Many of us are familiar with AMC’s hit TV show,Mad Men. We can’t help but romanticize the lifestyles of those skyscraper giants and the advertising challenges they continuously knock out of the ballpark. But while it’s an enjoyable series, it isn’t entirely accurate.
Yet, in some ways it is.
You see, most ad agency structures reflect that of the show. You have account management, media, the art department (today’s graphic design), photography, production, and the long forgotten art form: copywriting. The writers of the show based Don Draper’s character around America’s “original mad man,” David Ogilvy. As a copywriter myself, I've been a fan of his for quite some time.
I recently picked up one of his books, “Confessions of an Advertising Man,” and immediately fell in love. Not only does he share his tips for award-winning headlines and persuasive copy, but dives into creative processes and why writers are called to… well, write. Combining these gems and the experience I’ve collected as an industry writer, here are my nine copywriting tipsfor truly addictive content.
1. Target a niche with a need.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in advertising, it’s redefining your audience. People assume the goal is to persuade the general public to purchase your products or services. Generalization, my friends, immediately sets you up for a trap.
Target the customers who genuinely want or need what you have to offer. Learn about their lifestyles, what they’re interested in. At the end of the day, it’s about finding a solution to a problem, sharing it with those who need it, and listening for your audience’s response.
2. Invest the bulk of your time in research.
Ogilvy, Gossage, and all the other legends out there agree that the best copywriters are tenacious researchers. Think about it for a moment. How else would we know so much about so many industries?
Research your heart out, big ideas come from compulsive pursuit. Learning about the topics that resonate with your audience allows you to come up with cart loads of content options. It’s all about chipping away at the bigger picture.
3. Don't overthink it.
Writing is an interesting practice. Unlike design or photography, you can’t visibly see the layers involved. But just like in all forms of art, your best ideas come from the unconscious. It’s important to be well-informed of your topic, but not over-rationalize to the point that it clouds your ability to be creative.
4. Develop a brand past the campaign.
There’s the topic, and then there’s the idea. Now that you’ve done the research and gathered an arsenal of concepts, it’s time to develop the deeper message. Ogilvy once said, “People can be coaxed, not driven.” The same holds true for copywriting today. The headline may grab the attention, but the copy is your value proposition.
5. Personalize the reader's experience.
One of the most overwhelming aspects of being a copywriter is addressing your readers. When you view it as a stadium full of customers, crafting the right message can be downright intimidating.
A piece of Ogilvy’s advice I resonated with most — remembering that when each person reads your post, they’re alone with your words. Being vulnerable in your work allows you to connect with your readers on a more personal level.
6. Focus on the end-game.
Marketers love to be original, and writers are suckers for clever wordplay. Our jobs are amazing, but it’s important to not get distracted from the sale. People typically glance at ads, and may overlook million-dollar copy if the message (or value) isn’t there. Because our society is surrounded by advertising, it’s important to establish a sense of immediacy.
7. Polish, scratch, then polish again.
A writer isn’t necessarily a copywriter. The main difference is the discipline to continually polish. Oddly enough, write like it’s your job and don’t allow yourself to miss deadlines. And while they’re both creative, copywriting adds a sense of professionalism in that it combines art with strategy.
8. Take time to find joy in what you're doing.
Don’t settle, be competitive, but also enjoy the ride. Copywriters have one of the best jobs in the world. Each day we have the opportunity to create epic content for audiences who really need it. One of my favorite Ogilvy quotes says it all, “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.” Challenge yourself to think bigger.
9. Protect the integrity of your work.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from fellow copywriters is to protect your work. Copy is often overlooked. Jotting down a few lines and putting it through spellcheck doesn’t guarantee results. Your content is important, treat it that way.
Ogilvy, Gossage, Koenig and all the greats took time and energy to nurture the most memorable lines. It might take a day, maybe weeks, not because it takes long to write but that it takes time to get it right.
What obstacles have you faced in writing? What are some of the roadblocks between you and your audience? Share with us in the comments below and stay tuned for some more tips for elevating your brand’s content strategy.