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We pitched Valentine’s card ideas to Hallmark and it got weird

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Andrew Dickens
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“Death really isn’t a good subject for a Valentine’s card,” says Ruth Turner, Hallmark’s head of editorial. “And we would never do anything gun-related for obvious reasons.”

I’m at Hallmark House, a vast and impressive art-deco building in rural West Yorkshire. It looks like it should house morally dubious government experiments; instead, it’s home to touching sentiment, humour and, importantly for today, romance.

I’m here to pitch my ideas for Valentine’s Day cards. Ruth and one of her editors Lesley McLean will be my Dragons. These people know greetings cards. Hallmark is a global behemoth with masses of data and hundreds of minds creating a message for every occasion. I, on the other hand, have scribbled down some ideas on the train to Shipley.

I’ve started with my ‘dramatic’ range, offering up, I Would Take A Bullet For You. OK, it’s failed on a couple of points, but there’s hope, I think. I persist.

Only Death Will Separate Us.

“Shooting, death – it’s all a bit heavy, isn’t it?” says Ruth. OK, what about, I Want To Open You Up And Climb Inside Your Body? Or, I Love You So Much I Want To Eat You Up – In A Lasagne?

“The first one is just weird,” says Ruth.

“The lasagne one is nice,” says Lesley, surprisingly. “It’s not like you’re actually going to put them in a jar in the fridge.”

Cannibalism is good. Noted. I will push this envelope, so to speak.

Love Hurts And You Bring The Pain.

“Well, we’ve used mild Fifty Shades references before,” says Ruth. “But no.”

Be My Valentine Or I Will Stalk You Forever.

“No.”

Be My Valentine Or Suffer The Consequences?

“Yeah,” says Ruth.

Really?

“We’d do it in the style of a ransom note,” says Lesley. Well, if that works, I’ve high hopes for this range’s flagship: a poem. Poems are romantic.

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, I’d Rather Be Dead, If I Can’t Have You.

“No,” says Ruth. “What is it with you and death?”

Next up is my ‘cultural’ range, which, shall we say, borrows from the world around us. Familiarity breeds content, I say. Heh.

I Love You More Than I Love Approval On Social Media.

“Yeah,” says Ruth. “That’s all right. We like social media links.”

In A Love Referendum, I’d Vote Remain.

“That would have worked last year,” says Lesley. “Because you’re not coming down on one side politically.”

So, not, I Can’t Wait to Leave The EU, But I’ll Never Leave You?

“No.”

I Want To Be Your Lesbian In A Man’s Body.

“Come again?” says Ruth.

You know, Eddie Izzard’s quote. Because he’s saying…

“If people don’t get it immediately, we won’t do it,” says Lesley. “If you can’t pick it up in a supermarket in three seconds with the kids screaming, then it ain’t going to happen.”

What about a picture of sad Kanye West on the front, happy Kanye on the inside, and a slogan that says, Will You Be My Kim?

“Well,” says Lesley, “apart from them perhaps not being the best example, you’ve got image rights issues. Copyright is important, even with quotes and lyrics.”

That scuppers my next two: You Complete Me And My Heart Will Go On, and I’m Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl, Wishing I Knew How To Quit Her. But I won’t quit the film theme.

Joaquin Phoenix's greeting card writer in 'Her' made it all look so easy

Let’s Have A Richard Curtis Marathon In Our Onesies.

“Nope. Too sickly,” says Ruth. Will You Be Kinski To My Herzog?

“No, too niche,” says Lesley. “Cards need to be ‘universally specific’,” says Ruth. “For people to say, ‘This sums up our relationship’, but for a lot of people to be experiencing that specific thing, so the cards sell. People come to us because they don’t know what to say.

“There’s one card that I know will sell, no matter what design you put on it. It says: ‘If I could live my life over again, I’d find you sooner, so that I could love you longer.’ It taps into trends, like second marriages and people marrying later, but isn’t exclusive to those people.”

If universal truths are popular, then I’m heading for a strong finish. My ‘honesty’ range will strike chords with anyone in a relationship.

I Like You More Than My Last Girlfriend.

“It’s not going to be a big seller,” says Ruth.

I’m Scared Of Being Alone.

“It’s often true, but likely to scare someone off,” says Lesley.

I Love You (But I Hate Your Friends).

“It depends if you want an argument on Valentine’s.”

I Think I Might Love You One Day.

“We do cater for people who don’t want to use the word ‘love’,” says Ruth, “but this is a bit much.”

Please, Please Never Leave Me.

“Too needy.”

I Love You More Than My Dad Loved My Mum.

“That depends how much your dad loved your mum,” says Lesley. “It could be a huge compliment or quite depressing.”

OK, last effort: Your Mum’s Hot, So I Reckon You’re A Good Investment.

“Yes! I like that,” says Ruth.

What?

“And she could show it to her mum, too.”

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Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens is Special Projects Editor at ShortList. A veteran of eight years on the magazine, he makes up for his lack of pace by having ‘an extra sentence’ in his head. Twitter: @andrewdickens Instagram: @andrewdickens

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