Tag Archives: education

“A picture is worth a thousand words”… or not: Why advertising needs its copywriters.


Some wise old dicky-bird, probably with shares in the print/photography industry, once said that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. Yeh, and next you’ll be telling me that soldiers taste as great without the warm, gooey yoke…

Advertising – print ads to be precise – needs to be captivating and eye catching… there are no two ways about it. But ads also need to be witty, hysterical or shocking – perhaps even all three?

It would be hard to achieve all that with just a picture.

Problem is, if your reader has turned the page without eliciting any kind of emotion or reaction to your ad, YOU’VE FAILED.

We live in a world where speed is of the essence… we don’t have time for anything that doesn’t grab us. Everything needs to be instant – instant coffee, instant messaging, even instant cash loans. So why should your advertising play by any other rules?

Pictures certainly have the power to catch your eye, but so have awesome headlines or short copy…

Here’s one I made earlier… to illustrate my point.

Don't just settle for dry toast

Here is a quick print ad exercise I did to underline the importance of copy in advertising. Without the copy you’re left with just an image – you wouldn’t just settle for just the toast if you’d ordered boiled egg and soldiers would you?

An image may dangle the bait tantalisingly in front of the readers eyes, but it’s the killer copy that’s going to land you the prize. Words will seal the deal – of that I’m sure.

I feel a case-study coming on. Let’s consider the picture above…

Imagine you’ve decided to pay a visit to your local upmarket cafe. You order the boiled egg and soldiers and wait eagerly for the home baked, white and crispy buttered toast, and the perfectly formed egg to arrive. After just ten minutes your eyes light up as you see the waitress emerge from the kitchen, but to your horror she’s carrying just a plate of toast – and it’s not even buttered.

As a paying customer, you’re left unsatisfied and you sure as hell won’t be recommending your experience to anyone.

DON’T JUST SETTLE FOR DRY TOAST. 

Just as your soldiers needs a good dollop of warm yoke running from the dipping end to your fingertips, great pictures need great words.

With print ads, the right copy can make a good picture a great picture. Why serve up only half of what you’re offering?

So again I return to my opening line: “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Well I’m not so sure, and neither should you if you’re an ad man.

Could a picture have summed up this now timeless adage?

In fact the phrase itself is probably more symbolic of the power of words, as opposed to imagery. Might it be fighting the good fight?

If you’re not convinced, peruse these great ads I’ve discovered – all showcase just how effective awesome copy can be.

It’s safe to say I now really want a Volkswagen Rabbit.

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Next time, I’m gonna try this challenge: Write a full page print ad for SNOW whitening toothpaste.

As they would say on TV, tune in next time for that.

If you like what you read, please do like/share/subscribe.

Much obliged.

3 Easy Ways To Overcome The Scourge Of Writer’s Block.


Imagine a world without writer’s block – the grass certainly seems greener, and the girls prettier.

Now back to reality.

You’re sitting at your desk in a dark room. It’s marked by years of coffee cup abuse – what some would mistake as knots in the wood, are actually ring-shaped stains – hell, you’re the single-greatest living advertisement for the coaster industry. Worst of all, you’ve got front row tickets to your very own Greek tragedy. Yet unlike the solo beam of the stage light illuminating Oedipus, your solitary light source comes courtesy of the luminescence of the blank word document staring back at you – sound familiar to you?

Despite being completely featureless – that is after all the problem – the white glow of your masterpiece-in-progress seems to be grinning at you… it’s mocking you… and it’s enjoying it.

Perhaps hyperbole’s got the better of me here. Either I’ve just described your “I’m-banging-my-head-against-the-wall” predicament, or my very own inspiration-starved state of desperation has vomited up a cacophony of heinous cliches.

Nevertheless, here’s your quick-fix to…

Writer’s block… the Wall…. the source of your greatest frustration.

How about some empowerment? It’s time you showed a triumphant middle finger to the inspiration vacuum. It’s time you formed a mighty fist with which to smash the wall. It’s time you asked yourself: ‘Do I feel lucky?’. Well, do ya, punk?

I really wanted to get that line in there – could you tell?

Here’s that empowerment you were looking for in some nice, manageable, numerical steps.

1. Just get writing already.

In the not-too-distant future technology will be able to read your thoughts so you can tweet or IM telepathically. So why don’t you beat the computers to the punch. They’ve needed someone to bring them down a peg, or two – ever since that Conan-esque robot from the future began preaching about machines becoming self-aware. Pah.

Put your thoughts to paper.

If you start writing what you’re thinking, maybe you’ll start thinking about what you’re writing. Problem solved.

The law of averages dictate that your spiel is just as likely to be the literary reincarnation of Oscar Wilde, as it is Stephanie Meyer. If you’re lucky you’ll have banished your writer’s block to the farthest corners of your consciousness. You might even find yourself regaling your audience with charmingly whimsical, timeless quips.

On the other hand, the very same law of averages may leave you writing some nonsense about angst-y vampires. But you must think positively – at least you’ve solved your chronic case of absolute nothingness.

Now, what’s next?

2. Writer’s block getting you down? Hint: Write about writer’s block.

This is your therapy, your rehabilitation.

“Hello, my name is Ryan and I have writer’s block.”

That’s the way these programs are portrayed in popular culture. They promote openness and discussion to overcome your deviances and addictions. Think of this solution as your very own AA meeting – without the need to come face-to-face with other people’s problems. Win-win.

Let’s extend the metaphor further.

Please take a moment to recline upon your very own therapists couch. Don’t like leather couches? You can have linen – it’s not a problem.

Work through it and the inspiration will come – you’re on the path to recovery.

Now you’ve just got to hurdle that wall.

3. ‘I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise’

As Shania Twain will tell you: “So you have writer’s block? That don’t impress me much.”

You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last to contract this terrible affliction.

You need to be fully aware that you are not in possession of some kind of inspiration tap you can turn on and off as you please – there will be times when you want to carry out the first-half of your very own hair transplant.

Your panic and your surprise is unwarranted and a hindrance – take the rough with the smooth.

For those that didn’t get the reference to Jack… it’s from Fight Club, yet ironically this third stage is all about you not beating yourself up about writer’s block.

Whether you’re writing professionally or as a hobby, neither your aptitude nor your adoration for word-smithery will have disappeared for good. Think of writer’s block as more of a hiatus – just pray your return isn’t the damp squib most musical hiatuses produce… sorry Fall Out Boy.

That’s 3 simple methods for you to try and break the deadlock.

Challenging writer’s block can be incredibly satisfying – your very own slaying of the Hydra. Saying that, at times the Hydra can seem preferable.

But remember: Writing wouldn’t be nearly as fun if it was easy, and when your brain throws up one of it’s seemingly insurmountable walls, it’s just your own sub-conscious’ way of posing a challenge. As a writer you need the wall occasionally to keep yourself motivated and on your toes.

I’m just offering you a boost – can you see the other side yet?

If you found this helpful/ entertaining/ insightful (delete as appropriate) please do share/ like/ subscribe (you know the drill).

Entry #3: Don’t Read or I’ll Brutally Murder a Cat


Actually that’s a complete lie,  I really like cats.

So time to hang up and apologise for wasting the RSPCA’s time because this is just an experiment I thought I’d share with you.

Allow me to explain…

A little birdy once told me that everything you write needs a hook. Something that catches the reader’s attention, makes them want to read on, and leaves them no choice but to read on. The most effective way to do this is with a captivating headline – or even a shocking one.

Actually that was a half lie as well. It wasn’t a little bird, it was actually a blog dedicated to copywriting.

This very helpful website informed me that my primary aim should be to get my first sentence read. The headline should offer the reader something that benefits them and makes them powerless to resist the pull of the next sentence.

Needless to say, for legal reasoning, this statement has never been more accurate.

This website used the header “Don’t Read This or the Kitty Gets It!” as a crude example, hence my homage. I feel I may have crossed the line, but that’s science. This experiment was designed to push the boundaries.

The author provides a less-shocking-than-mine SHOCK factor. And it works!

So in theory you’re still reading, right?

Now that Fluffy’s (that’s the cat) helped me get your attention, today I discovered People Per Hour – a website that allows you to search for and offer your creative services. So I decided to create a profile and advertise my skills to the big wide world.

I’m offering fresh, interesting, and engaging copy for whatever you need it for. That’s online web copy, catchy hooks and headlines, social media, blogs, articles, and more covered. I’ve even set up an Hourlie – in English that’s me offering you some high quality copy for £10.

If you want 250 words that’s just 4p per word. For 500, that’s a ridiculous 2p per word. You get the idea, I’ll leave the maths to you.

So now I’ve told you what I wanted to, you’ll be happy to hear I’m open for business.

Oh, and don’t worry the blog claims that Fluffy’s fine.  

All that’s left is for you to share, like and subscribe and no animals will be harmed.

Just kidding.

 

Entry #2: Elephants & Mr. Tee’s Me


My 1st entry did a lot better than I could have expected. So I’ve decided to go full steam ahead with my latest train of thought.

Elephants.

Would you picture this? You’re at home relaxing, you’ve switched on the television, and to your delight, the dulcet tones of David Attenborough immediately greet you.

You’ve tuned in just in time for BBC’s Africa.

Amongst the regalia of picturesque African landscapes, and beautiful slow-mo footage, there’s an elephant wandering the savannah with a whole host of unexpected passengers – birds.

It’s called a symbiotic relationship – the elephant tolerates it’s squawking free-riders, as their favourite snack includes the bugs living in, and around, the elephants skin. A full belly and tic-free skin seems like a fair deal to me.

You’re probably wandering what this has got to do with me, or copywriting, for that matter?

Well, a friend of mine recently started a t-shirt company – Mr. Tee’s Me. 

What any fledgling company needs is publicity and something to drive it’s traffic. So I thought to myself: Why don’t I practice writing some copy for my friends new website?

Practice makes perfect after all… and just maybe he’ll be my elephant.

Here it goes:

They say an elephant never forgets and chances are you’ll find it pretty tricky to forget Mr. Tee’s Me‘s unique, hand-drawn designs.

It’s not every day you don a scuba-diving squirrel on your chest. And certainly not a bow-tie wearing grizzly bear. People even travel thousands of miles to China to catch a rare glimpse of a panda. But why bother? Mr. Tee’s Me offers a one of a kind paddling panda design. That’s right, it’s paddling.

Did I mention it has human legs? More than quirky enough for the Topman and Topshoppers of this world. Why have “Geek” or “Swagger” emblazoned across your chest when you can have an illustration such as this?

Showcasing someone’s creative and artistic talents with a Mr. Tee’s Me tee will genuinely set you apart from the crowd. Not only because it wasn’t created in five seconds flat with some “creative” genius inputting text into a soulless computer program, but because each tee is a limited edition by it’s very nature.

When Mr. Tee’s Me really sets off artists of all varieties will submit work for t-shirts. Not only will this ensure you get a unique tee, but you’ll be supporting budding artists and ensuring the t-shirt market remains fresh and vibrant.

So what makes a great t-shirt? And what makes a great t-shirt brand?

Well for a start, designs that are clearly artistic and not conveyor belt solutions to making profits – providing you, the customer, with a product that is a limited edition. Add to that a brand dedicated to creating and fostering a community of talented designers. Of course it also helps if it’s affordable.

Ranging from £10 – £20, these tee’s certainly occupy the lower end of today’s inflated market.

If YOU share this way of thinking, I ensure you these requirements can be simplified fairly easily into one brand:

Mr. Tee’s Me. (www.mrteesme.com

So there it is. That was good fun.

His t-shirts are most impressive, and they’ve provided me with an opportunity to practice my copywriting. Everyone’s a winner.

Maybe I should have told Mr. Tee’s Me about this before I went ahead with it. I wouldn’t want there to be an elephant in the room next time we meet. But then again, if everything goes to plan, the tale of the elephant – and the bird – could really help us both out.

Please do subscribe and tell your friends/colleagues/peers. Who knows what I might try and sell you next time.

Until then,

R.C.

Entry #1: So… copywriting.


This will be a blog/ journal/ whatever… describing to you, dearest reader, my thoughts about copywriting and documenting my experiences in trying to break my way into the industry.

It’s going to be explosive. (Disclaimer: probably not).

Entry #1:

So… copywriting.

Turning words into $. The art of making you reach for your wallet or challenge your mental status quo. The twist in your arm that makes you say ‘yes’.

It’s pretty clever, and incredibly fun to play around with.

I know it’s what I want to do and I’m even tempted to believe I might be good at it. I say so, of course, not meaning to blow my own trumpet.

Toot toot.

Yet, that’s where my problems begin. Prepare your violins ladies and gents…

Having little (to no) training in marketing or business is a stumbling block, granted. However most jobs I’ve looked at also want agency experience of at least 3 years – even for junior placements.

To boot, relevant degrees to copywriting include: Journalism, English, maybe even something Psychology-based that tells you how people are receptive to differing methods of conveying ideas.

Give me a break. Where is War Studies on the list? And what about History?

I’ve just finished learning my Vietnam’s from my Iraq’s, my Guevara’s from my de Wet’s from my Magsaysay’s and I do enough writing for the both of us – trust me.

It would be fair to say that, at the moment, I feel a little like the inverse of Uncle Sam. His rallying cry to the American public: “I want you for the U.S. Army“, certainly worked. However without such a dashing beard and fancy hat, my call to arms is a little less “I want you”, and a bit more “You want me”.

You do, don’t you? Please?

As desperate as that sounds, I’m not quite at that “bended-knee” stage yet. However if I ever do you’ll be the first to know.

In what is sure to be an interesting read, I’ll document the trials and tribulations of trying to secure some manner of copywriting employment.

This could benefit you in any manner of ways.

If you’re as clueless, yet as interested, in copywriting as myself maybe you’ll learn something.

If you’re already really knowledgable about copywriting, and have by some misfortune stumbled upon this, you may find what I say hilariously inaccurate and therefore worth reading for the rib-tickled sensation you’re currently experiencing.

If you’re not that way inclined at all, maybe you’ll just find some gratification in following my failures, and hopefully, eventually some successes.

Please do subscribe and tell your friends/colleagues/peers.

You want me“. Remember?

R.C.

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