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Friday, February 20, 2009

A Great Example of Not Knowing Your Audience

When I was the senior copywriter for an advertising agency that specialized in audio marketing (you know: those prerecorded messages you hear when put on hold after calling a business. "Did you know we’ve extended our weekend hours to 9 p.m.? Thanks for your patience. We’ll be right with you."), the number one tenet to keep in mind when writing the scripts was knowing the audience. In other words, no one likes to be put on hold so try not to irritate them any further! Ninety-five percent of the messages needed to be short and punchy -- preferably no more than three sentences -- with soothing music in between.

The clients always had to approve the scripts before we proceeded, and part of my job was to coach and guide clients as to what was the most effective way to reach their customers and prevent them from hanging up. The great majority understood that we knew what we were doing and they trusted our judgment. But I always had a few clients who absolutely insisted on proceeding with unsuitable script copy. For instance, one physician client always inserted "resume spots" into his scripts:

"After graduating from Slice and Dice University, Dr. Fancypants MacScalpel toured Italy, France and Germany on his bicycle with his two best friends from childhood, where he learned how to properly prepare strudel and linguini. Upon returning to his hometown, Dr. MacScalpel took up a new hobby, the Frisbee. Today, he regularly competes in Frisbee tournaments in the Midwest …"

You get the idea. Not to denigrate his accomplishments or background, but there are more appropriate forums to disseminate that kind of information. Just imagine being trapped on hold for 10 minutes, forced to listen to that. I thought so.

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