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Advice and help for would be copywriters

What Next for your writing career

Discover Everything You Can About Your Excavator And The Opposition...

First, discover everything you can about your excavator and the opposition's excavators. Then eompare them. Our aim is to obtain a unique selling proposition (USP). 1 Mechanically, does our product (x) have anything that 26.) doesn't? Does it work faster? More accurately? What are its limitations as far as digging and shovelling are concerned? 2 In terms of engineering, is X better? Are there fewer moving parts, or more moving parts? Does it need less servicing, less maintenance? Does that mean less downtime? 3 Price? How does it compare with Z? 4 Back-up? Does the manufacturer provide service centres, or mobile servicing units? 5 Availability? If I wanted an X right now, could I buy one immediately? What about hiring and leasing? What about financial assistance - does the manufacturer have arrangements with a finance company? If, after all this, you discover that your product has no real unique sales point, you now have to try to present it in a unique way - a way that will grab attention, make a sales offer, and be totally different from the opposition's method of presentation. For what it's worth, this was exactly the impasse we arrived at with the above-mentioned excavator manufacturer, hereinafter known as Hy-Mac.

But, we cracked the problem, and we cracked it simply, interestingly, and with lots of emotive demonstration. Our campaign was to appear in publications that were read specifically by civil engineers, building contractors and plant-hire companies. In essence, the opening ad showed an illustration of a Hy-Mac in action.

The excavator was surrounded by great mounds of earth, its hydraulically-operated arm was elbow deep in a massive hole, while the bulk of the machine stood erect, level and safe on the brink. A stick of copy covered the main benefits of Hy-Mac operation, buying and hiring availability, and back-up services. The headline was one of the most concise and pointed I'd ever written. It simply said: YOU NEED A HY-MAC LIKE YOU NEED A HOLE IN THE GROUND It won no awards, it even failed to get a mention in Campaign.

What it did do, however, was go a long way to convincing a lot of people that they should have a Hy-Mac on their team. Sales rose comfortably, the client was delighted, and I was awarded a large Scotch by the copy chief. (Hy-Mac eventually went bust.

Since I wasn't working on the account at the time, some other undeserving soul can be saddled with the credit for its demise.) In your copywriting life, you will find some products that have nothing to recommend them whatsoever. They may be functional - yes, but their whole aspect leaves you cold and unemotional. They are, in a word, uninspiring. I've met dozens of them, from patent lids for sealing homemade jam to what was reputedly the bitterest substance in the world and which could be added to methylated spirits for the purpose of preventing certain people drinking it.

In my view, the duller and more uninteresting a product is, the brighter and more enthusiastic should be the online advertising for it. Being underwhelmed by the nature of a product is no excuse for second-rate work. Jam lids keep many people gainfully employed - so they deserve to be promoted with the same gusto as you would promote a Rolls or an Alfa. The creative input on things like this, then, should be in inverse proportion to their attractiveness. Take Bryant and May book matches.

They are tiny, insignificant items, the sole purpose of which is to light once per match, then be discarded forever. You may, or may not, also be aware that said book matches are designed to carry online advertising messages on their covers. Well, so is just about every other book match product and, as such, is pretty boring and beneath dignity, you may think. Not a bit of it. Bryant and May employ hundreds, if not thousands of people.

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