No time for nicey nicey: why it’s better to be bolder with copywriting

By Andrew Boulton

February 26, 2013 | 4 min read

This week’s ramblings begins with the reinforcement of what a truly awesome husband I am. Our tale begins in the run up to Valentine’s Day, and having abandoned my initial plan to buy my dear wife a ‘Poseidon Adventure’ DVD boxset (1, 2 and the abysmal remake) I found myself perusing the Valentine’s goodies in a well known supermarket.

It was then that I came across a bag of chocolates that bore the following message:

‘Be my Valentine, please’

Now, as a man who would even think of treating his wife to an increasingly unimpressive series of disaster films, I am in no position to comment on the romantic nature of this message. But as a copywriter, I felt I had to discuss its deep flaws.

In copywriting more than any other written form there is a need for urgency and assertiveness. Even for such a product as this Valentine’s confectionary there can be no justification for such meek and timid language.

It’s something that could be remedied simply by removing the ‘please’ from the message, but it really brought home one of the most elemental truths of copywriting. There is no time or room for niceties.

Copywriting is everywhere and the standard in the profession is, on the whole, incredibly high. In that climate, no writer can afford to sacrifice their own message by failing to be as bold, daring and original as possible.

In my experience, such diffidence in the wording can often be born out of a client’s nervousness. I’ve been asked a surprising amount of times whether I think a message we are suggesting is perhaps ‘too much’.

And while it’s very easy for creatives to be critical of a client’s sensitivity, they have a huge amount invested in the success of the campaign and it’s understandable that this can manifest itself in an overly cautious approach.

And this observation isn’t even to say that every headline should be bellowing out its message at anyone within eye or earshot. A poorly considered piece of copywriting is just as ineffectual at any volume.

The boldness of copy I am talking about is one of conviction, purpose and imagination. Saying something unexpected or something challenging immediately puts a piece of marketing communication on a different spectrum to the rest, a level where attention is grabbed and curiosity is aroused. Although, as regular readers of the blog will know, this is by no means a call to Free the hyperbole Willy. As it were.

The chocolates that murmured something passive and uninspiring at me did not end up in my basket. The craft beer that essentially told me I was a big fanny if I didn’t buy at least four bottles did make it to the checkout.

It’s so obvious but, in what we do, words make all the difference. Now if I can just find the words to convince my wife that we should spend our Sunday afternoon watching ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ instead of ‘Labyrinth’ then I’ll be laughing.


Andrew Boulton is a copywriter at the Together Agency. He will definitely not be watching ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ this Sunday.


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