Copy Points

Scraps of Thought from The Mighty Copywriter

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Paper Cuts

Ad spending fell 4% in the first quarter versus last the year, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Outsized cuts came to print vehicles.

Newspapers suffered a 15% falloff, while magazine advertising was trimmed more than 8%.

The absence of special events like 2014′s Sochi Olympics worsened the decline. 

Nonetheless, cuts by the 10 biggest spenders—companies like Procter & Gamble, General Motors and AT&T—exceeded 10%.

Those advertisers trimmed spending "to cut costs and navigate the complexities of the digital ad market," the newspapers says.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Ideas Once Spreading

One hundred and fifty years before TED revitalized the chalk talk, lecture halls known as "lyceums" flourished across the U.S.

At their peak in the 1850s, the halls drew more than a million people a week—nearly 5% of the country's population.

Attendees brought their 19th century attention spans to hear itinerant speakers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Dickens, Frederick Douglass and Julia Ward Howe.

Unlike other public gathering spots of the day, lyceums welcomed women and, north of the Mason Dixon Line, African Americans. 

Tickets, sold by subscription, were cheap (about 25 cents).

Most speakers delivered "instructive" talks about science, travel, and the arts; but lyceums also hosted proponents of hot political ideas, especially early feminists, prohibitionists and abolitionists.

The latter aroused so much animosity as the decade progressed that audiences, afraid of violent outbreaks, eventually stopped going to lyceums, and the phenomenon lost much of its steam.

Following the Civil War, many of the once-heady halls were converted to venues for vaudeville acts.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hitting Delete

It appears, suddenly, we have some expunging to do.

The word expunge was first used in English around 1600.

Originally meaning "to delete," it was usually applied to words in a court record.

Expunge stems from expungere, a Latin word meaning to prick, as with a pin.

When an Ancient Roman soldier retired from service, a row of pin pricks was made below his name in the army records.

Today, we use expunge to mean “to remove completely; to obliterate; to destroy.” 

The Ancient Romans also liked to condemn traitors by pronouncing damnatio memorial, literally "damnation of memory." 

By pronouncing damnatio memorial, the Roman Senate would order that every trace of a traitor be deleted.

His property would be seized; his name erased from all documents; and his statues destroyed or reworked.

The traitor, in effect, never existed.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Jumping the Shark

Well aware that most customers are "deletists," email marketers will swim any length to catch you.

Sometimes, too far.

A marketing automation provider recently sent me an email with the following subject line:

Don't open this message unless…

The "payoff" (a fairly insipid one) appeared in the body of the email:

You want to automate your marketing woes away!

Obviously, I took the bait.

But I ask: Why would a company that sells, of all things, email marketing services sink to such lows?

So be warned.

Avoid clickbait subject lines

Even if they increase opens, they'll take a bite out of your brand.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Machines Will Take over Marketing

Harvard Business School professor Jeffrey F. Rayport predicts that technology will soon take over marketing.

"What did for sales management and NetSuite did for financial management, software-as-a-service providers will do for marketing, by automating much of what marketers do every day," Rayport says.

As ever greater dollars are shifted to digital from other forms of marketing, marketing technology will rise in importance—and spell doom for activities like planning, budgeting and management.

"Instead of setting advertising budgets on quarterly cycles, marketers will launch ad initiatives whenever opportunities emerge, and they will optimize them for efficiency and effectiveness on the fly," Rayport says. 

"Bidding on ad exchanges already happens in real time; enhancements in media placement and creative execution (for example, what image goes with what copy for a given recipient) will occur with similar speed. The 'budget cycle' is already a quaint idea. It will soon be a thing of the past."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

White Noise

Too much content is killing content marketing, says William Yates, an executive with the UK-based digital agency Novacom.

Marketers know full well customers are time-starved, but continue nonetheless to spew "protracted blogs, long, drawn out how-to articles, and over-written so-called white papers."

Most of this content is "textual junk," Yates says; and the oversupply threatens to turn marketing communications into "marketing white noise."

In fact, Yates contends, a transition is already afoot: customers are becoming more discerning.

"Discernment is the other side of the transition coin, and as this side of the coin is flipped and hits the sunlight, and discrimination prevails, so this incessant stream of nonsense will be perceived for what it actually is: valueless."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Watch Your Step with "Jive"

I read an e-book recently that, packaging-wise, would earn the envy of any marketer.

But all its polish and pizazz were wasted on me when I collided with an all-too-common blunder business writers make: confusing the words jive and jibe.

The e-book read:

"Influencer marketing jives with content marketing. Influencer marketing doesn't just jive well with with content marketing. It IS content marketing."

The writer meant "jibe."

The verb jibe means to accord with something.

The noun jive means swing music, foolish chatter, or the jargon of hipsters. As a verb, jive means to dance, talk or mislead.

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