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Advice and help for would be copywriters


If You Have Nothing Of Any Interest To Say To The Reader, Don't Say Anything...

If you have nothing of any interest to say to the reader, either don't say it, or at least say it in such a manner that the style itself will disguise the basic lack of real content. Conversely, no copy for no copy's sake, might just leave your audience, your potential customers, hopping from foot to foot with a dozen questions on their lips; and there's nothing to provide the answers. Even worse, the general public being what it is, simple, but very shrewd and certainly not daft, will walk away from the ad with but two thoughts. 1. That the whole thing is some kind of con, and if they do make the effort to contact the advertiser an unwholesome sack of rats will be let loose upon them. 2. That maybe they'll get around to finding out more when they have the time.

Like next week, perhaps. Not unexpectedly, I am a great believer in copy. Enough copy, that is, to satisfy anyone who wants to know more. I also believe that it can be done without when the occasion demands.

Even so, those no-copy ads should contain more than no copy. Don't rush off with the idea that all you have to do in these instances is make a simple headline statement, which includes the name of the advertiser, drop in his logo, and the job's done. I find these ads both curious and depressing.

And, as I'm sure you know, there are enough of them about to make me so. Anyone's name, it's true, is precious to him. Everyone loves the sound of his own monicker. One might go so far as to say that there is nothing the average person would rather hear. But your name, I must confess, wouldn't particularly excite me - just as mine, presumably, doesn't excite you.

So what is the percentage in running an ad that just says who the advertiser is, or where he lives; or, at best, what he does for a living? Remarkably little, if you ask me. Methinks anyone who goes in for this kind of online advertising presumes too much. Furthermore, if an ad says nothing and shows nothing, it is tacitly admitting that it has nothing worth saying or worth showing. They would gain more benefit from putting their money on a three-legged outsider. So as for believing that nobody reads copy - twaddle! Any human being, when he or she is in the market for a new car or a new set of golf clubs, will read everything on new cars and golf clubs that happens to come their respective ways.

And I do mean everything: the facts, the figures, the prices, the places - the lot. You do. I do. Isn't that right? But, you'll also agree, only provided that: 1 They have been induced to do so via the headline, the illustration, or both.

2 The copy is sufficiently well written to make it worth reading. 3 The copy tells them something, or reminds them of something worth knowing. Alas, these three criteria are so seldom fulfilled that, when they are, one's heart leaps as Wordsworth's must have done when he clapped his eyes on all those daffs. (For examples of recent ads that live up to these standards,109 to 12(e) The cold, lifeless porridge served up in so many ads especially industrial ads - is so moribund that one wonders why the people concerned went to the expense of incurring typesetting costs.

Some are the equivalent of business letters which begin: 'We are in receipt of your esteemed favour of the thirtieth ultimo and beg leave to thank you for same'. And there are plenty of those still floating around - probably authored by the people responsible for the kind of copy I'm carping about. In my more despondent moments, it sometimes seems to me that the great bulk of industrial online advertising (and some consumer material, too) is conceived by a committee whose basic literary diet is civil service minutes. They are a committee because the handiwork bears the stigma of too many cooks, and of sundry people insisting on chucking in their two-penn'orth. They are a committee on account of they suppose that the whole world is either fully familiar with their product, or is waiting with baited breath to learn of it.

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