As a copywriter, I spend a fair amount of time bending copy into a strategy. Clients, other writers, all kinds of people come up with stuff that’s accurate, interesting, and well-written, but that doesn’t leave the reader knowing or believing anything useful. Sometimes, the work that is the most striking, the most creative and the most memorable is also work that’s very bad. Why? Because it doesn’t sell the damn product.

Here’s an example:

This is a fantastic ad. I just love it. It’s genuinely stylish. It’s unique. It’s memorable and fun. The copy’s well-written, and the concept was the basis for an entire campaign. But it doesn’t sell the damn product. In fact, it doesn’t even tell you what the product is until the ad is almost over. Which can be okay, but in this case, it isn’t.

This is an example of a creative director somewhere bulldozing both the client and the account person out of his way. I have heard/seen this debate a thousand times, and the argument typically is that the sheer brilliance of the creative work will irresistibly brand the product, and piddling details like the marketing strategy will be shamed into irrelevance by the carpet-bombing the creative will deliver. This is expensive, ridiculous nonsense, but I have seen so many client get overpowered by some pretentious creative in a black outfit who, in the end, could not care less whether anyone actually wants to buy the product. Sometimes they win awards.

Copy either needs to be about the product, about the experience of using the product, or about the benefits of the product. It can be subtle. It can we witty. It can be clear. But above all, it has to connect everything that’s going on in the ad with what the ad is about, and more specifically, why you should have it or want it. Otherwise, it’s a lot of beautiful white noise. In the case of Jaguar, no customer is ever going to relate to some onscreen villain with a British accent, and they are never, ever going to say to themselves “I certainly wish I owned that car.”

You have to sell the damn product.

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