The Farmer in The Deli – July 4, 2008

The Farmer in The Deli

Why “the farmer in the deli”, for a title? Perhaps I am illustrating a point. Sometimes a heading or teaser is misleading in copywriting, and has absolutely nothing to do, with what is being sold. But it reminds me of a joke. Did you know the Dalai Lama once appointed a monk to run a local Deli? They called the monk the “Deli Lama”. OK, I know I am telling jokes of the same caliber, as the famous Christian motivational speaker Joel Osteen. And if you don’t believe me, just listen to or watch a program or two – especially the beginning two minutes, where he opens with a famous joke.

Anyway, folks often think copywriting is something mysterious and difficult – like writing a Ph.D. thesis on Aristotle in Latin, and having a dissertation committee debate the thesis merits in Swahili. Well, sometimes it may seem so – but not always. I have a couple of books on the greatest copywriting letters ever written. No! I don’t know what the criteria is for their greatness, but common sense would indicate two things:

  1. The number of sales or leads generated.
  2. The number of months or years before another letter beat it, as a control.

Well, one of these letters is for Red Cooper grapefruit. Now a famous copywriter didn’t write this letter. Nor was it a veteran, who spends years doing it. The author was a farmer, who took a weekend seminar, from the legendary copywriter, Joe Sugarman. The farmer wrote the letter one evening, and showed it to Joe. Joe thought it was very good, and only suggested minor corrections. And the farmer had a winner, which sold grapefruit, for a long time. Kind of like the song by Billy Joe, “For the Longest Time.” When I was in the IT business, there was a project we had to work evenings on. A coworker criticized me for singing along in B flat. I knew I wasn’t destined for great songs.

So what is my writing background? Well, other then spending several years of creating technical writing, I was enrolled for years in creative writing classes, and spend considerable time at local writers groups. I produced two novels, several shorts stories, a couple of screenplays, poetry, and a mess of articles. I haven’t gotten any published, but I know how to work with plot, theme, characterization, and a host of other literary buzzwords. So copywriting is a natural hybrid of creative and technical writing, with psychology thrown in the mix (a graduate degree in psychology helps).

The next time you hear of characters like David Ogilvy, remember he used to be a bum. Well, not exactly! He did have a string of different careers, before coming to advertising. And one could argue his diverse background was the springboard of his creative juices. Copywriter and businessman Michael Masterson tells of a friend, who spend three decades as a drifter, and if I recall correctly – even had some addictions. But Michael hired him, and he became a well know copywriter. I prefer not to take up singing, nor write opening jokes for Joe Osteen – both these ideas will fly like a lead balloon. But did you know the Myth Busters, on the Discovery Channel, once build a lead balloon that got off the ground? Kind of reminds me of the gentleman, who attached several balloons to a lounge chair. And he was “up, up and away”, “for the longest time”. Sorry! No more singing. I promise!

Randy Kemp


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