The Five Deadly Sins of Copy Creativity

  • The Five Deadly Sins of Copy Creativity

Learn marketing from the masters. This entry is by direct and digital marketing copywriter Andy Owen. A highly accomplished marketer, he was inducted into the DMAI Hall of Fame in 2015.

Andy Owen Copywriter

The Deadly Sins of Copy Creativity

Many years ago Drayton Bird referred to the ‘deadly sins of creativity’. He called them “universal failings”. He identified five main ones.

Obviously, they related to all forms of direct marketing communications. But, when I was revisiting the works of the great man again last week, I found they relate to copy rather interestingly.

What’s also quite noticeable is that the failings identified then, are still happening now.

Seems that very few people learn in this business. Nothing’s changed there then…

Here are the original five, with added commentary from me, plus, at the end, two new ones I have added.

1. Reluctance To Get To The Point

This seems to be happening even more now than it used to. It is vital to get that all-important benefit into the mind of the reader immediately.

Fire your biggest gun first, remember…?

Latest tests I have seen, suggest that you have 3­4 seconds to grab the reader and draw that reader into your letter. Whether it’s 3, 5 or 10, it really doesn’t matter. The point is made.

Some copywriters seem almost reluctant to get to the point. There’s yet another desperately poor BT letter highlighted later, which demonstrates this very well.

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2. Being Shy About The Offer

As I have shared with you before, I believe strongly that “if there is no offer, there will be no sale”. The offer should be in lights. It should, obviously, be relevant and it should be restated and impossible to ignore.

As Ray Jutkins said, “Don’t even think about a letter without an offer. An offer will always improve your message and will always increase your response”.

Incidentally, when you ‘guarantee’ that offer, your responses will go up. Showing complete confidence in what you are selling will give that sceptical reader that extra push, just at the right time.

Try it and see…

I have included later, a couple of laughable letters that contain no offer at all, they just talk about themselves. They are from predictable sources ­ a printer and an envelope supplier. Not a clue…

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3. Forgetting That There Must Be Something For The Reader Wherever That Reader Looks

This is especially important when you are creating a mailing pack with a number of elements.

Whatever element the reader is looking at, the benefits of doing business with you should be bold, visible and appealing.

And benefit means to benefit. Features do not sell without a relevant benefit. A benefit connects the product feature to the reader’s need.

If the reader has no need, there will be no sale. Simple as that.

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4. Making It Hard To Respond

An area that a lot of companies only pay scant attention to ­ – and they pay the price – is the call to action.

I’ve lost count of the mailings I’ve received and the ads I’ve seen that do a reasonable selling job, then lose your interest because it is so difficult to find out what you have to do next.

No one bothers to find out, by the way. You lose that potential customer right there.

“People are lazy and they are procrastinators”, said Bob Silverman.

I understand that American Express enjoyed a massive 30% uplift in response a few years ago by making the application form easier to complete. Those are serious numbers…

5. Failing To Do A Complete Selling Job

It is imperative that you cover every sensible and logical reason why the reader should respond to your selling proposition.

People want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’ Be sure to tell them quickly, clearly and appealingly.

What’s more, of course, you have to overcome all the predictable objections they may have of not doing so.

If you do this you will do well. If you do not, your communication will underperform.

Okay, there we have five deadly sins of creativity brought up to date and positioned specifically towards copywriting. Here’s another two that in my view, deserve to be added.

6. Not Utilising The Power Of The P.S.

In a direct mail letter, the power of the P.S. is proven.

We know, through detailed research and testing that nearly 4 out of 5 people look at the P.S before they start reading the letter. Only the headline gets more attention.

Close to 80% of your readers are going to look at the P.S.

What an opportunity… don’t miss it…

The P.S allows the writer to restate the benefits and the offer, loud, clear and with energy.

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7. Not Paying Enough Attention To Detail

Those of you that have been with me for some time will know of my feelings in this area. Standards have slipped. I am in no doubt about that. People just don’t seem to care anymore.

You may recall that horrendous example I shared with you from KLM. It was unbelievable.

I see examples of typos, bad layouts and other lazy errors almost every day. There are two examples below relating to off the page ads, that you just won’t believe…one is the stuff of legends…

So, there we are. There were seven deadly sins. Now we have balanced the scale by establishing seven deadly sins of copy creativity as well…

P.S. Now go see the creative copy examples

To see the examples Andy Owen referred to, go here to get the whole story in one nice PDF (no registration required – just download and read on your favourite device). Warning: some of these examples may provoke a loud and unstoppable giggle.

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By | 2017-12-08T19:59:10+00:00 January 13th, 2016|

About the Author:

Andy Owen
Andy is a hugely respected figure in the International communications industry, where he has worked at the highest level for over 31 years. His speciality is copy and creative for direct and digital marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Hall of Fame in February 2015.

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