There was some good banter yesterday with Copyblogger over the tips and guidelines to copywriting that he posts on his site and whether they are helpful, or too vague over-simplified to be anything but dangerous in the wrong hands.
The wrong hands being this one client I did some freelance work for. It ended predictably badly.
Allowing for the fact that his audience is non-professionals and that there are limitations to a blog post, and not getting into a larger discussion over how you measure advertising effectiveness (advertising really should do more than get good conversion rates), I still held that “tips” like “sure-fire headline templates” aren’t the first step on the road to good advertising.
The first step on the road to good advertising is experience.
No matter how many tips your read, classes you take or guidelines you adhere to, if you don’t have any interesting experience to draw from, you don’t have anything to say. If you don’t have anything to say, you’re pretty much screwed.
A corollary to this is ability to empathize. If you cannot put yourself in a position to see, understand and communicate the human truth of the product and its position (even if it is, like I am working on now, a product that send pheremones in the air to comfort cats and keep them from peeing in the house…did I mention that I love this job?), you cannot write good ads for it.
The second step on the path to good advertising is practice.
We all start out writing crap. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it; writing good ads is hard work, despite what my favorite junior AE might think.
You have to love to write to become a good copywriter because it takes a lot of practice to get to the level that you can go beyond the evolutionary to the revolutionary, beyond the expected to the new, beyond the sure-fire headlines to the powerful and surprising ones.
And just when you think you are there, you find out that you’re not.
The great thing about Copyblogger‘s site is that he makes you think about your craft, think about what you are doing and think about how you can push yourself and your work so you don’t fall into the trap of doing what everyone else is doing (and have always done).
And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?