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Weapons grade writing

Will Awdry is former Creative Partner at Ogilvy & Mather, and leads one of the industry's best copywriting courses: Writing for Advertising.

One of the nastiest comments you can make about advertising is not that it’s inaccurate, but that it’s derivative. To describe an idea as ‘derivative’ as in ‘borrowed from’ – as opposed to the noun that is some murky financial device – is a savage critique.

It immediately suggests a lack of freshness. Accusations of stale, lazy or ripped-off follow. Award juries deny gongs on the basis of being derivative. This is ridiculous, as derivation is one of the immutable foundations of advertising. 

Much of Adland’s best work is borrowed, inspired by, or just a plain nick. A decade ago, our Audi Quattro ‘Wakeboarder’ spot followed – unwittingly – on the heels of a Goodyear ad featuring a man waterskiing behind a car in the Everglades. 

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