If you’re an art director you can work in any country.
If you’re a copywriter, you can’t.
Because at art school you take a class called ‘visual communication’.
You learn to communicate without words.
This is basic semiotics.
The words ‘stop’ and ‘go’ don’t mean anything in Mandarin.
But a little red man standing still, and a little green man walking, mean the same thing in any country.
That’s why the same road signs work in every country in Europe.
Although we can’t understand a word of each others’ languages.
But it’s even more difficult than that for a copywriter.
Not only must they work in their own language.
They must work in their own culture.
I found that in New York.
When I switched from being an art director to a copywriter.
Because I didn’t grow up in America, I had had hardly any ethnic knowledge to draw on.
So I couldn’t write about them.
So I couldn’t write about them either.
If you’re still not convinced how important a common language, and a common culture, is consider this.
In 1776 America fought the War of Independence.
After the war, anti-British feeling was naturally very strong.
The 13 colonies had to choose a language for their new country.
The vote was evenly split.
6 votes for English as the national language.
6 votes for German as the national language.
George Washington had the casting vote.
Imagine the history of the world if he’d voted the other way.