Tools to Help Small Business

You will find a lot of frustration in the ad business. There will be many many people saying “You can’t do that because…” There will be many opportunities to throw up your hands and settle for something less than stellar. I want to share a time when I did just that and wished I hadn’t.

Years ago, I did a stint on the U.S. Postal Service. They were a tough client, with lots of layers and lots of rules. Probably no real surprise there–they’re the government. Anyway, we were trying to get some print ads out the door for a line of products meant to help small businesses. After rounds of rejected taglines, I just gave them a very straightforward one: “Tools for small business.” Approved.

Then legal chimed in. “Tools for small business” was being used (I think by IBM). I hate legal feedback like that. How could someone trademark such a simple line? Fine, I thought. “Tools TO HELP small business.” How’s that? Done. Approved.

A couple weeks later, I’m walking down the street in Chicago and I see a mail truck with “Tools to help small business” painted on the side. Turns out, all of the mail trucks in Chicago had my line on them. In fact, every postal service truck in every major city in the country had my line on it.

Was it a terrible line? I can think of worse. But it was a lazy line. And had I known it would end up being the most visible thing I’d ever write, I sure would have spent a little more time on it. Just something to remember when you’re tired of writing lines. You never know where they might end up.


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