Editor’s note: Writer Rebecca Golden‘s attempt to create copy for Groupon ads ended in not success, but “serious rejection.” Her take on what happened appears below.
Ever need serious rejection for your head blob? Try applying to write ads for Groupon! Today’s special disappointment is the hope that you will no longer have to have three part-time jobs, one of which involves cleaning toilets. For just a few hours of your time, you can write sample ads about opera and bowling and learn that getting the voice of one of the most popular web businesses in America is lot trickier to master than you might expect.
So I learned when I tried to write ads for Groupon. My initial sample, for a deal involving kayaking, used a joke about how paddling skills could save you in the inevitable zombie apocalypse. We all know it’s coming, but so few of us have workable plans. While cardio and weapons skills are clearly not my bag, I do have a cunning mind and certain amount of ruthlessness where my own survival is concerned.
I decided long ago (okay, two months ago while watching AMC’s The Walking Dead) that the best plan would be to gather a group of survivors, all the gasoline and firearms our convoy of RVs and Hummers could carry, and head for the Lake Erie shore. Once there, we would loot a boat and go to South Bass Island. Zombies cannot operate machinery. They are not able seamen. So once we clear the island of any remaining zombies, we can start the human race anew with ample access to fresh water, fish and arable lands. I imagine we could clear zombies very effectively by scaling the Perry Peace monument and shooting them from a safe remove. Using the peace monument for this is rather a sad irony, I know, but human survival must come at any cost.
With this plan in mind, I wrote a snappy sample about paddling and the zombie apocalypse. Also, there was a joke about how customers are advised to bring a snack, though they might opt for granola and not braiiiinss!!!. I made it to the second round, where they asked for a sample about cheap box seats at the Pittsburgh Opera’s production of Carmen. The dangers of second-hand cigarette rolling have never been more delightfully enumerated. I also mentioned my surprise at the idea that Pittsburgh’s greatest cultural offering was not, in fact, ballet danced by welders who sometimes strip. The feedback for this ad was pretty good, though I was warned to be less aware of my jokes and that even hinting that the item on offer was in some way good was too “sales-y”.
For my final sample, I wrote an ad about bowling. Groupon frowns on pop culture references. Still, I burned to write about rolling on the shabbos. I knew references to “(expletive deleted) with the Jesus” would never fly, but when I think bowling, I think of Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and nihilists having their ears bitten off. My cat’s name is Lebowski, and he’s an avid bowler (if you count batting dead things around dark corners of my apartment as bowling). I restrained myself. I led with the fact that the sphere doesn’t get the respect reserved for other geometrical objects. Cubes get to be televisions, and pyramids are pyramids, but spheres? Well, now you can bowl with them, and that’s the best thing in the world.
After a tense weekend, I got the news: while I’m “a great writer”, I just don’t mesh with the Groupon style. I would receive payment for my samples (a decent and generous policy, I admit) and the company would continue with some other lucky candidate. I felt awful. I’d felt some conflict about taking the job to begin with. I like to imagine that I am a serious writer, and serious writers do not talk about stuffing things in your head hole (one Groupon style guide tells aspiring writers that this is a good way of describing a human mouth). Still, the money would have meant giving up cleaning houses (one of three jobs I do to support my writing). And even commercial writing is creative and fully compensated work.
Rejection is not a new phenomenon for me. I’ve had editors tell me (via my lovely and devoted agent) that I wasn’t funny enough, or too funny, or that my memoir (which sold and was published in England) wasn’t sad enough or real enough or that it lacked enough grotesque, terrible detail about various childhood miseries I endured. Having someone reject your actual life should feel worse than having someone reject your ability to write snappy, faux-hip adverts for cut-rate sushi and pole dancing cardio classes. Still, I thought about the difference that job would’ve made in my life and felt like someone had punched me hard in the head hole.
I soldier on. I write. I devise master plans for 2011. I have declared it my year. I will sell the book here (so that people don’t have to buy it on foreign offshoots of Amazon). I will lose more weight (like everyone else plans to do in January). I will apply to grad schools and learn to play one Ben Folds song on the piano (no, I don’t actually know how to play the piano). And when the Groupons come to my mailbox — today’s deal is half off on a 60-minute massage — I plan to make use out of at least one of them. While having strangers touch me for money has never appealed to me, I do like cut-rate sushi and cheap tickets to the symphony. Despite the rejection, Groupon will likely be part of my life for a long time. That’s the deal, and (so long as it doesn’t involve crazy amounts of physical exertion or intimate body waxing) I’d be a fool not to take it.
Rebecca Golden, a frequent contributor to Salon and the Times of London, lives and writes in Toledo, Ohio. She is currently working on an America-friendly adaptation of Butterbabe (Random House UK), her memoir of enduring school bullying and overcoming extreme weight issues.