Same job, different uniform.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

girlfriday: get thee a new angle

This is a shameless repost (with edits) of one of my favorites, originally submitted June 2006.

I rue the day the dairy industry launched its "Got Milk?" campaign. It spawned a generation of unoriginal ad campaigns that nauseate and bore millions of marketing-conscious Americans.

Got Jesus?
Got Plaque?
Got Radiator Problems?
Got gastro-intestinal trouble?

Got an original thought?

Think how effective and refreshing a sign that read, "Do you need a new transmission? We offer transmissions at a fair price" would be. Or, "You're welcome at our church." Or, " First-Time Patients: Free Teeth Cleaning. Call 555-5555."

Cleverness only works if you're clever. If you're a dentist odds are you're not. Remember that your competitors are also trying to produce a marketing scheme that will attract consumers, and most of them don't know how to do it either. They are resorting to the trite "Got ?" campaigns. Join them and you will be fatally commonplace.

If you don't have the budget or edge to compete with McDonald's' million dollar advertising campaigns, don't. Offer a good product, sell it professionally and with class. When in doubt remember that less is more.
This goes for email correspondence, letters, websites, news reports, journal entries, and notes jotted on paper while driving.

We all try too hard (I certainly do); we all make marketing mistakes. But failure is no excuse to keep failing. Attempt to write simple, declarative sentences. It hurts, but it's worth it.

If you need help eliminating unnecessary text, there used to be a Windows add-on called Bullfighter. An inconspicuous tool that, with the push of a button, would review your text for "bull" Bullfighter was delicious. Today, you'll probably have to rely on the most ruthless editor you know to scan your text for jargon. 

Another helpful document that I've frequently referenced is, "Why Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes" which was originally published by the Robert Wood Johnson  Foundation. While it was aimed at helping nonprofits build meaningful public service campaigns, it's hard to overstate the usefulness of Bad Ads for anyone writing marketing copy. Click here to download it (free).

And if you need that ruthless editor I'm happy to be yours. Please note the ruthless in the previous sentence and make your decision carefully.

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