this is what I too would like to do as a blogger when itcomes to creativity,marketing and advertising.

D: So what are your thoughts on the English copy writing in Dubai?

F:There is very little of it. Press ad layouts have become so predictable - avisual pun with alogo and a tagline tucked in a corner. Yes, award juries like that. It looksclever. But whateverhappened to persuasive, well crafted copywriting? Copywriters are writing loadsof text inbrochures and direct mailers. But I would like to see great copy in press adstoo - I'm fed upwith Photoshopped visuals and stock pictures and posycard ads.

D: Your top 3 copy writers in Dubai?

F: The cult status and prominence that copywriters enjoy in other parts of theworld is not seenhere in the UAE. We do not have copywriters people talk about, like Neil French,Indra Sinha orPiyush Pandey. Why is it like this? See my answer to the question above. I likethe work ofShehzad Yunus of TBWA, Shahir Ahmad of Team Y&R, and John Mani of The ClassicPartnership - all ofthem are more than copywriters - they head or co-head their creativedepartments.

D: Best slogan you've written?

F: You might come across many slogans I have written that have become anessential part of thebrand's communication like "Stay Ahead" for Alpha Data - an IT company and"Expect More FromEducation" for Al Ghurair University. I am not a big supporter of slogans orcatchlines if allthey have to do is sit under a logo and regurgitate corporate fluff about acompany. The best slogans go on to become a part of everyday usage for people. I haven'twritten such aslogan yet but I did coin a brandname that has become part of everyday language.When I was inIndia working for Wunderman (Y&R), I joined the words 'flyover' and highway' toname an expressbridge The DND 'Flyway' and I later read 'flyway' being used as a common noun.

D: Best slogan you've seen in Dubai?

F: I like the slogan 'Fi Masafi?". It's brilliant because it is not just a tallclaim but acampaign idea - like the legendary 'got milk?' Plus, the word 'fi' and the brandname 'Masafi' gowell together. And, it's in Arabic. We need to have more of such brilliantArabic copywriting.

D: Through your experience as a copy writer how do you perceive the role of planning. Creative support or buzz kill?

F: I tend to get along very well with planners. What planners do today,copywriters were doingwhen planning did not exist. Visiting manufacturing plants, polling their targetaudience, diggingup info on competitive products. And even now, only a handful of agencies haveplanners. So manytimes, the inquisitive copywriter gets fed up of asking questions from theaccount executives whoknow only as much as the client has told them and gets out and does his or herown research onconsumer trends, competitive brands. With a good planner, this would not benecessary. Plus,planners can be the creative's best friend when they know stuff about a brandand consumers thatinspires and lights up a writer's imagination. Sometimes, I have seen planners getting so enamoured with their brief that theyinsist on a veryliteral rendition of the strategy - that can seriously limit the creativeporcess instead offocusing it. But it happens rarely. As a copywriter, I think a smart, intuitive planner with the mind of a client,the heart of acreative person and the instinct of a consumer can be a great asset for an adagency and awonderful support to the account handling as well as the creative team.

D: The world is becoming increasingly more frantic, more clutter, more distracting gadgets, less attention, all resulting in less processing time. Will copy heavy ads live on?

F: There is a myth that people don't read long copy. If that was so, youwouldn't be sending methese questions and I would not be writing their answers. If people werewatching more and readingless, we wouldn't have blogs and newspapers and magazines and Harry Potter andDa Vinci Code. 'Copy heavy' itself is a loaded phrase - the kind of stuff spoken by artdirectors who can't readand look at copy as black lines of text interfering with their design. The kindof art directorswho go weak in the knees when they have to design an actual layout rather than a full bleed ad. Well-written long copy is becoming harder to come by, but it is not becausepeople don't read.It's because many copywriters today don't know how to write copy that gets read,how to craft asales pitch, how to build a persuasive case for their product, service or causewith words. Thatis why when it comes to radio spots, where the copywriter can't hide behindphotos and layouts, wesee what is really wrong - the writing sucks. Long copy is alive and well - its experts are minting money for themselves andtheir clients inareas like direct marketing where creativity is judged by ad response not fancyawards. They arethe copywriters who know their art and craft well enough to make people read,get convinced andact, just with the power of words.

D: Many thanks Farrukh for being with us. For more from Farrukh have a look at his blog here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we need to add Avinash & Man to the list of Dubai's brilliant copy writers...

2:58 PM  
Anonymous AP said...

'intuitive planner with the mind of a client,the heart of acreative person and the instinct of a consumer can be a great asset for an adagency'

This is a great line.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Farruk what are your thoughts on the NBD 'go further' slogan?

11:24 PM  
Anonymous farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

Thanks for the chance to be featured on your blog, X. I really like what you are doing.

Thanks ap, I'm glad you liked the line in my interview.

My thoughts on 'go further' - it's good and I think they have visualised it well. But since I do not support 'buy now, pay later' I won't be happy to see 'go further' being used to encourage people to go further in taking loans they won't be able to pay. But then, this is just my personal opinion.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think adding to Farrukhs point on copy writing in the region, I think the measure of copy writing is to analyze the most saturated category in a market, in the UAE's case it would be realestate...not much we can say on that front.

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Copy writing in the region is cr*p full stop. I think we owe that to both clients and agencys hiring cheap writers with english as their second language.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

"cheap writers with english as their second language" - a racist, arrogant and conveniently anonymous comment.

Does being born in a native English speaking household impart copywriting skills?

Copywriting is not about who one's mom and dad are and what they speak, it's about how well one can communicate and persuade the target audience with words.

If one looks at the local advertising making an impact globally today, most of it is written by writers who do not have English as their first language.

The world does NOT revolve around native English speakers. Wake up, man, and read some Man Booker winners for a change.

1:18 AM  
Blogger X said...

Anonymous this might be a tough peice of information to grasp,but u do understand that the human brain can accomodate fluency for more than one language eh?

12:59 PM  
Blogger X said...

Anonymous this might be a tough peice of information to grasp,but u do understand that the human brain can accomodate fluency for more than one language eh?

12:59 PM  
Blogger X said...

Anonymous this might be a tough peice of information to grasp,but u do understand that the human brain can accomodate fluency for more than one language eh?

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is plenty of good writing in the UAE, it does get overshadowed by the garbage, but alot of writers do deserve credit here...

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an arabic writer, I would like to add that the quality of arabic in the region is superb;)

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Ish said...

As a non arabic speaker I would like to agree.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an English/Arabic writer, I would like to add that the quality of arabic copy in the region is appalling.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

If we find the quality of writing is appalling, we writers can do something about it, one brand at a time, one client at a time.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pffft, that sounds like a speach Skeletor gave to over throw He-Man

5:37 PM  
Anonymous farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

Dran, and I thought it was more like Mother Teresa...LOL.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any of you read this old classic: Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples? If not, all copy writers whether wannabe, experienced or about to retire must read this at least once.

12:54 PM  

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