I knew I wanted to be a writer from about the age of 14. At that age, adults are always asking: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a writer,” I told them.

One well-meaning neighbour challenged me: “Then why don’t you enter this writing competition?”

It was about the time the French and Belgian Congo was changing to Zaire (since then it’s more-or-less changed back again). And she gave me the competition entry details together with a copy of the National Geographic magazine about the area.

I read the magazine, incorporated some of the detail into my story, and won the competition. The whole experience taught me the value of research. And now, the more background information I have about a company – its products and services, clients and customers – the better writing job I can do for them.

But what has all this to do with advertising?

Well, there is a story in Alistair Crompton’s book ‘The Craft of Copywriting’ that says the MD of Rolls Royce was presented with a headline: “The loudest noise in this car is the clock.” He replied, “Hmm, must do something about that clock.” But the copywriter was only able to write that line because he sat in the car, drove it around, and researched it properly.

I’d love to do such thorough research for my new travel agent client – shame he doesn’t agree!

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