And now for something completely different
My most interesting (and challenging) (and cheapest) copywriting assignment in years
The phone rings. It's a man interested in my copy writing services. But not to handle another advertising or marketing assignment. No. This gentleman needs a wedding speech, something I have never done before, at least not professionally.
He explains that his native tongue is not English (it's Cantonese). "I could do a good speech in Cantonese, he told me, "but not in English." Nevertheless, his daughter, who grew up in Canada, insists that he give a speech in English. His first effort was summarily rejected by his daughter. "She said it was too negative (true)." Now he has 24 hours to come up with something better.
I agree to a meeting and quickly discover a couple of things – my client is a very nice man; he's intelligent, well organized and (most important) he wants something special. I ask him whether he would consider something a little off the beaten path. He immediately gives me the green light. "You are a professional," he says. "I trust you." Golden words, if I have ever heard them.
I drive off and let my muse go. What would be fun and still fit within the context of the scenario: daughter rejects dad's wedding speech, orders him to do a second draft, dad recognizes his failings as a speech writer, hires a professional he has never met before.
I imagine what would have happened had my client decided to write the second draft himself. He almost certainly would have hit the internet and searched for popular English phrases he could use in his speech. Easy to find if your native tongue is English. Not so easy if your native tongue is not English. Then you might use as your primary resource something that your daughter -- and all the other guests at the wedding – would never expect. In my crazed copy writing mind, I imagined that this resource would be "the ten most popular phrases in RAP and Hip Hop" and I went to work.
Here is the speech (approved in advance by my client's son, who said "don't change a word."), with the names changed to protect the privacy of my client.
Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, Our Honorable Guests and Friends.
Tonight, it is my honor and privilege to speak about my daughter Emma and John's wedding.
I have been asked – actually ordered – to speak in English, not Cantonese, which is my native tongue. Speaking in Cantonese, I could make a speech everyone would like. I could tell stories. I could even make jokes like Jimmy Fallon!
But doing the same in English, that I could not do. And then I got an idea. I should study the most popular phrases in the English language and use them in my speech. I learned there are two kinds – Hip Hop and RAP – each with wonderfully odd associations of words. For example, instead of wishing my daughter every success in life, I would tell her:
Climb the ladder to success escalator style!
I am serious, this is what the Hip Hoppers say.
One of the most famous is someone called Eminem (Pronounced M and M), which I thought was a chocolate candy. He is very good at ying-yang lines like this one:
Better late than never. But never late is better.
I think Confucius would have liked that line.
I looked very hard to find the right Hip Hop lines to describe how much your mother and I love you, Emma. But there was nothing quite good enough to capture your life story –
- how you took an interest in caring for others at the age of eight and would one day become a nurse!
- how you played like a boy because you had two brothers
- how you learned to become a Ms. Fix-It in a world where everyone expects a Mr. Fix it
- and finally, how you learned to sing like an angel every Sunday.
Little girl, you really killed it!
Now if I was a true Hip Hop star I would end this speech in the traditional way, by dropping my microphone and saying, Lee Out!
But I am much too polite to do that. And I am afraid I might break the microphone!
So I am going to return to my comfort zone, as a father and husband, and leave you with these two thoughts:
This marriage is blessed by God.
And the first day of Happily Ever After starts today.
Eat your heart out, Eminem.
So what do you think? Which of the following phrases best describes how the speech was received?
A) Total disaster. Guests peppered the podium with buns.
B) Mostly a disaster. Guests were either stunned silent or bored silly.
C) Middle road. Some smiles, some frowns.
D) Thumbs up. Generally well received.
E) Very successful.
Click here for the answer
Answer: E (As confirmed by an email I received after the event).
PS: Kudos to my client who put in the rehearsal time required to deliver the speech perfectly.
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