Advertising copywriting, Business-to-business, Marketing Copywriting, Style

Who Are You Writing For? (Really?)

I was giving a guest masterclass at SCA recently.

It’s one of the top advertising schools in the world.

Vikki Ross is a tutor there so I guess that speaks volumes.

During the session, which was all about the power of storytelling, one student asked me this question.

“Don’t you think that if you’ve written a really clever line, you should have the confidence to run it?”

And my answer was, “I try never to write really clever lines”.

The problem is that we are writing advertising.

Not literature.

Not essays.

Not highbrow poetry consumed by people smoking pipes and pondering our fine way with extended metaphors drawing on classical mythology.

And if we’re writing advertising (under which rubric I include digital, direct mail, press, display, SEO copy, blogs and everything else our clients ask us for), then we should be writing for our customer.

Not our peers, our tutors, our bosses or, especially, industry awards juries.

Write something clever and there’s a very good chance that your reader will misunderstand you.

They may well not understand you at all.

Far, far better to write something simple. No. Make that devastatingly simple.

Something that your reader “gets” without even having to “understand”.

I’ll give you an example.

I wrote an email aimed at tree surgeons.

Despite the hifalutin’ job title, these are regular guys (and girls) who drive around in pick-up trucks, wield chainsaws and talk like everyday folk. Which they are.

The point of the email was to sow a seed of doubt about the quality of insurance cover they were getting from their current broker/insurer.

The line went like this:

“I bet you’ve sat in the pub some nights or chatted on a forum, moaning about cowboys who waltz in, charge a stupidly low price and then muck up the job.”

It isn’t a particularly “clever” line.

But what it is, what it does, is talk to the reader in their own language.

Now that’s smart.

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