At its core, copywriting is using language to trigger someone to do something. It helps to keep an eye on how other people are trying to pull triggers.
Dive deep enough into copywriting, you find yourself wading into the world of Mad Men.
In the middle of the fourth season, Don Draper and Peggy Olsen are forced to interview the bosses’ new nephew in law - Danny Siegel. Thinking his family ties with agency head Roger Sterling make him a shoo-in for the job, Danny proudly shows off his portfolio to Don. Included is the classic Volkswagen Lemon ad
Don: What did Roger think of this ad?
Danny: What, are you kidding me? Everybody loves that. It's the opposite of what you expect. That's what I'm interested in.
Don: Why is it in your book?
Danny: I've got a bunch of them in there. Marlboro Man, Maidenform. I like to put in work that I admire. Don't you ever tear things out of magazines?
Don: Yes, but I don't put them in my book.
Danny: Well, you know what they say, "Aspiration's as good as perspiration."
Don: That's not how it goes.
It is a special kind of person who can sit around for the day and pick apart whether or not copy is good. They’re called copywriters. Rare is the casual customer who thinks, “wow, this copy really drew me in.” Even if they do think it, they rarely think about it.
People are very good at tuning out advertisements, which is why marketer-types sometimes go out of their way to create things that don’t look like ads. When they come across something unusual or striking, advertising folks will tear it out and keep it in a swipe file. Amateurs will look to it for inspiration or to fulfill their aspiration, pros will tear the thing apart trying to figure out how it came to be.
Steal from everywhere. Build a file. Make it big and messy. When it comes time do make the remix you will want a lot of raw material on hand. Find the reason behind why you like what you like, and why you loathe what you hate.
Check out what others curate. Twitter is still a great place to find creators who want to share (just mute the news and politics). Pinterest is a curator’s goldmine. Once you find sources you love, get back on with collecting RSS feeds. Collect more than you can ever possibly use. In Module 6 we dive into this with the idea of creative cratedigging.
Mix up your sources. Trade out fiction with a memoir, academic books with poetry, drama for suspense, crosswords for cartoons.
Observe what others are doing and how people are responding. There are no new ideas, just remixes of old ones. Do you have enough sources to remix?