February 11, 2008

When Good Copywriters Go Bad

Good copywriters readWhen Good Copywriters Go Bad

I’ve always been a fan of reading and keeping up-to-date with both history and current affairs. As a direct marketing copywriter, I get some of my best ideas from these sources.

Because I want my copywriting to have impact it is difficult for me to write because I’m almost always nervous that I will serve up a thin soup of intellectually bereft copy. I love reading the work of good copywriters because I like my writing to be intelligent and thought-provoking. Something with a bit of meat on it that forces me to think my way out of the article. Something that teases me the entire day and helps me think differently about any given subject.

Recently, I’ve noticed that a lot of copywriting in newspapers, magazines and brochures is tepid, thin and without substance. It’s almost as if there’s no intellectual body in it, no umami to thicken it. I believe that poor copywriting is as a direct result of journalists, public relations consultants and advertising copywriters not reading enough (of the right stuff).

“If you can’t read it’s a tragedy. If you won’t read it’s a crime” – source unknown to me

In a radio advertising campaign quite a while back on Radio 702 for the Villa Tuscana Wedding Village is a case in point.

The narrator says something to the effect, “ … we’ve declared UDI …”

I challenge you to find anyone under 40 who knows what UDI is.

I’m sure a key target market for this advertising campaign, are couples that are getting married – ages probably from 24 – 30.

The copywriter could have used the full meaning – Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Even then, unless you’re over 40 and know that there was a country called Rhodesia, you’d probably be scratching your head.

Of course in terms of Southern Africa’s political sensitivities, this may not have been the most politically correct phrase to use.

Here’s the gist: when the then Prime Minister Ian Smith and 11 ministers of what was then known as Rhodesia signed the UDI on November 11, 1965 it was condemned by the United Nations Security Council as a declaration of independence “made by a racist minority.”

What could a good copywriter do?

  • Don’t assume that everyone knows what you’re talking about
  • Be clear on who your target market is and aim your message at them
  • Be knowledgeable about Southern African history so that one doesn’t make insensitive statements
  • Get three different people from different generations to read your copy – Baby Boomers, X generation and Millennials so that you make sure they all get it
  • Read more

By the way, I’ve been to Villa Tuscana Wedding Village and it is outstanding. So, don’t let weak copywriting put you off.

One Comment on “When Good Copywriters Go Bad

Gareth Pickering
February 26, 2008 at 9:02 am

Hey Jacques,
You can find your mysterious pilot on Face Book. You’ll need to request to view her profile, but you can you send her a message 🙂
Cheers! GP


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