Advertising Thoughts, Copywriting

Why All Copywriters Must Be Zeitgeists

–noun German . the spirit of the time; general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time.

Politics. Pop Culture. Social Trends. Technology. Guess what, copywriters, we’ve got to be up-to-date on all of these things.

There is a difference between being a writer and a copywriter. Writers need an imagination, a firm grasp of the rules of language, and knowledge of one particular subject (ideally, the subject they are writing about). Copywriters also need those traits, but we also must be zeitgeists. We must be comedians. We must be political pundits. We must be tech-savvy experts. We must know public opinion on movies, fashion, health care, cars, and anything and everything else going on in the world around us.

Fortunately for us copywriters, I think that is part of the reason we got into this business. If it wasn’t we’d be writing screen plays, novels or newspaper articles. But we love the variety. We love knowing what’s going on about ALL things at ALL times. We’re inquisitive almost to the point of being nosy. We’re like journalists without the AP style requirements or the ethical, objective code. We write about what we want to write about. Okay, maybe not. We write about what our client and creative director want us to write about.

Point is: Stay attuned, stay abreast. Know what’s going on. About everything. I’ve come to realize that the biggest positive feedback in my writing always comes from my timely and culturally relevant quips.

When I took 2nd place in my school’s humorous writing contest, people always said their favorite part was when I joked about the iPhone. This was in 2008, so it was big news at the time. My piece was about airport waiting areas … and people loved the bit about the iPhone. At first it didn’t really make sense. It certainly wasn’t my favorite part of my comedic story. But then I realized that it was relevant to the time. And it all made sense.

I love knowing a little bit about everything, and I guess that’s the key. Be a know-it-all without the annoying attitude. There aren’t many areas in which I’d say I’m an expert, but I do know the basics of a lot of things. And it helps me so much in my writing. It’s just a necessary part of being an advertising copywriter.

Advertising Thoughts

Forget the Steak & the Sizzle … Sell the Status

steak sizzling

Why in the world would someone buy an $80 Lacoste polo when they could get the same exact thing at Ross for $10? Why do women love to see that “C” on their bag when they know their significant other will have to spend half his paycheck on it? Why buy a Lexus when Toyotas are made from the same parts? Answer: Other than the fact that the crocodile looks pretty cool … Status.

When we write copy for products that are high end, the challenge can be to make it sound luxurious, without sounding like you’re trying to make it sound luxurious. Naturally better. Innately superior. Routinely premium. And that’s how it’s got to come across.

I made this mistake with one of the first clients I ever got to write live copy for. It was a resort chain in Mexico that offers high-end time shares in the most exotic Mexican locations. Being young, I thought the best way to convey luxury was by saying it . . . repeatedly. After a resounding “Try again” from my Creative Director, I thought a bit more about it. How do you say luxury without saying luxury?

To this day I sometimes struggle with this issue. I’ve always responded to advertising that is creative yet straightforward . . . but I’m also not in the “luxury” bracket yet. From all my research and study, rich people want to know and be told that they are rich . . . but subtly. And that’s what I figured out on my second draft of my magazine ad for this luxury timeshare resort.

When you are selling anything that isn’t in the bottom rung of its industry, you want to tell your consumer how it’s going to make their life better. Short-term . . . maybe. But how is this product going to make them feel better and look better to their peers for good.

If your consumer buys your car, will their boss respect them more? Any car has horsepower or MPG these days. But what are their friends going to think? Their superiors? What about that candy bar? Will your consumer be the envy of their class when they pull it out of their backpack? Will the teacher get mad because of how distractingly good that candy bar is for the rest of the students?

Here’s the goal. Sell the steak. Sell the sizzle. But for brand loyalty, sell the status.