How Curiosity Can Save a Copywriter

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Somebody once asked David Ogilvy for a list of traits that matter most when hiring copywriters. Above all, he said, they have to have an unwavering, overpowering, enormous sense of curiosity.

I can’t help but think that has to be right. Why?

Because sometimes you need to dig deep — really deep –into a product, a target audience, and so much more to find that one gem that’s going to make your ad sing better, louder, and more in tune than all your attention-seeking competitors. And frankly, those who are uninterested in the world too readily give up before they find that one gem.

Of course, that means you stumble across a lot of stuff you don’t need too. And a lot of trivia that just grabs hold of you. And you never know when that trivia is going to come in handy, popping up in your copy when you least expect it. This is one reason, of course, why you never want to play Trivial Pursuit against a very good copywriter.

But it’s also why I’ve piled up a lot of little facts that I don’t know what to do with. Except maybe, share them here. Are you ready? File these, if you like, in the drawer labeled “truly useless information”…

  • Did you know that King Louis XIV once locked up a nine-year old boy in his dungeon for making a joke about his Royal Highness’ bald head? Yep. And he kept him there, too. Agents of the court told the distraught and wealthy parents the boy had simply disappeared. But they knew where he was — in the basement of Versailles, for the next sixty-nine years. Sheesh.
  • Did you know, too, that you’ll never see a rainbow in mid-afternoon? They only appear later in the day or in the morning, when the sun is 40 degrees or less above the horizon (that’s position, not temperature). Meanwhile, there are approximately 1,800 thunderstorms in progress at any given time during the day. And at lest 100 lightning strikes on the planet any given second.
  • Did you further know that, while nearly 25% of the world’s population lives on less than $200 per year, it costs more to buy a new car in the U.S. than it cost Christopher Columbus to equip and undertake not just one but THREE voyages to the New World?
  • Peter Mustafic of Botovo, Yugoslavia, spoke nary a word for 40 years. Suddenly, he broke the silence. When asked by a local newspaper why, he said, “I stopped speaking in 1920 to get out of military service.” Yes, they prodded, but… uh… then what happened? “Well,” he answered, “I got used to it.”
  • Please read the following passage quietly to yourself for the next 30 seconds. Ready? Here it is: ” .” Congratulations. You have just performed the entire Samuel Beckett play, “Breath,” first introduced to the stage in April 1970. Without actors or dialogue. Even the original presentation lasted only half a minute.
  • Don’t wear blue unless you like mosquitoes. They’ll target blue twice as often as any other color. If it’s a female, she’ll even bite (since it’s only the females that do.)
  • Did you know that Peter the Great had any Russian who wore a beard pay a special tax? Good thing Chopin wasn’t living in Russia then — apparently the composer/pianist habitually wore half a beard. Reason? “When I play, my audience only sees half my face.” No kidding.

Will you ever find a use for these tidbits? Maybe. Maybe not.

Here’s hoping you do.

Last modified: August 29, 2017

7 Responses to " How Curiosity Can Save a Copywriter "

  1. Andrew says:

    Having worked with several young copywriters and graphic artists, I agree. In my experience, the most successful are those who ask the most questions.

    Those who fail were almost always those who assumed they knew but really didn’t.

    -Andrew @wordpost

  2. Curiosity is one of the reasons I became a writer. In what other profession could be spend so many hours each day learning new and interesting things?

    I love the tidbits you’ve shared. Who knew THAT about mosquitoes although I have to question the source. If only females bite, how do males get the sustenance they need to survive?

    It is amazing to consider how inflation has affected our financial expectations. The value of money has always been subjective.

    I already knew that about rainbows since rainbows are not physical manifestations, they’re an illusion created by refracting sunlight as it reflects on raindrops. It is also impossible to reach the ‘end’ of a rainbow because your ability to see it is entirely dependent on your position and distance away from it. *ponders* Now of course I wonder why it arches… *wanders off to Google*

    Thank you again for sharing these little ‘facts’. Who knows how we’ll use them in the future. 🙂

  3. jackforde says:

    Thanks Rebecca… I know just what you mean.

    And re: the mosquito question, you made me wonder too. Answer? The females need the extra oomph from blood for blessing the world with more baby mosquitos. The males, though, only eat plant juices.

    Or so they say here: http://www.mosquitoes.org/LifeCycle.html

  4. […] Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can save the copywriter. So says John Forde of The Copywriter’s Roundtable. He makes a great case, starting with Ogilvy, and I have to agree with […]

  5. Great post. I’ve always viewed curiosity the same way as Ogilvy (even before I knew who that was.) I wrote a response on my own blog here: http://bit.ly/2umZiY

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. AM says:

    Having worked with several young copywriters and graphic artists, I agree. In my experience, the most successful are those who ask the most questions.

    Those who fail were almost always those who assumed they knew but really didn’t.

    -Andrew @wordpost

  7. jackforde says:

    What’s also interesting is that those who make that assumption are often those who can’t take a good critique and are least willing to try incorporate other people’s ideas, whereas the curious are often the most open to seeking input.

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