WizardBy Sanden McNally

In every interview I’ve ever had for a writing job, you receive the inevitable question…”Are you familiar with Roy Williams (The Wizard Of Ads)?” This is like asking a jock, “Are you familiar with Howard Stern?” And surprisingly, to my way of thinking, they both have a lot in common. Neither of their styles will work in 99 percent of the radio stations in Canada.

Roy Williams has many great ideas. I am not disputing that. But there are many people out there with as many good or possibly better ideas for the day to day of a busy creative department. The Wizard of Ads philosophy is accepted by many with an almost evangelical passion, but these ads follow a very definitive style. One that is based on the imagination of one man. One that is not based in the reality of a small to medium market station, but rather the arena of an ad agency. When you have a dozen or more clients to write for in a day, most with a very distorted idea of what makes effective advertising, any writer would find it a little difficult to stick to all these principals.

A creative department is really the land of compromise. Taking a bad idea from sales or the client and making it palatable and appealing to the listener. Client A sells chainsaws. He probably would not respond to: “You can feel the power. The chain turns slowly at first, seems almost to stall… then comes to life with a roar. You are now in control of one of Husqvarna’s finest saws. The Husqvarna 357 becomes an extension of yourself.” More than likely, he will want: “My store has been in business since 1974. We are the exclusive distributor of Husqvarna. The Husqvarna 357 saw comes with a 35 horsepower motor, an 18 inch chain and Husqvarna’s lifetime guarantee. My store has it on sale now for just 3-99-99. Call us today at 593-8156 or toll free at 1-877-942-4576 or online at….” There needs to be compromise and that’s what makes a great creative writer.

I have attended many seminars in which I’ve learned a great deal — ideas for getting started, excellent ways to combat writer’s block, how to use sound effects more effectively and a lot of very cool brainstorming ideas. But I have never gotten an answer to “How do you get a client to run a really good spot when they don’t want to?” No one knows. Not every client will go for it. You need someone in a creative department who is flexible, someone who looks at the world and takes everything of value to create a style that is uniquely their own, someone who can balance the wants against the needs of a client.

No one person has all the ideas. And by promoting carbon copies, you limit the future of creative. Encourage your writers to attend every seminar possible, sales and creative alike (and paying for it would be nice too) to learn all they can, to adapt this to their style. Creativity is the key here. Promote it, don’t limit it.