Richard’s 10 Rules for Totally Great Copy: #3

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

#3: Great copy is present and active

While developing a voice for my sister’s company Claudette, we reviewed dozens of lingerie brands, campaigns and ads. The classic Maidenform campaign kept floating to the top: I dreamed I was [something] in my Maidenform bra.

It’s a genre of advertising I generally don’t like. But the women in our groups liked the ads a lot, and it’s clear why: they showcase the product in an interesting way.

Made me think.

Present means arresting.

You have to deliver a message that shatters the reluctance to be engaged. It should sustain the brand voice and push forward brand values.

The Altoids ad by Leo Burnett tells their whole story in a quick and charming way: Get a really strong mint.

 

This Porsche ad by Goodby Silverstein & Partners tells the story: Get a really fast car.

Active means compelling.

Great copy delivers meaningful information in an irresistible way. I chose these—both by Fallon Worldwide—because they’re headline-driven, emotional, funny and entirely unexpected.

It takes great thinking.

It’s not about copy, per se. It’s about an underlying idea and how that’s expressed.

 [Richard on soapbox]

A concept is very different than an idea. An idea is just something that comes to mind. An ad concept is a relationship between elements. Copy and visuals work together to create a message that is greater than the sum of its parts. Ideas are easy to come by. Concepts are not.

A concept involves your reader/user at multiple levels. Your audience is present because you are: you involve them in the moment. They’re active because you are: your idea comes to life in their imagination.

 Here are a few more examples.

 

“Fat/Fit” was a school project by art director Lauren Hom. It may look easy and obvious, but I’m willing to bet it took hours of work. It’s very skillful ad concepting.

 

Comedy Central, done by Grey Advertising in Argentina, reinforces their brand explicitly and implicitly.

 

The ad for Prince pasta sauce by Fallon Worldwide is a classic. Mona Lisa communicates Italian authenticity. The whole thing elevates the message out of ingredients and freshness and into an attitude of enjoying good food.

You don’t have to think about these things, nothing requires explanation. They work completely in that precious moment you get to engage your audience.

Again, setting the bar impossibly high …

Here are a few of my own ads that I’ve always liked for their quick read and clear relevance.

CAPS rents high-tech shipping containers. The industry was accustomed to buying and trashing single-use containers. This was art directed by Candice Kollar for Kirshenbaum Communications.

 

 

 The Oracle security ad makes it clear what security means and illustrates how it works, without technical metrics or jargon. Glen Abrahams was the art director.

 

 

This JB Hunt recruitment ad I did with TMP Worldwide ran very successfully in military media for many years. It flatters the veterans JB Hunt likes to hire and positions truck-driving as an honorable, meaningful job. This was art directed by Dennis Mancini.

Present and active.

To me that means the relationship with the reader/user is happening in real time, while they’re engaged with your advertising. Copy can be long or short. It can be serious or funny. Copy heavy or visual.

But it’s engaging. It draws someone into your ad then releases them having learned something.

It’s what makes great copy great.

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