Advertising Copy…Digital Content. Tomato…Tamato.


This is another post in my Hindsight…Insight…Foresight Series. I know this because it says so on the graphic above. This is one of those old school/new school issues that hopefully I can convince you is about no school in particular.

If you are interested in creating good digital content, you really need to take a lesson from the past, when content was called advertising copy.

Creating strong content, like creating strong advertising copy, is a two-part process.

Part one is the concept. The givens are that it has to be arresting, intriguing and engaging enough to grab the reader. And most creative people worth their salt can eventually throw enough blood, sweat and tears at concept development to come up with something that works.

Part two is execution. This is where it gets dicey. Because this is the nuts and bolts part of the process, where the writer needs the ability to hold the prospect’s attention, (after they hopefully have grabbed it), have them read the entire story, and come away with a level of understanding about the product or service they are promoting, even if it’s just themselves.

This is the real challenge, and the main point of difference between people who purport to create good content and those who actually do is the ability to perform at this critical stage. This has proven to be the Achilles’ heel of many so called content writers.

I saw it for 17 years back in the old analog days in the agency business, when I had to supervise other writers. And I see even more of it now in the digital world of content creation where everybody things they know how to write.

Nobody Reads Copy, Right?

I’m not sure what causes this malaise. But my theory back then was that once most writers had themselves a flashy headline and the cool visual from their art director, they were left with a bunch of Greek type that they were convinced didn’t really matter all that much.

So they typed as fast as they could and hoped for the best because, hey, nobody reads copy, (or in today’s terms, content) right? They just scan through it and hope the subheads tell the story.

Wrong Then And Wrong Now.

Consumers who are about to part with or invest any of their hard earned money read it. Businesspersons with jobs that depend on the purchasing decisions they make read it. The executives and business owners whose businesses depend on their purchasing decisions read content too. You can bet your buns they do.

And for being generous enough to read down through the concept and into the nitty gritty, readers deserve a product or service story well told. This is where the quality of writing can make all the difference.

The key thing I have learned from the thousands of ads and commercials and the hundreds of booklets, brochures, flyers, web sites, blogs and presentations I have written is that the cake is every bit as important as the icing. And that paying equal attention to both parts of the process is the key to creating communication that does what it’s supposed to do–sell.

People Haven’t Changed. Because People Don’t.

If you have drunk the KoolAid that a lot of digital marketers are handing out freely about how people nowadays don’t like to be ‘sold’, you can take it from someone who has been on both sides of the tall frosty glass and concluded that’s bullshit.

If you are dealing with people who are selling the Koolaid, I have a word of advice for you…run. These people will be happy to take your money and tell you to be patient because the market out there is different than it used to be. Bullshit. People haven’t changed. They still window shop and comparison shop before they buy or hire. They just use different tools to do it.

This is what advertising used to look like, before the Internet and Digital marketing came along and fucked it all up. This stuff was mainly powered by the marriage of strategy and idea. Very few people these days know how to make than happen.

Every Message Is A Selling Message. Or Should Be.

The basic hard core reality is that all communication is some form of advertising. And if it’s not trying, even in subtle ways, to sell, I would argue it’s just nothing but a waste of pixels.

The vessels that carry your messaging have changed. But they have changed for the better. They allow you to dimensionalize your communications in a whole new way, and get a lot more of what we used to call ‘depth of sale’ into your messaging.

Anyone who is encouraging you to beat around the bush with your content is basically selling you time share on the moon. Because they are creating or teaching you to create content that deliberately doesn’t sell: i.e. Content that tells people very little and at the end of the day, wastes their time and erodes the credibility and equity in your brand.

We are already starting to see the Content Revolution turn a corner, where boiler plate or off the shelf ideas just don’t cut it anymore. And for that every real writer on the planet is in various stages of being grateful.

The Insight From My Hindsight & Foresight

1.Good content requires a solid concept and a good story well told, just like advertising copy.
2. If it doesn’t sell, even just a little, people won’t know what to do.
3. Don’t beat around the bush…it wastes your time and the time of anyone reading your content.
4. People do need to be sold. Maybe not hard sold, but sold all the same.
5. Make sure your content makes a point.
6. Don’t buy time shares on the moon or any other planet.


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One thought on “Advertising Copy…Digital Content. Tomato…Tamato.

  1. Hahaha “time share on the moon” …Jim how on this earth did you get so smart – that is your experience talking. Great points on advertising copy and content. Changing a name will not change the purpose!

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