I have to admit that I LOVE clever copy. There are few things better than a quick turn of phrase, a double meaning, or awesome alliteration.
Once, early in my career, I was collaborating with a long-time client. We were brainstorming for almost an hour on copy ideas. I kept coming up with these gems! Funny, double meanings, hidden agendas, real heady stuff! Finally, he turned to me and stated emphatically: “NO! Nothing clever.” For years, I would tell this story to my coworkers, and we all had a good laugh – as if clever meant good, and the client didn’t want anything good. But now I see the value of his lesson. Good to the author is not necessarily good for the client.
When it comes to copy that works, make sure you are writing it for the readers and not for yourself. Clever only works if it gets its point across. When in doubt, lean toward something that is crystal clear. You may or may not be the most clever person in the room, but if you write an inside joke and you are the only one who understands, or likes, the punchline, that is the polar opposite of good copy.