by John Nixon
The other day, a salesgirl handed me a written script to produce and said, "Here's your verbiage."
"Verbiage?! What in the world is verbiage?"
"It's a piece of copy, a spot, for cryin' out loud! And what's going on around here anyway?"
I'm a calm person by nature. Not too many things rattle my cage. But I can't stand it when people want their spot re-done (usually at the end of the day) because they want you to turn your carefully crafted "conversation" into what I call "science talk."
It just happened to me again yesterday as a matter of fact. I had written and produced a spot for a shopping center about their (stupid) old people's celebration that's coming up. What I said was, "...Northgate Mall presents their 3rd annual Golden Years Celebration. It's called Senior Fair '94...." The spot went on to describe all the dumb stuff you can do at this dumb place during their dumb fair. Routine, right? Well, at the end of the day, the two young advertising girls call and want to hear it, first individually, then together over their speaker phone.
"Oh, I'm not comfortable with it. We'll need to change some things," says the first little what I think is probably an over-sprayed young know-it-all blonde with vertical, satellite dish shaped bangs shooting straight up from the top of her forehead.
"Yea, like she's right," chimes in the other, ending her phrase with today's popular southern valley girl style upward inflection.
"Well, what would you like changed?" I ask.
"We'd like you to change the words it's called to entitled, they say. "And further down, when you say 'sign up for blah, blah, and you'll get blah, blah, blah...,' well, we'd like you to change you'll get to you'll be presented with." Oh my God. They're asking for science talk! And I hate science talk. I explain to them that if I were to meet them for the first time and ask where they work, they would say, "We work at a shopping center. It's called Northgate Mall." Not, "it's entitled Northgate Mall." And if I came down on free donut day, I'd get a donut. I wouldn't be presented with one.
I don't write print ads. I write the way people talk. When the spot is broadcast, I want it to sound like the announcer is talking to me, not reading to me.
Why do I have to explain this to these people? They're being paid to be the Advertising Directors and Directoresses of these businesses. Shouldn't they at least kinda know what they're doing?
Okay, fine. Maybe it's me. I'll just have to change my attitude and conform. So, down the road when they wonder why nobody seemed to hear their spot, or when the Program Director asks what we can do to improve the quality of the spots that we produce, I guess I'll just have to respond, "I think it's time we put a little more effort into the verbiage."