Hail to the Copywriter in Chief

Call Me a Groupie; I Don't Care

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Millie Olson Millie Olson
I'm thrilled by the election of Barack Obama, and I don't want to miss a word he says. In fact, all the days since Nov. 4 have seemed a bit like Christmas morning, waking to his mellifluous voice that reveals yet another distinguished individual picked to head an operation that he or she is supremely qualified to lead and is not intent on undermining.

"You're acting like a groupie," says my husband. But for an ad person and former copywriter, it is especially thrilling to go from a guy who wielded the English language like a hacksaw to a real writer. And by all indications, that rare sub-species, a copywriter, a persuasive communicator like FDR or Churchill with the talent to capture ideas and emotions vividly yet succinctly, in words that touch people and move them to action. And yes, I know he has speechwriters, but also that he does some of the important stuff himself.

"There's not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there's the United States of America." A hundred words or so of great copywriting.

It's about more than rhetoric or style. And it will affect more than politics. Barack Obama's elevation of the public conversation signifies a renewal of respect for the people he is addressing. He doesn't condescend, he doesn't dumb it down. To borrow the words of a great San Francisco copywriter, it's a "conversation among equals."

And he can be an inspiration to all of us who contribute to the endless conversation we now carry on around the clock, around the world, in all conceivable channels, including advertising.

One of Obama's most poignant refrains came late in the campaign: "America, we are a better country than this." That resonated more for me than some of the "change" slogans that bear the stamp of multiple writers and sleepless nights on the campaign trail (change that works for you, change we can believe in, change we need, we are the change we're looking for, etc.).

"Yes We Can" comes from terrain familiar to us ad folks, but look what he did with it in the brilliant speech that spawned the YouTube videos.

I'm not crazy about "The American Recovery & Reinvestment Plan," but then I guess he has to leave some stuff to the staff.

And then there were the election-night words that even impressed William Kristol, not to mention the 39% of U.S. households with dogs.

"Sasha and Malia, I love you more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House".

"Not bad," said Kristol. "It could be a tough four or eight years for conservatives."

The country has never been more in need of a great copywriter. May we be blessed and inspired by his gifts for many years to come.

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