Copywriting Cheat Sheet [infographic]



In spite of what your parents and the kids in b-school tried to tell you, these days good writing does count – and can make a real difference to ROI for lots of things.  

But not all copywriting is the same.  Here’s a handy primer.

copywriting infographic

That offensive Blue Cross ad


It’s no secret that I love The West Wing.  I’ve seen every episode at least 3 times (some a lot more than that), and I often drive Max a little nuts by going all Rocky Horror Picture Show while it’s on (i.e. quoting lines along with the characters). 

Unfortunately, right now, the only place and time I can reliably watch The West Wing (due to babies and various A/V setups) is 8pm weeknights on CTS, the Christian channel. This is a little annoying because they not only bleep out every ‘hell’ and ‘damn’, they also tend to remove entire scenes that they deem too racy for their audience (they cut scenes of unmarried people waking up in bed together, for example).

Also annoying is that they seem to have only a handful of advertisers, so you see the same ads night after night after night. For the past few months, we’ve been subjected to this one from Blue Cross, about how ‘the Thompsons’ need supplemental health insurance:

I hate this ad.  Not only because it’s boring and involved about the same amount of creativity as a boiled egg, but because its nod to ‘diversity’ is so transparently shallow as to be offensive.  The ad addresses ‘Billy’s’ need for new teeth, ‘Mr Thompson’s’ fall off a ladder, and ‘Mrs Thompson’s’ need for new glasses.  ‘Grandma Thompson’ (at least, I think she’s supposed to be someone’s grandmother) sits, ignored, in her wheelchair, with only her little dog for company.  But what about the little girl?  She’s not identified, and her only role in the ad is to hold up a sign (well, and to help Grandma Thompson – perhaps with a Blue Cross plan, that’s as much help as you can expect).

What is she doing in this ad?  I’ll tell you:  Someone said “We should have, like, some diversity in there somewhere, guys – 32% of our target audience is non-white…”, so they shoehorned this poor girl in to the picture.

I think it’s great when advertising reflects our diverse culture – I love that Cheerios ad (with the ‘white’ mother and the ‘bi-racial’ daughter) that everyone’s been talking about. But just sticking in an older person or a person of colour, without making them part of the action or even referring to them, is the worst kind of pandering.

Music in ads: Someone really likes Kate Bush


You know I’m always noticing the music they use in ads (and how one of the unexpected benefits of getting older is that so much of it is tunes from my youth).  So it wasn’t surprising that I did a double-take when this new spot for Olay Regenerist Luminous came on this evening:

I couldn’t believe it:  Kate Bush, famously publicity-shy and mostly removed from the scene for the past 10+ years, was selling her tracks to global consumer brands?  Because I was pretty sure the soundtrack was ‘Running Up That Hill’:


But no – it’s a soundalike.  Still, I’m 100% certain that the brief for the music in this spot was “‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush – or, like, just make it sound exactly like that, but without us having to pay royalties or track down her agent.”

[I notice, BTW, that there was a 2012 remix of ‘Running Up That Hill’.  I am not certain why this happened. All I know is that the last time I heard anything about Kate Bush, she was baking a pie for some feature in a British newspaper. Not certain why that happened, either.]