Teach Yourself Copywriting , 2nd Edition by J. Jonathan Gabay, c2000, is a book about how to write advertising copy. It was originally written for a British audience, but it translates well for the United States market. One of the reasons I read this book was that I think many blogs are basically syndicated advertising copy. Things like pay per post and other paid blogging sites make this even more true. I think it is important to understand how this style of writing works because I think it affects which blogs become successful. Many of the most successful blogs like Marketing Deviant, one of my favorite blogs are about advertisement. http://marketingdeviant.com/
I am going to go over some of the things I read about in this book which I found interesting and useful to me. The first is that advertising is about creating a connection on an emotional level between a buyer and a seller. The basic objective is tell the person what they are going to gain by buying a particular item.
Like blogs, it is very informal language. Grammar is not a strong point in advertising language. The objective is to identify as closely as possible with the consumer so they will buy your product. Coca-cola, Dow, and other giant marketers want you to identify personally with their brands so you will buy them. The bigger the company the more they want you to have a personal committment to them. A good thing to remember if you want to protect yourself from advertisers is that you don't have to be personally committed to companies like Marlboro or Nike.
Part of this committment is about identifying who you are. You are a yuppy, road warrior, buppy, generation x, baby boomer, or punk rocker. The easier it is to identify who you are the easier it is for an advertiser to directly address you. This is why when you go to the supermarket, they offer a discount card to collect your personal information. You do not have to get a Macy's card, a Waldbaums card, or anything else. Your personal information is a commodity to advertisers.
Language is simplified to be more informal and thus closer to you. This is the same for blogs. Advertisers and copywriters use cliches like buy now, yours free, limited time offer, cheap cheap cheap, we are here to serve you to create closer identity with the customer. The aim is create recognition where there is none. The language is colloquial, for example, "Where's the beef?"
The aim is often to address universals like love, happiness, revenge. There is an idea that if they connect with you on a basic level, you will buy their products. This book cites an example, that in Hollywood there are supposed to be only 11 film plots.
The objective is to get you to immediately. It is believed that there are 1 1/2 seconds to get through to a person with a headline before it loses its effects. Thus you are bombarded with statments like "Don't Walk on the Grass." Part of sales and advertising is to create immediacy. In newspaper classifieds, it is supposed to be only 3/4 of a second to hold a persons attention. The simple patience to wait a few seconds longer before becoming attracted to something often can break a sales pitch, or an impulse buy in my experience.
There are some interesting ideas which come out of advertising that are useful. One of my favorites is readability. This means how hard is your blog to read. Blogs which are hard to read don't necessarily get as much traffic. I think my blog is about 7th grade reading level.
This book covers a lot of different mediums. I am not sure that I can really focus on television, film, or radio that much. However, we have been scouted to do episodes of some television series on occassion. There is a small financial reward in this. I think we were once scouted for an episode of CSI.
The section on newspaper advertising is rather interesting. We do occassional newspaper ads. Usually we have three lines to put an announcement for a program in the newspaper. This has to be very concise and accurate. I rather liked the books suggestion to focus on action words when advertising in newspapers. The same is pretty much true for libraries and radio stations. We get about three sentences for a community services announcement on radio.
The section on posters was useful as well. He says there are basically three parts to a poster, an intriguing headline, some graphics, and a few company logos. I guess in a way that the fliers I am producing are a bit too complicated.
I can't imagine advertising in trains and subways. However, my experience is that advertisements in buses and trains are much more complicated than posters and billboards outside of trains. People will be sitting for a long time, enough time to read at least a couple full paragraphs of text. In the New York City subways, there is a campaign caled "Poetry in Motion" put together by the Poetry Society to encourage people to read poetry. I guess it would be a form of advertisement.
There is a brief section on websites. His main point is that it is important to keep websites simple to read and use. The website is not a mass marketing tool, but a direct marketing tool aimed at individual readers. You should include words that keep the structure flowing like but, however, so, because. You need conviction or you will lose your audience immediately.
This book was useful to read. It is not a book which I would buy immediately. It is the kind of thing which I would check out of the library first.