Whatever you think about Woody Allen ‘the man’…
As a filmmaker, he’s made some truly great films. That’s a simple fact.
For what it’s worth, I think he’s a brilliant writer, a great director and a good actor….
You only have to look at Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Play It Again, Sam, Deconstructing Harry, Zelig, Whatever Works and on and on and on and…
OK, you get the picture!
Recently I watched a documentary about him – unsurprisingly called Woody Allen: A Documentary, in case you want to see it yourself.
Now, I imagine Allen himself would dislike the idea of copywriting. He doesn’t like the world as it is, so I can’t imagine he’s keen on advertising. But still, you can take good ideas from anywhere, right?
And so we will…
You see, I was particularly interested in something Allen said in the film about the way he approaches film making itself and how it falls in line with how I believe you should approach copywriting.
Here’s what mean…
Since the mid-nineties Allen has been producing a film a year. And most of them have been a bit rubbish. Well… not rubbish exactly, but not as good as his best films.
Recently, he did hit another good run, with Vicky Christina Barcelona and Whatever Works. But then he hiccuped a little again – with You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger – before hitting home a box office smash with Midnight in Paris.
Thing is: he just doesn’t care.
Really. Whether one film’s a hit or another film’s a flop; it doesn’t matter. He just does the best he can to film the script he wrote and then as soon as the reel is in the can, he’s on to the next one.
He claims – half joking, half serious – that he’s following a ‘quantity’ theory… that if he just keeps knocking out films to the best of his ability, a few of them might be half decent.
Funny thing is, it works.
You see, you can only fine tune something so much before you’re just wasting your time. Don’t get me wrong, you should always aim to produce the best version of something you can, but at the same time, you’ve got to know when to stop and move on.
That’s really how it should be with copywriting. Especially when you’re writing a long copy sales letter.
I personally work as a copywriter in much the same way Woody Allen works as a filmmaker. With each assignment, I do the best I can to write out the idea I’ve got in the best way I can. But I write fast and once I’ve written what I think will work, I test it.
If it does work, great.
If it doesn’t, it’s no real worry because I’m already on to the next idea.
Meanwhile, other copywriters are still deliberating over their FIRST idea, trying to guess if the market will receive it well or whether it will bomb. Of course, there’s really no way to know without testing it, but they don’t seem to realize that.
Sure, using my approach will mean that sometimes you write a real clunker that completely flops. But every time you do write something that doesn’t work, you learn something about what might actually work. That knowledge can often be more valuable than writing a promotion that does work but not knowing WHY it works.
And of course, the copywriter that dwells on a promotion and tests nothing… learns nothing!
So, the bottom line is…
Like Allen approaches film making, when it comes to writing copy, you shouldn’t spend too long deliberating and conjugating over the small details if you don’t have a good inclination of whether the overall idea will work at all.
Test it. Change it. Test it again!