Category Archives: posters and outdoor

Good copywriter, bad copywriter – what’s the difference?

tweedledum-and-tweedledee

To me, there’s no mystery to it. You can tell who’s a good copywriter and who’s a bad one within a few seconds of reading their work.

By a good copywriter, I mean one that’s going to write copy (or content, if you prefer) for you that really sells your products or services. One that knows how to get under the skin of your target audience and writes stuff that will get them clicking through to your Buy Now page before they know what’s hit them.

And here’s the secret…

Bad copywriters mostly concern themselves with how they say stuff. Good copywriters concern themselves mostly with what to say.

This is because the message, the offer, the nugget of information contained in the words is always far, far more important than the words themselves.

A good copywriter will ask you loads of very detailed questions about the product, the marketplace and the target audience. And spend a lot of time seeking the razor-sharp idea that will most convince your audience to act (or think) in the way you want them to.

A bad one will simply write some puns around your product name or come up with what they think is ‘clever wordplay’.

I saw a particularly awful example of a bad copywriter’s work yesterday while strolling past the British Museum.

There were some posters on the railings announcing particular exhibitions. One had a picture of an ancient coin. With a line next to it about how things change through history. Geddit? Coin, change?

Trouble is, this headline told me absolutely nothing about the exhibition. I gleaned it was something to do with coins from the picture but the oh so clever headline added nothing to the communication whatsoever. There were several more, equally hopeless.

This is the classic sort of stuff you see every day of the week from Bad Copywriters who have hardly paused for a second to think what the communications objective of these posters might be. They’ve gone straight for a lame pun because they think that’s what copywriters do.

And, as they’ve bought this drivel in the first place, their clients clearly concur.

Is this the most dangerous ad ever written?

It’s very rare that a piece of advertising or marketing is genuinely a matter of life and death. Which is why I was so incensed to see a tube card the other day that was bordering on the evil.

Tube cards are the little posters above the windows in tube carriages. They’re interesting because unlike most ‘outdoor’ advertising spaces, you can write some long copy as you’ve got a fairly captive audience. Ditto their cross-track cousins at stations.

Which is another reason why this particular aberration was so startlingly misjudged.

The headlline said You Do Know the FIve Signs of Breast Cancer, don’t you? 

Good headline, got my attention, got my interest.

But did it then tell me what these signs are so I could check? No it didn’t. It asked me to send a text (yes, send a text, not even visit a website) whereafter I would be sent these potentially life-saving nuggets of information.

Not so much as a hint about what these signs or symptoms could be.

I’m sure you’re ahead of me, here, but the question is, of course: Why on earth, if the campaign is all about helping people detect cancer early, would you not give the answers there and then? On the poster. Where people could read it. And think about it.

What possible benefit is there in teasing the reader with such a powerful headline and then not telling him (or more likely her) how to spot the signs?

But I guarantee I know how it happened.

Someone — perhaps the dimwitted client, perhaps the moron planner, perhaps the junior creative team with a single GCSE in art and drama between them — decided this campaign was about Social Medial.

“Yeah, soshul meeeeeja..that’s where it’s at. SMS’s, Facebook. Let’s get them to text and it’ll be really cool, yeah, woooooh.”

(I’ve been in meetings like this, I’m not exagerating one jot.)

Nobody around the table had the common sense to pause for even a nanosecond to put their teeny brains into gear and think.

To think something like, “Er, but if our job is to stop people dying of breast cancer un-necessarily, surely we should get this vital information to them as fast and simply as possible? You know, actually writing it in the ad and stuff? We can always give them a website or a text number to find out more if there’s not enough room.”

Instead, people might actually die because these total fuckwits didn’t think about the message, only about the medium. And that is a total bloody disgrace.