Announcing the League Against Small Type. (Obvious gag not available.)

As far as I can see, WordPress doesn’t allow me to select a tiny font for either the headline or the text of this blog.  Which is probably just as well, because writing a rant about how much I hate small type in very small type is a gag that’s probably too obvious to be worth doing.

Still, it’s been in my mind as one of the things I most hate about the creative services industry for literally decades, and a recent small crop of experiences has brought things to a head.

First, I underwent the still-bizarre experience of sitting on the client side of the table for a series of three agency pitches.  All three agencies presented on TV screens.  And two out of the three showed slides featuring levels of small-print detail that were unreadable to most of us in the room – one even showed its creative on screen, with the effect that we couldn’t make head or tail of anything except the headlines.

Then it was my wife’s turn.  She is a financial market researcher, and was sent some PDFs of new print material to test, onscreen, among groups of financial advisers.  The tiny copy was unreadable – she sent it back, saying that unless it could be changed she’d be wasting her time.

And then just today, I needed to read some instructions on a website:  even wearing my very best reading glasses, I have no idea what it was saying.

I know why this happens.  It happens because the people designing and producing this stuff are a) young, with good eyesight, b) working on screens no smaller than 22 inches and often much bigger, and c) don’t care whether type is readable because they have no intention of reading it.

I think it’s pretty embarrassing that designers who are supposed to be in the business of communications operate in this way, but it’s even more embarrassing that those around them on both agency and client side don’t pick them up on it.

Hence the need for the League.  I must admit I haven’t given an awful lot of thought to what it’s actually going to do yet, but I suspect that writing grumpy letters, emails, tweets and blogs to name and shame offenders will be a large part of it.

To this end, it would be helpful if you could send me details of any perpetrators who come to your attention.

But ideally in nothing smaller than 11-point type.

How many shops are there in Oxford Street?

Walk it from end to end scrutinising the shop windows, and there are obviously hundreds.  But try it another way – scrutinising, instead, the shopping bags actually being carried by the street’s shoppers – and it seems there’s just one.

Which is, of course, Primark.

I’m not actually convinced that anyone buys anything at all from any shop on Oxford St other than Primark.  You just don’t see bags from Selfridges, or John Lewis, or Debenhams, or M&S, or any of the big department stores, let alone any of the specialist clothing, jewellery, footwear or electronics retailers.  You just see Primark bags.

Being so massively visible on what I believe is still the UK’s number one shopping street has to be worth millions and millions in advertising terms to Primark.  To anyone coming to the street in need of a bit of guidance (like any one of several million tourists, for example), it says that Primark is the only place where you’ll find things you actually want to buy.

Inevitably, this leaves me searching for an analogy in the financial world.  Have any firms made anything like the same kind of effort to encourage thousands, if not millions, of consumers to promote their brand on their behalf?

In London, I guess there’s one analogy which works reasonably well – the thousands of rentable “Boris bikes,” originally sponsored by Barclays and now by Santander.  Similarly, this mobilises thousands of people, recruiting them to the cause of building brand awareness.  But that is the only one I can think of.

OK, I admit that Primark has got it easy.  When you’re selling goods to people, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that providing them with branded bags to take the goods away might be a good idea.  And the reason why I can’t think of an obvious analogy in financial services is that there isn’t an obvious analogy in financial services.

Still, I think it would be well worth while to give the whole subject a bit more thought.  Amid today’s blizzard of paid, owned and earned media, I reckon that if dominant enough, “carried” media – that is, media carried around the place by your customers – is one of the most valuable kinds.

Three reasons why I’m not really looking for long-copy jobs

(Short copy, no problem at all – bring them on, don’t let me put you off.)

Reason number one is a sort of hybrid reason:  to be honest, I find writing long things – websites, brochures – boring and daunting in equal measure.  I’ve spent most of my career as an advertising writer, and advertising copy is almost always short.  By this point, 60-odd words in, I’m ready for a wrap-up:  For more information, call me on 07850 055 390, or go to luciancampconsulting,com.  And enjoy a great deal – and a great deal more.  That’s it, job done, off down the pub.  Having to sustain the effort over thousands of words is, well, as I say, boring and daunting in equal measure.

Reason number two:  you’ll change or cut all the good bits.  People who ask me to write long copy usually do so because they think they want my kind of stuff.  But when they get it, they realise either that they don’t really, or that their boss doesn’t, and then they get out their editing pencils and take out all the bits that make it my kind of stuff.  I don’t want to irritate an old friend, but I could point you to a Guide To Investment on a well-known wealth manager’s website that is the dreariest and less interesting thing you could ever read:  it bears pretty much no resemblance at all to the rather perky first draft I submitted.

And then reason number three:  compared to other things I do, it’s really badly paid.  This is partly because there’s no real chance of an efficiency dividend – in other words, of completing the job in half the estimated time so that you effectively double the estimated rate.  Writing long copy takes time.  But it’s also just because…well I don’t really know because of what, but over all the years I’ve been in this business day rates for copywriters have increased less than pretty much any other cost I can think of.  When I first hired a freelance copywriter back in 1985, the going rate was £200 a day.  Now the good ones cost a lot more – but you can still hire a freelance copywriter for £200 a day.

So those are my three reasons for not really crossing the road to pick up a long copy brief.  (I suppose if I’m really honest, there’s a fourth reason, which is that there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of other work that’s easier, more fun and better paid.)

And if you’re feeling concern that this means I’m lacking an outlet for this kind of more expansive expression, don’t worry.  What do you think this blog’s for?