The Grumpy Old Copywriter: “Got a Scintilla of Originality?”

We’ll be honest: With Anna out on maternity leave, we’ve decided to dig into our newsletter archive to keep our blog fresh. Here’s a piece from a good friend of ours, the Grumpy Old Copywriter. Enjoy.

Thaddeus Van Haltren

Since its inception in 1993, the “got milk?” ad campaign has helped reinvigorate milk sales and indirectly led to millions of cases of excessive bloating.

While I’ve been a victim of the latter, I’d prefer to focus on my first point. In particular, the success of this landmark campaign has sparked countless imitations. And that really burns my britches.

Just today, I saw a dump truck that had “got junk?” pasted on the side. I also spied a bumper sticker that read “got veggies?” and another that asked if I “got lift?” (My great-great grandson explained this was a reference to a sport known as “snow-boarding.” I’m not familiar with that activity.)

Back when I was working on the first Ford Model T marketing campaign in 1908, this kind of blatant mimicry would have gotten me permanently barred from the National Copy-writers Association. And you know what? I would have deserved it.

Yes, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. But if the best your copywriter can do is come up with “got milk?” rip-offs, I suggest you fire him post-haste.

Thaddeus Van Haltren founded The Hired Pens in 1931 and now serves as our senior copywriter emeritus. His current accounts include Moxie soda and Burma Shave.

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