“In A Word” © Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved
I am more than happy to slay this one with far more than one word. How many times have we heard something like exhibit A; “Why do I drive a German car? In a word: Quality engineering.” Excuse me, but that was more than one word. Of course I could be mistaken. Let’s look at this together—just to make sure I’m not missing something. Let’s see, after the promise to address the query—with a solitary word—as to why someone would chose to drive an automobile with Teutonic lineage, I see the word “Quality”. Okay, there’s one word. But wait; is that another word immediately after the one and only word we were expecting? Why yes, I believe it is. Upon closer inspection, I’m definitely seeing the word “engineering” after “quality”. Would it have killed the copy writer to instead use exhibit B; “Why do I drive a German car? Two words: Quality engineering.” I really need to step back away from this one and walk around it because it confounds me. I’ve seen and read adverts that set up the tag line with the preface “In a word:” and then actually make the statement in one word; cool. But that would only account for 50% of the spots that use this cliché. Frankly, I like when there is an opportunity for this kind of brevity. Less is more in advertising after all. Perhaps it is this desire for brevity that copy writers cling to this ploy—even when it isn’t in the cards to get the point across in—well—a word (Did that annoy you? Good. I’m still making sure you’re still paying attention). Instead of reworking the spot that may have been entirely based on the threadbare, “in a word…” tag line, they sneak a second word (& sometimes, yes, a third word) into the copy, hoping that the reader/listener/viewer only pays attention to the subject and not to any superfluous adjectives, or the other way around. I’m sorry but an adjective is still a word in my world and there is nothing wrong with exhibit B. In fact, it’s more powerful because the word “engineering” without a favorable adjective could just as well be “crappy engineering”. Just ask anyone who drove a Yugo or Trabant back in the day (if they survived the experience). Moreover, is it really that bad if two or more words are used? With all this said, inserting the preface, “in a word”, adds three words of copy; brevity indeed. Should this type of copy be banished from advertising? In three words; yes it should.
Thank you for your time!
Check back soon for part VIII!