Advertising legend David Ogilvy circulated this memo almost exactly 30 years ago, and it’s still every bit as relevant today. What I especially love about it is how plainly it says that good, clear writing is required of everyone, and not just copywriters.
For me, point 9 is the single most important piece of advice, and number 5 is right up there, too. I’ve received 15-page briefs that, in spite of their length, still failed to clearly state what was expected of the creative team.
I also love point 4. The jargon Mr. Ogilvy outlines is no longer in use, but it’s been replaced by terms that are even more pretentious and annoying: leverage, dimensionalize, empower, core values, scalable, drill down, robust and so on. Because jargon actually obscures true meaning, it greatly increases the risk of misunderstandings and mistakes. Please, just take the time to figure out what you want to say, and then say that instead.
The most interesting point is number 10. Though it was written in the age of paper memos, it’s even more true today. I’ve seen agencies almost miss deadlines because nobody ever talked to anybody – they assumed that sending an email was sufficient. But if your colleague gets a hundred emails a day, there’s a good chance yours will get missed (even if you add that little red exclamation icon). Remember, we as a species have a deep history of face-to-face communication. It’s how the human community grew, flourished and bonded. Humanity’s reliance on the written word came later – much later. So when it’s crucial to have something understood, please try to say it in person.