Why is most copywriting in Israel so dismal?

I don't know. That's the long and the short of it. Before I post my rapturous report on British copywriting, I'll treat you to a few examples of dismal local stuff:

1. Executive Suites?
On the site of Rishon LeZion's old central bus station, a few towers are being erected. Presumably, the ground floor is earmarked for business, while the remaining floors are residential. The building company, Tzarfati-Central , has been advertising in the local papers (Gal Gefen etc) for weeks.
Since I'm a compulsive reader of ads and marketing blurb, I read the ad attentively, though I'm really not looking for a flat.
The title, above the graphic representation of the future residential tower, says:

דירות מנהלים יוקרתיות
בנות 2.5 חדרים
במרכז ראשון לציון

[Literally: Prestigious Executive Apartments
of 2.5 rooms
in the center of Rishon LeZion]

The text at the bottom goes on to describe the perfect, prestigious 2.5 room "dirat menahalim".
I couldn't help but wonder: Who is this ad aiming at? Who's the target audience? What on earth kind of menahalim would want or need a two-and-a-half room flat in the old center of Rishon?
What is a "dirat menahalim", anyway? An executive apartment? I walk past the building site several times a week. The tower is currently 15 storeys high and counting, with four apartments per floor. Does Rishon really have dozens of "executives", or managers, who don't have where to stay the night, who can't travel back to their homes in far-away West Rishon, or Rehovot, or maybe even as far north as Tel Aviv, and need a special flat?... Or is dirat menahalim a euphemism for an apartment for one's mistress?... Or a place to hold meetings? I was totally mystified.

Well, I guess Tzarfati-Central aren't as dumb as I thought. They realized something was wrong with their ad. Maybe no executive picked up the phone…
Within a short time, the heading of the ad was changed, to read:

2.5 במרכז העיר. מושלם לכולם.
[I.e.: 2.5 in the center of town. Perfect for everyone.]
And underneath:
מתחם המגורים צרפתי סנטרל מציג בפניכם את הדירה המושלמת: דירת 2.5 חדרים שתתאים לכל שלב בחיים.
[Literally: the Tzarfati Central residential complex is introducing the perfect apartment: a 2.5 room apt that's suitable for every stage of your life.]

Guys, Tzarfati-Central, did you think this out carefully? Who buys brand-new 2.5 room flats these days, except pensioners going into a seniors' residence?.. Suitable for every stage in life? That's spreading it a bit thick…
Oh well. Why do I bother.

Dismal copywriting, Part II

Banks and insurance companies have plenty of resources. Big advertising budgets. They spend a fortune on ads. They nonetheless often come up with the most lackluster copy. But what happens when they want the ad to run also in the English language press?...

Years ago, when I worked for Bank HaPoalim's International PR department, my boss and I took copywriting very seriously. The department employed English-language copywriters and marketing writers. Or if the advertising agency provided an English version of an ad, my boss Sharon Gefen and I pored over it, agonized over the wording, and produced reasonably good stuff.

I don't know what Bank HaPoalim's practices are these days. But I saw the English version of their most recent ad before I saw the Hebrew. Once again, I flinched.
The huge ad, which appears in the Jerusalem Post and god knows where else, must have cost a fortune. (I don’t suppose the J. Post advertising department would tell me, if I called to ask how much.) The copy reads: Your money works for sure.


I can't blame the English translator. Unfortunately, I recently happened to find out how the J. Post translates at least some of the ads it carries: it gets the Hebrew version from the client, and pays some poor sod who does not insist on decent wages to translate the ad. The poor translator (who will remain poor if he/she continues to work for such abysmal rates) is given about 10 minutes in which to translate and send the stuff back to the draconian person in charge, who is likely to complain "what took you so long???"

As I studied those five words, "your money works for sure", I tried to do a back-translation and guess what the Hebrew was. Turns out is was just as lame as I thought:
הכסף שלך עובד בטוח

The ad was created by Gitam BBDO. I am sure their services don't come cheap. I know Israel has smart and creative copywriters, both in Hebrew and in English. So how come the agency can't come up with brilliant copy?...

Enough kvetching for one day. Next: Examples of British copywriting.


N K said...

Your item re the Rishon apt bldng reminded me of my husband's comment years ago, when "dirot pe'er" started to appear in ads and signs. He used to say that "dirot pe'er" meant that they stuff the holes w/ Ha'Aretz vs. "Yediot" for regular apts. It was clear from the locations and bldings going up that these were no "luxury apts".


Nina Rimon Davis said...


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