We all speak English. I just happen to do it for a living.

Analytics are Cruel

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, interactive marketing, online copywriting, portfolio | 1 Comment »

So I was talking to this agency for a copywriting gig and didn’t get it. No biggie — there’s always opportunities here and there. So the creative director wrote me back saying that there was some “good stuff” in my portfolio, but blah blah blah. Except the “blah blah blah” bit was basically that they were looking for more than just a headline writer. They wanted someone who thinks strategically about the business and across new platforms.

I thought to myself, “Odd. I must’ve really fucked up my portfolio if he didn’t pick that up. I mean, that’s a pretty accurate description of me.”

Analytics are cruel because Read the rest of this entry »

Webtrends: A Facebook Contest for Nerds

Posted: March 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, facebook, interactive marketing, management, online copywriting, portfolio, social media, webtrends | No Comments »

Click to giganticize the Webtrends Great Data Giveaway screenshot

Early on at Webtrends, we decided to run a Facebook contest. That was pretty much the direction: let’s run a contest to see how it works.

So we wondered: what would make Webtrends’ faithful excited? And I came up with this idea of embracing the data nerd element. “Fly your nerd flag high” was an ad headline I remember.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bernbach’s Law and Family Ties

Posted: November 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, editing, interactive marketing, management | No Comments »

Go read this first. Or just read my blockquote below:

At my company Fight, we call this “the 80% rule.” It goes like this:

When you convey a difficult concept, you’re better off being 80% right and simple, than 100% right and complex. Read the rest of this entry »

Rant: The Marketing You Deserve

Posted: September 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, management | No Comments »

Q: How many copywriters does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None, because we’re not changing anything!

I love that joke because, frankly, most copywriters are all sharp elbows and big egos. They’ve sweated through it, considered the angles, and now you want to change it? Are you crazy?

Writing isn’t easy. Staring at your screen until your fingertips bleed isn’t easy. But after a few days Read the rest of this entry »

Turn a Perceived Weakness Into a Strength

Posted: July 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips | No Comments »

I’d been thinking of the Avis Rent-a-Car tagline from the 60’s: “We’re No. 2, so We Try Harder.” So later, I was IM’ing with a co-worker about a campaign idea where we would take a perceived weakness of one of our products — that it’s a “black box” solution for paid search — and turn it into a strength. For example:

“It’s the sweaty socks and dudes hitting on me at the gym that I really love about working out. I mean, it’s great to look nice, but it’s really the EXPERIENCE that I’m after.”

And I pointed out that: “In advertising, it’s never bad to turn a perceived weakness into a positive… Unless your weakness is for Boy Scouts.”

Tips for Writing Interviews

Posted: June 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, editing, interactive marketing, management | No Comments »

When interviewing people, I think young writers can get a little carried away with the Rolling Stone-ness of it all. They want to describe their subjects’ looks and the way they treat the waitress and the African art on the wall. And maybe that’s important. Maybe there’s enough space to fit all of that in. Maybe the person is famous enough to warrant it. But usually not.

This is the real world where you’re interviewing CEOs of small businesses. And the reader typically needs to get something out of it — if you’re not thinking ahead about why the reader would bit.ly your link and send it along, you’re dooming yourself to obscurity.
Read the rest of this entry »

Inside Sales

Posted: May 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, management, posted via iPhone | No Comments »

I had a writer editing a whitepaper today, and he was really carving into it. I suggested he take it to the author — a product manager — and start selling the edits early on.

He didn’t like the idea. Said there’s no better way than to just give back the text all marked up.

I approached it differently:

“You’re gonna scare the crap out of them with so many edits. Show them a few examples of your edits before you finish. Get them comfortable with those. Then they won’t fight as much when you hand it back mostly rewritten.”

He said he’d try.

When you have time to do so, sharing work early makes life easier. People get bought in. You can incorporate good ideas. You make them a participant. You spread the accolades.

The risk you run is that you share an idea too early, and the critical feedback you hear nips a good idea before it can bloom. This often happens when you’re still exploring a concept, and the unfinished nature of it freaks people out.

It’s more important with original work than edits. But if you deliver a piece back that’s bleeding with red ink, you’re best served prepping the soon-to-be-bruised ego. It’s not heartbreak if they agree with you.

So here’s my test about when to start you inside sales job. If you can answer yes, then go start selling:

Can you explain it to your significant other?

Does it have a catchy headline or tagline?

Do you have a specific concept or idea you want feedback on?

With those, you will represent the concept well. You will give your audience a fully-formed thought. And you will likely get some decent feedback as you put on your inside sales hat.

Ending Interruptions in the Office

Posted: August 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, interactive marketing, management, social media | No Comments »

Cross-posted from my Pop Art blog.

There are Two Types of People in the World: Makers and Managers

There are two types of people in your office, Makers and Managers. And scheduling a meeting with Maker can kill that person’s effectiveness for the day, according to Paul Graham.

I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning.

Makers Need Uninterrupted Time

Makers do the work — at Pop Art, our Makers are designers, developers, programmers, writers, designers and media planners. These people create the work that ends up online. Here’s how Graham describes the conundrum Makers face.

They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Dozen Doozies: My Favorite Pop Art Blog Posts

Posted: June 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, creative, interactive advertising, interactive marketing, management, online copywriting, social media | No Comments »
This cracks me up to no end.

This cracks me up to no end.

Hard to believe I’ve been blogging and working at Pop Art for more than two-and-a-half years now. In that time, I’ve tried to write posts that other writers will find useful, and maybe even demonstrate that we know what we’re doing.

Lately, my blogging has fallen off since I’ve taken on our media planning and buying department. But I thought it’d be a good time to look back.

  1. The fake layout above comes from one of the funniest jokes ever made at Pop Art. Well, it was funny to me, anyway.
  2. At some early point at Pop Art, we moved a lot of the SEO responsibility over to editorial. Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

If It’s May, It’s Time for More Copywriter Portfolio Tips

Posted: May 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: copywriting tips, management, online copywriting | No Comments »

Every May, I get about 10-15 emails from graduating copywriters hoping to share their portfolio, and looking for copywriter portfolio tips. Most of them suffer from the same problem: no context. So here’s the portfolio tip I usually email back to them.

Dear Madison/Toby/Emily/Tyler,

If I could make just one (very long) comment on your portfolio, it’s this: I want to know why you made the choices you made for each ad/campaign. What business or creative needs led you to these executions? What funny dead-ends did you find along the way? Tell me a little story that explains why you did what you did. Read the rest of this entry »