While I’ve never (openly) referred to legal as “the sales prevention department,” like any creative person, I do harbor a bit of resentment when my carefully crafted copy is neutered after legal review. Believe me, I understand their motivation. Automakers’ legal departments review all copy – in ads, brochures, videos and websites – to help prevent litigation based on language and unfounded claims. But still…
So that got me wondering – what if the Jordan Motor Car Company of the 1920s had legal review of their famous “Somewhere West of Laramie” ad, which Advertising Age cited as one of the top 100 ads of the 20th century? Here’s what the marked-up copy might have looked like:
And after legal review (and much hair-pulling and heated discussions), here’s how the copy might have read:
SOMEWHERE out West, there’s a woman who knows what I’m talking about. She knows what to do with eleven hundred pounds of vehicle when it’s running well. The truth is – the Playboy was built for her. Built for the woman whose face is warmed by the sun when the day is done. She loves the blend of the wild and the tame. There’s something special about that car – like fun and pleasant memories. It’s a big thing for the country yet a graceful thing for the city. Step into the Playboy when the hour grows late. Then start for the country with the spirit of the woman who rides into a Western sunset.
Does it stink after legal review? Well, not horribly. But is it poetry? Definitely not.
We live in a sanitized age, with all sorts of protections “for our own good.” Personally, I’m happy to have most of those protections, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t pine for the spirit of the lass who rides into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight.