Another copy qualm (little girls as decor)

That anxiety-inducing daily deal site I recently mentioned has done it again.

Being a copywriter myself, you’d think I’d avoid tearing apart some other copywriter’s work. But apparently that is not the case. I’ve written for many fabulous clients but I’ve also written passionate, emotive copy about cat-themed chip clips and Cinnabon. So I’m not above this. Besides, my copy has been crapped on, too. In fact, it’s probably happening right now. Some Godforsaken banner ad on the outer edge of the internet is offending someone due to its excessive enthusiasm about small business phone systems and it’s all my fault! Plus, the writer of the copy I’m about to share is just following the messaging points dictated in a creative brief, and using the tone mandated in a company’s style guide. All of that is out of the writer’s control. So this is really a critique of the company, and advertising in general, as opposed to an attack on a lone copywriter. I’ve been where this person is but have still managed to enjoy this line of work, overall. And I honestly hope that this person can say the same. Despite having to write about magical dresses that attract butterflies, ice cream cones (perhaps) and cupcake-excreting unicorns (definitely).

So. The copy below, promoting yet another must-have summer dress that has supposedly been “marked down” to the jaw-dropping low price of $19.99, induced an eye roll so huge and swift, I strained my corneas and ruptured an eye brow.

“She is the embodiment of summer and all the joys warm weather brings when she dons this cheerful dress. With its tiers of ruffles she’s sure to be the centerpiece of every family picnic this summer. The soft material with a bit of stretch lets her move about freely as she reaches for another slice of watermelon. Dress features a keyhole button closure in the back.”

Okay. It starts off with a bit of overly dramatic flair pushing the “summer” message. Fair enough. I’m sure some parents really do expect their daughters to carry an entire season on their backs and, with it, the responsibility to deliver its fleeting joys. Fine. But here’s the kicker–joy and summer are only evoked “when she dons” this pile of ruffles. Otherwise, she’s not summer-y at all. Wearing, say, un-frilly shorts and a tank top, she evokes a cold, joyless and androgynous wasteland, therefore letting everyone down. EVERYONE!

“The centerpiece of every family picnic this summer?” What? I’m picturing a blond pony-tailed four-year-old stationed in the middle of a picnic blanket, family fun and chaos unfolding around her while she remains motionless with palms up. A human napkin holder. It’s this little girl’s job to look good, and give visual cues to help set the tone of the gathering. “What are we celebrating? Oh wait–Susie’s wearing puffy pastels. Happy Easter!” It’s all about what the kid wears. “Susie! Tone down the personality, put on this dress and be a star!”

And the crown jewel in this toddler tiara: “The soft material with a bit of stretch lets her move about freely as she reaches for another slice of watermelon.” Really? Really? We have to point out that this sleeveless summer dress, as opposed to the restrictive petticoats, corsets and straight jackets normally worn by little girls in 2011, allows her to move about freely? And they’re not talking about the extra movement required for soccer or even tag, they’re talking about grabbing a piece of fruit. Because that’s as active as little girls get. Judging from this copy, I’m guessing that normally, little Ella would be wearing fabric with no stretch whatsoever, like upholstery or a fine blend of steel wool and platinum. She typically asks her mobile, cotton-clad brother to fetch the watermelon and place it directly into her mouth. But what a treat! In this frock, she can go get it herself. A sweet little taste of freedom! Assuming she has energy left over, you know, after centerpiece duty.