Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Smart Car copywriters borrow from another iconic ad campaign

I recently wrote about how several modern car manufacturers, including Smart, have been borrowing from an iconic VW Beetle campaign. Based on the web banner above, that's not the only place that the copywriters on the Smart Car account have been finding inspiration.

The Smart Car folks are also taking a page from 7-Up's classic "uncola" campaign. Want a different kind of soda? Get the uncola. Want a different kind of car? Get the uncar.I will say there's a subtle difference, as the 7-Up campaign used its "un" word as a noun to refer to the product. Smart, on the other hand, uses "uncar" as a made up verb that accompanies other "un" words that allude to consumer benefits.

This approach actually puts more focus on the consumer instead of the product and on actions vs state of being. And research has shown that messages focused on the audience that use action verbs (not passive being verbs) tend to be more effective.

So, the copywriters are certainly borrowing, but at least they're putting their own spin on it. Is it too close for comfort? I'll let you decide.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fiat takes copywriting hints from VW

The Fiat 500 may be relatively new compared to the VW Beetle, but the copywriters on the account are certainly channeling the famous Doyle Dane Bernbach ads from the early '60s.

Touting the wisdom of small. Slightly irreverent. Apparently challenging the status quo (even though there are plenty of small cars on the road today).

And the design- a simple, modestly sized product shot, unassuming type and plenty of white space.

VW and Mini have shown that the approach can work. I'm interested to see if "think small" can carry a third car to success, though it might be hard with TV ads like this.

UPDATE: "Small" has actually supported four car models. I forgot Smart is currently running this ad, probably because I assumed it was for the same tiny vehicle.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The sour side of in-store copywriting

Just wanted to share this nugget of in-store copywriting for Vlasic pickles I saw at my local grocery store. It's appropriately playful, and though not completely life-changing, makes you stop and think right before making you smile (assuming you like pickles). That's more than most in-store advertising will do.

Plus, kudos to media on the placement.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spanglish web banner writing 101

If copywriting bilingual ads is this easy, I should have started doing them a long time ago.

For those without a sense of humor, that was what we in the industry call a funny haha joke.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reviewing Long John Silver's fresh tagline

Long John Silver's latest tagline is:

Sea food differently

Obviously combining the ideas of "see food differently" and "sea food" into a single thought, this tagline scores high for economy of words.

The tagline is often used in TV and radio spots in the first person by employees, or actors playing employees, that declare "I sea food differently." The first person usage conveys the idea that Long John Silver's is not only a different dining experience, but that the company's unique way of doing things permeates every corner of the company, or what executives might call a "top-down" adoption of the corporate vision.

All in all, I think this tagline is a win. It's short. It holds multiple meanings and something about it seems fresh, which can be hard to do in the often stale fast food category. My compliments to the copywriter.

Monday, September 5, 2011

No typo immunity for the Fortune 100

It doesn't matter whether you're a small business with a few employees or a massive business with tens of thousands, it's always worth taking a second look for typos. Sooner or later they'll get you, but there are things you can do to keep them to a minimum.

Print it out
While you should do this sparingly to avoid killing trees in droves, there's something about reading words on a printed page that makes typos jump out more than they do on-screen. So, if it's a particularly important piece, like an annual report, it may be worth printing out.

Put another set of eyes on it
The best thing you can do to avoid typos is to make sure that more than one person gives your piece a good read. Even the best copywriter or editor can miss something when they've been staring at the same piece for too long. In fact, when you're too familiar with the material, it can create a sort of familiarity blindness, where you're reading what you think your piece should say instead of what it really says. A fresh set of eyes can disarm this problem.

Put it down and come back
If you have the time, this approach can be almost as good as a second set of eyes. Step away from a piece for a while before editing it. It can give you the chance to look at it with fresh eyes, without all the baggage and context of writing it. Once you shed that baggage, you'll be exponentially more likely to find any typos you may have missed before.

Read it backwards
You won't catch many grammar errors this way, but it does wonders for finding spelling typos and words that simply don't belong.

Don't over-rely on spellcheckers
Spellcheckers are notoriously unreliable. They often don't recognize commonly accepted words, they can't update fast enough to keep up an ever-changing modern vocabulary and all too often they substitute the wrong word when trying to correct for grammar. Remember, a spellchecker is a tool, and an imperfect one at that. Make sure you're using the tool and not the other way around.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Copywriting for mobile is like doing origami

You start with an entire page and carefully fold it in on itself until it's small enough to fit in your pocket

Friday, August 12, 2011

Does your copy carpet match your design drapes?

Full disclosure– I work for a company that competes directly with the company that posted the landing page I'm reviewing in this post.

That said, you don't have to be a seasoned copywriter to see the disconnect on this landing page.

The design
The design is distinctively lighthearted, playing off the robot concept in the copy. Bright, upbeat colors and some pseudo-retro imagery go a long way to establishing a fun, friendly tone. I mean, who doesn't want to push a bright blue robot's red renew tummy button?

The copywriting
However, if you start reading the body copy under "Request a Quote," which can be read without a microscope here, you'll quickly discover an extremely dry, serious, technical tone. I find this truly unfortunate, since style aside, they seem to be saying the right things from a messaging perspective.

Why does it matter?
Fun, quirky design coupled with humorless, technical copy? The disconnect between the feel of the design and the tone of the copy creates dissonance. Dissonance breaks the user's attention and can lead them to spend more time trying to figure out why the happy dance-inducing landing page they were looking at reads as dour as a puritan minister giving a eulogy.

More importantly, anyone who's spent much time in marketing knows that every bump and slow down along the way to a conversion is a barrier that decreases a user's chance of taking the action you want them to.

Making sure the tone of your copy matches the personality of your design can be the difference between a marginal page and a good page or between a good page and a great page.

What can we learn from this?
Make sure to give every creative element the attention it deserves. Spending all your time and attention on one while largely ignoring the other will show. It's no different than showing up to a party in a suit coat and sweat pants.

Make sure the personalities of all the elements match. It doesn't matter how well designed a piece is or how well written the copy is if they don't match. The confusion your users experience will hurt conversions every time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Continental video disaster on the brink of success

Wow. I recently flew Continental/United for the first time in many years. I found my seat, got situated and waited a thankfully short time for takeoff. Being a Southwest flyer, I expected a steward or stewardess to come out and give us a witty take on safety precautions. However, as we started taxiing to the runway, a pre-recorded video caught me by surprise. It was a disaster on the brink of success. Let me explain.

Unrelatable talking heads
First, it was a talking head video. For those who don't know what a talking head video is, it's basically a video that features a single person, usually an indistinguishable executive in a nondescript suit, talking at the camera. No action. No quick movements. Just an executive, you and some talking points. There's a reason these videos have been fodder for satire for decades. They're ubiquitous, usually self-aggrandizing and rarely engaging. This video was no exception.

Doesn't my logo make you feel special?
Second, the background behind the executive of this particular video was a giant company logo. Nothing says "customers first" like a monolithic reminder of who's talking at you, right? YOU WILL HEAR THE MESSAGE FROM THE COMPANY. Perhaps I'm surprised because my usual airline takes such a lighthearted, friendly approach in comparison.

Copywriting for the boardroom
Third, the language was total corporate-speak. Phrases like "co-located facilities," "earn your business" and "your having chosen us" ooze a boardroom-first mindset. They take passengers out of what will hopefully be an enjoyable (read tolerable) flying experience by reminding them that their real value is as carefully segmented revenue streams.

Right message, wrong delivery
That said, the video was actually just a shade away from being a success. Despite the delivery, the video actually contained good points from a content perspective and clarified many merger questions that were probably lingering in consumers' minds. If they work on their style and presentation, this easily-lampooned video could be transformed into an informative winner.

What can we learn from this?
1) Use a relatable spokesperson. Hint: This probably doesn't mean an old white executive in a suit.

2) Give your set/background serious consideration. Hint: Big logos are like the blind date that never stops talking about him or herself.

3) Make sure your copywriter is writing for your core consumer, not your executive suite. Hint: If your mom doesn't know what it means, it's probably corporate-speak.