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Winning words: The benefits of a blunter approach to sales promotion copywriting

By Andrew Boulton

February 12, 2013 | 3 min read

I was in the gym this morning (don’t snigger). And while I was there (having what was either a mild heart attack or a massive asthma attack, and getting very much in the way of burly men with neck tattoos) an ad caught my eye.

It was for some kind of energy drink with dubious claims about ‘recovery properties’ and, rather foolishly, I can’t remember the name of it. So, for the sake of this discussion, let’s call it PowerGuzz.

The poster was a promotion in which consumers had the chance to win an iPod with each purchase. And the headline for this piece of promotion was simply ‘Win an iPod with PowerGuzz’.

My initial thoughts, as a copywriter, were that was a lazy and unimaginative approach, and to a certain extent I still hold that opinion.

But i’ve encountered an increasing number of sales promotions that adopt the similar kind of direct, unambiguous language and thus I can’t help but feel it must be a technique that has yielded some success.

My default approach to such briefs tends to be (trying) to do something clever and engaging (I said ‘trying’) and that doesn’t necessarily give immediate prominence to the details of the promotion.

My boss, a splendid fellow with considerable experience in the field of sales promotion, tends to adopt the entirely opposite stance, and if we weren’t both such weak and enfeebled characters i’m quite sure we’d brawl openly in the street over the issue.

But I am increasingly coming round to his way of thinking. There is undoubted merit, especially in sales promotion work, for a bold and straightforward statement of intent. Sales promotions, especially in the FMCG market, are utterly saturated and there is justification in asking whether the subtle approach is the most appropriate course of action.

On pack communications, for sales promotions in particular, require maximum impact from the bare minimum of copy. Words must captivate, excite and inform in a very different way from a brand awareness ad, and I can see why directness is an increasingly favoured approach amongst copywriters in this field.

And while i’d be reluctant to write a direct sales promotion message that was entirely devoid of creative elements, I think copywriters are increasingly adopting a pragmatism that fosters a far less circuitous approach to promotional messages.

Now if reading this blog has left you genuinely exhausted (it happens) then why not pick up a bottle of PowerGuzz, made with real electricity and tracksuits? Or just have a little sit down.


Andrew Boulton is a copywriter at the Together Agency. If you ever see him in the gym, help him.


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