If David Ogilvy was alive, I bet he'd have very cool blog. He'd have a podcast and rant about writing and pig-headed Creatives. And a Flickr account, for sure. More about David at the end of this post.
Why do I make this strange correlation between a dead adman and a new media-slash-social media company like Flickr? I got an email from Yahoo Photos yesterday informing me that they were porting my albums to Flickr, which as most of you know, is owned by Yahoo. They were all cheery about this, and I followed their prompt. Within ten minutes I had a response from “The Flickreenos.” It started out with “Yee har! All your photos have been imported from your Yahoo! Photos account…”
Before this were two other emails written by a seemingly highly caffeinated communicator (or very human one) in the tech department. Zero corporate-speak, almost like the buddy-talk we engage in on Facebook. Coming from a mega company like Flickr, that's now in eight countries, and has some 24 million visitors a month, I must say I was impressed.
It’s this kind of upbeat communication that I miss, when someone sends me a legally-whetted, PR-sanctioned postcard or email these days, with my name dropped into appropriate slots to personalize it and make it look like they know me.
My point? Variable-data printing, a sophisticated form of mail-merge is great, but should not be a crutch. It should not replace genuine, passionate communication. I don’t know where the good writers have been locked up in organizations these days, but we don’t see a lot of Flickreenos-type communications.
Which brings me to Mr. Ogilvy. I was thumbing through my old copy of The Unpublished Ogilvy, and couldn't help noticing that this copywriter at heart sort of anticipated the Cluetrain idea, often asking people to spike their college-bred stilted communication and communicate like humans. He came out with such gems as “Woolly people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.” This was in the early eighties, when we all know, MBA-speak was all the rage! “Write the way you talk. Naturally,” he often said.
I could just hear the man who once wrote stunningly human copy for
Mercedes Rolls-Royce go Yeeeee har! about Flickr’s un-woolly communication.