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December 10, 2014How do you work with a client who keeps you guessing?

I think it’s happened to every copywriter at some point. The client who knows exactly what they want. But they can’t put it in words. Or rather, they probably can put it in words, they just won’t. Instead, they make you play a guessing game. Because you’re the copywriter. You should know.

It’s the exact opposite of the pixel-pushing backseat designer (or “hovering art director“) who watches over you constantly “suggesting” adjustments. What do you do when you get a client who knows exactly what they want but won’t tell you, insisting ‘you’re the copywriter, you should know’?…

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November 24, 2014The secret ingredient that makes a writer good…

What makes a good writer? You could say it’s experience. You might say it’s how they were taught. Or how much they’ve read.

But while these are the ingredients of what makes a good writer, they’re not what makes a writer good.

That’s something that can’t be learned from a book. Or from a blog like this.

(But don’t stop reading just yet).

The thing that makes a writer good is the same thing that makes an actor good, a singer good, a sportsman good, a professional poker player good.

It’s confidence.

That’s what makes the difference between ordinary and …

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October 12, 2014Why I’m making music again

OK, there’s actually few good reasons why I’ve started making music (after taking a five year break).

Firstly, I spent way too much money over the summer (doesn’t everyone?). Staying at home and writing tunes keeps the bank balance in the black.

Secondly, I’ve seen some pretty inspiring stuff lately, from the new Nick Cave movie to the excellent Fort Process festival on the south coast, a day filled with experimental art and sound and noise.

But the real reason? Because I’m terrible at it.

And no, I’m not particularly trying to get better, either (although you’d hope that the …

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August 25, 2014Fail harder. Never be afraid of failure.

When you’re young, summer is supposed to be fun. But somehow between adolescence and adulthood it turns into a time of terror — the time of dreaded exam results that supposedly determine the rest of your life.

If you’re a teenager and you’re reading this, stop right now and pay attention to these words: your exam results do not define you. What you get, ultimately, doesn’t matter.

In ten years time, you won’t even remember.

You won’t remember 90% of what you learned in school. And 99% of it you’ll never use.

The only time anyone ever asked what I …

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June 28, 2014And now a word from our sponsors

I will admit it. I am one of life’s moaners. Partly, it comes from being an obsessive perfectionist. I will get upset if a comma is out of place, I will be unhappy if a concept isn’t executed exactly as I planned it. When it comes to my work, I’ve always insisted on perfection.

But perfection isn’t always possible. And so I’ve developed a reputation at the places I’ve worked as someone who’s never quite happy. There’s a certain value in being an obsessive perfectionist, but I’ve started to think it’s led to people thinking I’m never satisfied, never happy …

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June 2, 2014Five rules for being a better creative

It’s far easier to destroy than to create. Anyone who’s ever kicked over a sand castle on the beach knows this to be true.

And like the proverbial bully who kicks over the castle that the other boy has spent hours perfecting, when you’re a creative, it can be just as easy to kick apart an idea just as it’s taking shape.

Partly it stems from a sense of creative frustration. It’s easy to take the page you’ve written and tear it in half, or press delete. All creatives are perfectionists. We have a vision of how it should look. …

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May 5, 2014Long copy is back. Storytelling is here.

Long copy is back and boy, don’t you know it.

Check this out: It’s not a print ad, it’s the tiny type on an enormous billboard. The only other thing on the board is a pint.

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It’s not unusual for a billboard to tell a story. But it’s bloody unusual for it to tell it exclusively with words.

But that’s what’s happening. The power dynamic has shifted away from the high-gloss world of beautiful visuals and captivating imagery and back to the slower, more thoughtful, yet often more engaging world of copy.

I don’t think this is a very good …

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April 6, 2014Sell the product, not the lifestyle.

Writers. We do love our silence.

After all, we’re only one step removed from the library, the garret, the dusty bookshelf.

Of course in reality copywriters never get the peace and quiet we need to scribble or to think.

In offices we’re bothered by loud, boisterous music — or loud, boisterous people. I once had to share a desk with a man whose job it was to read the same sales script over and over, every day.

When we’re lucky enough to be working from home, we may have kids under our feet or noisy neighbours over our heads.

And …

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March 3, 2014Why Amazon should have presented their price hike as an apology

Amazon recently raised the price of their Prime membership by 60%. Yet they tried to claim it was a “saving” by bundling it with unwanted streaming video services. Instead of this dishonest trick that’s proven immensely unpopular, here’s what Amazon should have done if they needed to raise prices… apologise.

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February 12, 2014Make it memorable

Continuing my recent series of blog posts about stuff I’ve seen on the Tube on the way home, this card caught my eye. Several times:

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It’s great copy — a beautifully poetic way to state the product’s awesome USP. Yes! This is exactly what you’re looking for when booking flights, hotels etc… something that will find you that elusive bargain that makes your journey affordable.

Then I got to thinking… why did this ad catch my eye several times? Because no matter how hard I tried, I could never actually remember the product’s name.

It’s Skyscanner.

Now this is …

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