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David Droga on copywriting for Puma

Let’s talk about what copywriters really do. Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal published a nice essay about copywriting by David Droga, chairman of Droga5, a creative agency whose clients include Puma, Prudential and other large brands. Not surprisingly, the article depicts copywriters as talented and valuable.

Droga writes, “We boil down language to its core emotional constituents, to the point at which words disappear and only a feeling remains.” The headline is “Sweating Ad Copy Like ‘Mad Men.’” You should read it.

I imagine the reactions of some non-copywriters after they read that article:

  • “You lazy bastards! It takes you weeks to write four words?!
  • “I could totally do that! Sign me up!”

Truth is, writing taglines is important, but only a small part of the copywriting field. Many hours of copywriting are devoted to unsexy stuff such as branding guidelines, legal boilerplate, direct mail solicitations and internal communications. Even writers at the top of the game, like Droga, probably spend more time in meetings and handling administrative chores than they do dreaming up taglines. There’s also the arguing: Persuading brand managers to choose your brilliantly insightful copy over something boring and safe. That’s hard.

The most interesting part of Droga’s essay is about his agency’s work for Puma:

“We recently spent what seemed like weeks trying to come up with a tagline for athletic-wear brand Puma that would distinguish it from its competitors. Puma has a highly differentiated position in the marketplace. Some athletic companies just celebrate winning at all costs. Puma also champions ‘social’ sports—think foosball, darts, karaoke, bowling and other wildly popular games that you’re likely to play with a drink in your hand.

“So what do you call the athlete who has no intention of waking up at 5 a.m. to train but who still wants to win? We needed a name, a handle, something that would endure. ‘Champions of the night?’ Hmmm. ‘Night-thletes?’ Nope. ‘The every athlete?’ Too bland. ‘Sportastic?’ You’re fired.

“Then, just when we were ready to pack it in, inspiration struck: ‘the after-hours athlete.’ That had the ring of truth to it. Now an entire category at long last has an identity, and Puma has a rallying cry for the masses.”

Here’s the hero spot from the Puma social media campaign about “the after-hours athlete”:

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Interesting ad, though a little boozy for my tastes. Mostly, I stand in awe of Droga for persuading a client to sign off on a script that includes the word “cockblocks.”

Puma ought to be pleased with Droga’s Journal article. So should copywriters. He manages to bring the Puma campaign to people’s attention (I’d never seen it) and tout his own services at the same time. That’s what copywriters do!

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Copywriting

One comment

  1. Derekh says:

    Backspin on a worktable under bad light.

    A kiss off the eight ball. A bank off the six.

    Double bowl in a single throw, three pints in.

    Picking up a spare on the final frame.

    Singing on-key, off-key, and losing keys.

    Steady hands, blurry eyes.

    Bars, billiards, basements, bacon sandwiches with extra hot sauce.

    Surviving buzz kills, third-wheels, cock-blocks and cabs in the rain.

    Finish lines drawn by dawn.

    These are the providence of the after hours athletes.

    When last call calls, don’t answer.

    The night too is for sport and they are the champions.

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