Archive for January, 2011

Some Thoughts on Joseph Sugarman’s Adweek Copywriting Handbook

January 29, 2011


It’s all about getting her to read the first sentence. And then the next. And the next. Until she finishes the copy and picks up the phone to place her order.

In The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, legendary adman Joseph Sugarman explains the art of creating print advertising which will motivate a person “to exchange his or her hard-earned money for a product or service” (5).

Grab and Keep the Reader

Sugarman describes how “the purpose of all the elements in an ad” is “to get you to read the copy” (31). The pictures, layout and headline must pull readers into the ad. Then the words take over.

The first sentence must “really grab and keep” the reader (32). In order to do this, Sugarman advises copywriters to “Keep it short, sweet and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence” (32).

It had to happen.

It’s you against the computer.

It’s easy.

Each of the three brief opening sentences provided by Sugarman is designed to lure the unsuspecting reader down the “slippery slope” of words, ultimately leading him to commit an act of unnecessary consumption.

Once the potential customer has begun her descent, the copy must be compelling enough to “get momentum going and create that buying environment” (114).

A good salesman can decide which strategy to utilize by reading his customer’s face, but a copywriter uses mere words to generate the elements of a showroom inside the reader’s imagination. This process includes anticipating and assuaging all possible objections. Sugarman warns: “Give the readers any excuse not to buy and they won’t buy” (124).

From Me to You

And just like any other salesman, the copywriter’s most important task is to develop a personal relationship with the customer. Although a particular advertisement appears in a magazine that will be read by thousands of readers, it should address potential customers in the same manner one would use speaking to a friend.

It is essential that you write your copy as if you are writing to that single individual. Your copy should be very personal. From me to you. Period (91).

One way copywriters achieve this sense of intimacy is by using the personal pronouns, you, I and me, which “create the feel of a personal form of communication” (88). The word we, however, can make the seller seem large and impersonal. That’s why it’s best to refer to a company and its support staff in an endearing manner: “My team of great engineers is available to help you” (281).

You sell on emotion but you justify a purchase with logic

Human beings are capable of making rational decisions, but decision-making is not a rational process. As poet Theodore Reothke shrewdly noted, “We think by feeling.” And any purchasing decision is fraught with feelings.

As Sugarman explains:

You buy a Mercedes automobile emotionally but you then justify the purchase logically with its technology, safety and resale value (138-9).

How Many Words?

Is there such a thing as too much copy? Not according to Sugarman: “There really is no limit to how long copy should be if you get results” (83). However, space is always finite in newspaper or magazine advertisements. (But space is not restricted with internet ads, which creates many selling opportunities)

But as a general rule brevity is better, and “the goal in writing ad copy is to express the thoughts you want to convey in the most powerful way but with the fewest words” (102 ).

Like a Poet

Like a poet, an effective copywriter needs to understand the emotional connotations of the words she chooses. Also like a poet, she must learn to “edit for rhythm,” in order to create copy that flows mellifluously (104).

You’ll Have to Buy the Book to Get the Rest of the Stories

Like how Sugarman got sales to rise twenty percent by changing a single word in a page of copy (70). Or how he sold a quarter of a million Walkie-Talkies by calling it a Pocket CB.

by Richard W. Bray

Personal Responsibility

January 25, 2011

Personal Responsibility

I said I’d clean the chimney
So just calm down
It’s stupid to complain
It already burnt down

I said I’d fix the fridge
So what’s the big deal?
Food’s all spoiled
Let’s go out for a meal

I said I’d feed the fish
I know I forgot
I’m sorry they’re all dead
But at least I’m not

I said I’d cook dinner
But I’m a busy guy
I hear your stomach growling
I can’t imagine why

I said I’d do the laundry
It’s just as well
I hate to tell ya’
But you really smell?

I said I’d pay the bills
And here you are
Just nagging and moaning
They already took your car

I don’t go around telling people what to do
But you need to grow up, if you want my view
If you want it done right, then do it on your own
By the way, I’m outta’ cash. Could your buddy get a loan?

by Richard W. Bray

It Takes all Kinds

January 21, 2011

It Takes all Kinds

If I’m askance, then you’re askew
I walk crooked, but you do too
Words you say won’t make me blue
Cuz’ I don’t have to be like you

If I like my purple hair,
Or pants inside my underwear,
Or pantaloons that twelve could share
Why should you care what clothes I wear?

If I want to eat some beets,
Or blue bananas and hamster feet,
Or gray tamales with lizard meat
Why would you rue the food I eat?

I don’t care if you eat squid
Or leave an open toilet lid
Don’t need a big list of forbid
To raise a happy, healthy kid

Glad your teeth are jeweled and pearled
And all your nose-hairs have been curled
This simple truth must be unfurled:
It takes all kinds to make a world

by Richard W. Bray

Only the Best for Me

January 16, 2011

Only the Best for Me

I own every inch of land
Mountains to the sea
It’s clear I should demand
Only the best for me

My pencil box is solid gold
For everyone to see
Of all items bought and sold
Only the best for me

I covet gourmet caviar,
Russian it must be
Don’t you know that I’m a star?
Only the best for me

Cheddar is for peasants
My palate calls for brie
It tastes just right with pheasant
Only the best for me

I prefer a hall of mirrors
To human company
Alone with all my tears
Only the best for me

by Richard W. Bray


January 11, 2011


Kermit’s colorful markers:
A rainbow of selection
He decorates his house
But can’t avoid detection

Tina’s tiny tricycle
Took her up a hill
But when she tried to ride it down
She took a nasty spill

Randy’s homemade rocket
Shot up into space
On board was his puppy
Not easy to replace

Skippy’s super slingshot
Had a range of fifty yards
Replacing all those windows
Is going to be hard

Andrew’s alligator
Was the coolest pet of all
But sooner and not later
It ate up Andrew raw

It’s okay to be a rascal
And bother dads and mothers
But it’s just dumb to break stuff
Or hurt yourself and others

by Richard W. Bray

Jenny’s Jokebox

January 6, 2011

Jenny’s Jokebox

Jenny bought a Jokebox
At the doodad store
And if you’ve got a nickel
It will make your belly roar

Ya’ hear about the chicken
Who wouldn’t cross the road?
Or the one about the princess
Whose prince became a toad?

There was a kid who dreamed
Of cotton candy at the fair
Who then awoke to find
His pillow wasn’t there

At Christmas Lenny asked for
A thousand pounds of snoo
“Snoo, what’s snoo?” You ask
“Not much. What’s snoo with you?”

Since Jenny got her Jokebox
She’s been rolling in the dough
So if you got a nickel
Then she’s the girl to know

by Richard W. Bray

Please Don’t

January 2, 2011

Please Don’t

Don’t cough in by coffee
Don’t bark up my tree
Don’t scoff at my toffee
Don’t wave at my sea

Don’t hide in my hide
Don’t bumble my bee
Don’t side with my side
Just please let me be

by Richard W. Bray