Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It’s how you write it

Is it me, or are some television commercials a copywriter’s nightmare? If you aren’t focused on the message, and let’s face it, most of us aren’t, you might miss how poorly a number of commercials are written.

The Insperity television commercials with Jim Nantz are a prime example. Give the “Ahead of the Competition” commercial a listen:

The Insperity copy left it on the lip of the cup in this commercial.

Did you catch the opening sentence: "Arnold Palmer's story is an inspiring golf and business performance." Say what? Taken literally, it sounds like a review of Mr. Palmer’s acting in a live theatre production. As delivered by Jim Nantz, it just sounds clumsy. I find myself mentally rearranging the sentence so it makes sense: “Arnold Palmer's golf and business success is an inspiring story."

Here’s the entire script:

Nantz: "Arnold Palmer's story is an inspiring golf and business performance. While rising to the pinnacle of the golf world, he had a vision of becoming an esteemed entrepreneur, golf course designer, TV pioneer, philanthropist, and an inspiration to his army of fans.”

Palmer: “I achieved success beyond golf, but business owners today need help. Fortunately, there’s Insperity.”

Nantz: “An Insperity business performance advisor can help your company overcome the hazards of today’s economy, allowing you to stay on course and ahead of the competition.

Learn more about Insperity’s HR and Business Performance solutions today.

Helping businesses run better, grow faster and make more money.

It’s what we do.

Insperity. Inspiring Business Performance.”

Arnold Palmer’s business success is an inspiring story. And while the spirit of the message is admirable, the way it is conveyed is awkward. I don’t question that Mr. Palmer had aspirations beyond golf, but to state that he had a vision of becoming an esteemed entrepreneur and TV pioneer is grandiose. His assertion that today’s business owners need help begs for an explanation that is notably absent. And, “Helping businesses run better” begs for a different adverb, like “more efficiently”.

The other business success stories in the Insperity television advertising campaign open with the same line: “NAME’s story is an inspiring business performance.” Each time I hear it, I cringe.

For Insperity, the problems are more pronounced in their radio ads. Listen to how Jim struggles with the script in the Radio: Ahead of the Competition :60 spot. It sounds like he's reading a list of bullet points. There's no rhythm in his delivery because there's no rhythm in the message.

Ad agency professionals might argue that you get what you pay for since the campaign was developed by the company's marketing communications department. Yet, with Jim Nantz and Arnold Palmer as corporate spokespersons, this clearly isn’t a case of a meager budget.

Whatever the reasons, copywriting rife with grammar and sentence structure issues and inelegant word choices can dilute a stellar concept and turn the resulting creative into something rather, well, uninspired.

SIDEBAR: I do like the Insperity customer testimonial videos a lot, especially, thelab and JibJab. They are very well conceived, brilliantly edited and produced, and delivered in a relaxed, honest and genuine fashion by the clients. Powerful.