David Burd - copywriter
Looking back at a career of more than 20 years as a writer and marketing consultant, there are a lot of things I’ve written that I’m not especially proud of. Those "frankly I’m puzzled" letters for magazine subscriptions leap to mind. (“Frankly, I’m puzzled. Your subscription to Travel & Leisure is about to expire, but we still haven’t received your renewal instructions.”) Sometimes I had to write ten letters in a row. How puzzled can you be after the customer has said “no” nine times?
At one point I was writing direct mail under the name “Ann Carlton” for a company that sold slightly imperfect pantyhose. “Say girls, if you’re like me you know how important it is to keep a spare pair of pantyhose in your desk drawer for those emergencies when a run in your stockings can ruin your day.” Not only did I have to pretend to be a woman, I had to pretend to be the type who bought discount underwear by mail.
When you hang out your shingle as a writer, you never know what kinds of assignments you’ll get. I was hired to write David Copperfield’s Christmas, a children’s book adapted from an animated TV special that was adapted from the classic Dickens novel. Even though I knew nothing about it, I was asked to write the liner notes for The Partridge Family CD. And I once wrote an entire nightclub act for a female ventriloquist. Putting words in other people’s mouths is one thing but writing for a stranger's dummy is hard work.
But there have been a lot of high spots, too. I really enjoyed creating the original station identification spots for MTV, back in the “I Want My MTV” days when they actually showed music on Music Television.
I had a ball writing the package copy for Pentech’s line of Cool Art pencils. These were conventional wooden pencils that had been designed by cutting-edge artists like Peter Bagge, Drew Friedman and Lou Brooks. It was my job to write a couple of paragraphs on the blister card that complemented and enhanced the artwork printed along the pencils.
I wrote “How To Nickelodeon” the exhaustive in-house style guide for Nick which has been pirated and distributed to competing companies as the model for all television style guides. (It’s amusing when a new client slides a third-generation photocopy across the desk and asks if I can write something like it. I answer that I can, because I wrote it!)
I’m really proud of the work I’ve done as a branding consultant for Cheerios, YTV (the Canadian children’s channel) and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The highly-publicized $10 billion merger of Viacom and Paramount was accomplished at least in some small part because of a song and a corporate video presentation I wrote called, “Merge, Merge, Merge.” The strategy I developed for HBO led to their line “It’s Not TV, It’s HBO.”
Perhaps my biggest job was the 365 “NickDays” on-air promos for Nickelodeon. I wrote a different spot for every day of the calendar year and they aired three times each day. That’s 1,095 times per year that my words were heard by kids. Most parents can’t claim a record like that.
Although I enjoy other kinds of work, I consider advertising to be my strong suit. For a seemingly endless list of clients I’ve written commercials, print ads, sell sheets, on-air promos, flyers, pamphlets, brochures, brand strategies, marketing materials, sales presentations, speeches, press releases, direct-mail advertising and internal style documents.
Most of my work these days involves big thinking, such as creating brand strategies and developing trademarks for companies like Best Buy, Sara Lee and Lucent Technologies. When Spike Lee protested, there was a loud controversy over my name change from TNN to Spike TV, but thankfully I was left out of it when the lawsuits started flying.
I still enjoy copywriting, though. Writing ad copy that sells is always an exciting challenge.
Life is good. Call me. We'll talk.