Notable Copywriters – Elmer Wheeler

Notable Copywriters – Elmer Wheeler

Whilst he may not fit the conventional ‘copywriter’ mould, Elmer Wheeler was nevertheless a hugely influential figure – a pioneer of persuasive writing. Wheeler’s great innovation was to establish the ‘Testing Institute’ in New York City. This was where he tested many thousands of words and sentences used by American advertisers in the Great Depression era. From this mine of information, he synthesized his five great principles of selling, the most famous of which is ‘Don’t sell the steak – sell the sizzle.’ His powerful insights (‘Wheelerpoints’ as they became known) found their way into his landmark book on selling, ‘Tested Sentences That Sell’, first published in 1937. Wheeler’s book remains the key reference point for advertisers and copywriters who want to tap into his tried and tested techniques that identified how language – and especially the written word – can be used to commercial... Read more...

Integrated Marketing and The Endless Echoes of Mad Men

In case you hadn’t noticed, ‘integrated marketing’ has come full circle. Back in the day, when Mad Men roamed Madison Avenue and TV advertising was the new kid on the block, everyone wanted a slice of the marketing action. In late-1950s Britain, television sets in everyone’s living room marked the end of post-war austerity and, with it, the beginnings of an affluent consumerist society that continued throughout the 1960s and on into the present day. TV advertising was a powerful tool of mass communication that eclipsed print media, direct marketing and PR almost overnight, particularly among those with bigger budgets. It’s often said that history repeats itself. That would certainly seem to be the case with integrated marketing. To get a handle on the historical perspective of it all, you need to compare the Mad Men era and the arrival of TV advertising with the emergence in our own era of Internet marketing and Google. Both of these phenomena transformed marketing as it was known hitherto – and both ended with an aftermath of integrated marketing that sought to make sense of a new and dominant marketing force. The underlying driver on both occasions was the realisation that we shouldn’t risk throwing the baby out with the bath water.   In The 1960s… TV advertising in the 50s and 60s was a potent and entertaining medium with the power to engage and persuade like nothing that had gone before. Or was it? Apart from being incredibly expensive, TV advertising in 1960s Britain had a limited platform of only one commercial TV station. Even if your company could afford it,... Read more...
How To Create Effective Press Ads

How To Create Effective Press Ads

‘COPYWRITING SHORTS’  #103 As a copywriter, I’ve noticed an increasing prevalence of press ads that show no creative skills whatsoever.  Typical of this is where a photo of the product/service is placed above a large headline, with maybe a few lines of body copy, plus one or two contact points. No effort has been made to devise a creative concept that unifies both the image and the sales message.  It’s as though whoever created the ad has no understanding of how a decent ad should work in pursuit of maximising its impact on the page. This may be down to several factors – time constraints perhaps; no experience of preparing an ad that goes beyond basic design practices; or even a disregard among certain online specialists for anything that is ‘offline’ and therefore off-limits as far as their creative focus is concerned. There’s no doubt that time must be invested in preparing an ad that will be both creative and effective.  Having a complete awareness of the selling points of a product or service is essential before a single word is written and before images are sourced. This involves a certain amount of research – in technical USPs and features for B2B ads, and in emotional triggers for consumer press advertising.  In all cases, a full appreciation of the target media and its readership should be a given. For more information about Buzzwords’ approach to creating effective press advertising, visit:... Read more...

How To Produce Creative Advertising Concepts

‘COPYWRITING SHORTS’  #102 Coming up with powerful creative concepts that have the simple and direct capacity to PERSUADE is an elusive construct that sometimes never happens.  In those cases, you see ads that don’t really work. They don’t have the unmistakable magic that a great headline has when it blurs beautifully into a perfectly linked image.  For a copywriter to achieve this level of creativity requires innate visual thinking and an exceptional facility with words – never forgetting a seamless familiarity with the vernacular that differentiates natural-born English speakers who’ve taken on board all the cultural and mass media influences that shape our Westernised identities. The very best ads, of course, are typically produced by creative teams – copywriters working with art directors.  Even here, however, you can often recognise which creative skill is dominant – much in the same way you can recognise whether it was John Lennon or Paul McCartney who did the creative spade-work in their highly effective song-writing partnership. Copywriters, at the very least, should be able to enhance an art director’s ideas – and then produce flawlessly relevant copy that flows from the headline, regardless of who came up with the original concept.  At best, a copywriter’s facility with words should be able to extract every ounce of meaning from creative concepts as applied to almost any type of advertising.  That is pure talent. To find out more about Buzzwords’ approach to creating effective advertising concepts, visit:... Read more...

Wannabe A Great Financial Copywriter?

This has to be the hypothetical question of the year – and it’s still only January as I write! Can you name even ONE ‘big’ financial copywriter? Even more to the point – most people would struggle to come up with more than a couple of copywriters who are specialists in the financial field. Financial copywriting is a fairly esoteric pastime. To be esteemed by your peers would give you little more than a footnote in the copywriters’ history of the 21st century. You’d be akin to a 12th century monk, transcribing the ancient gospels for posterity. And yet financial affairs rule the world – and they probably always did. The difference is that today we have ‘financial services’. And these have to be marketed, the better to make a fat profit. In that respect, financial copywriting is no different to any other present-day commercial activity. It is of course an essential link in the selling process. On a global scale, that means there are plenty of people involved in writing financial copy for financial gain. So why shouldn’t there be some kind of hierarchy in this obscure skill? Is it because ‘financial copywriting’ is an umbrella term that takes in the whole gamut of marketing tools from websites to sales letters to social media and advertising? The circle is particularly hard to square because the financial world is like no other. It requires a certain ‘insider knowledge’ of economics, the mechanics of business and how money makes the world go round. Try to compare finance with any other sector – retail, automotive, recruitment, property and so on –... Read more...

Advertising Copywriting – Talk Your Client Through It

In the maelstrom of marketing activity with which we’re all bombarded on a daily basis, it’s hard to believe that advertising copywriting was once a lead creative skill in what was the most dominant aspect of marketing. Clients of a certain age would be forgiven for being confused by the range of techniques that now contribute to sales success.  We’re talking here about things like social media and blogging, SEO and the multifarious forms of online copywriting. They would probably identify with some of the themes of this article – but what about today’s younger generation of marketers and copywriters?  Are they missing a trick by overlooking the proven skill-sets of advertising and direct response – in particular, the value of the creativity that advertising copywriting brings to the party?   Nostalgia – or Amnesia?  There’s a general feeling around that advertising copywriting isn’t what it was: to wit, the nostalgia surrounding the ‘Mad Men’ phenomenon.  In the 1970s and 80s when Saatchi & Saatchi reigned supreme in the UK, advertising was definitely at the ‘sexy’ end of the marketing spectrum.  Today, it’s seen as a bit player in the marketing mix and, when it comes to ‘digital marketing’, advertising barely ranks as an ‘extra’. Back in the day, to win your metaphorical ‘Equity Card’ (Equity being an actors’ union for all you non-UK readers) you had to have ad agency experience and know how to master the art of ‘creative concepts’.  As that usually entailed working with an art director, there really weren’t too many entrees into the business other than securing a job in an ad agency. ... Read more...