To launch the new Guild of European Copywriters, Brian Jenner listed the top ten insights into copywriting he picked up over the past ten years.
Good writing requires a lot of work. Advertising guru, Rory Sutherland, wrote: ‘The potency and meaningfulness of communication is in direct proportion to the costliness of its creation - the amount of pain, effort, talent (or failing that expensive celebrities or pricey TV airtime) consumed in its creation and distribution. This may be inefficient - but it’s what makes it work.’
Copywriter Alastair Crompton came up with 17 subjects that get attention; animals, babies, cars, disasters, entertainment, famous personalities, fashion, food, fortune-telling, jokes (cartoons), money (how to make it), royalty, scandal (gossip columns), sex, spots, wars, weddings.
Tony Blair’s speechwriter said that all he needed to write was a Post-it Note. ‘If you can’t get the basic point on to a Post-It Note, then you don’t know what it is. And if you don’t know what the basic point is, then it’s not your words that are blocked, it’s your brain.’
Courier is apparently the most profitable typeface for direct mail. 20% more profitable in tests. Why should that be? Probably because it’s easiest to read. Screenplays are written in 12pt Courier. Courier is a fixed-pitch font, meaning every character or space is exactly the same width.
Emma Coats, a former story artist at Pixar, the US animation film studio, has created a story template they call ‘the Pixar code’:
Once upon a time.. /Every day, /One day…/Because of that…/Because of that…/Until finally…
You can see that when you read to children. The English poet, George Gascoigne, wrote, ‘The most ancient English words are of one syllable, so that the more monosyllables that you use, the truer Englishman you shall seem.’
Humour involves defying an audience’s expectations. David Ogilvy said, ‘The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.’
‘Figures get an audience’s attention because they stand out from the rest of language.’ Jay Heinrichs
‘Where we can anticipate, we need not listen.’ - E H Gombrich, Art & Illusion
Psychologist, Robert Cialdini, advocates the power of a mystery story and offers a five-point example of how to structure it:
Pose the Mystery/ Deepen the Mystery / Home in on the Proper Explanation by Considering (And Offering Evidence Against) Alternative Explanations / Provide a Clue to the Proper Explanation / Resolve the Mystery / Draw the Implication for the Phenomenon Under Study.