The price of words - what is the value of copy?
It was shortly after the end of the Second World War, when people were pulling together to rebuild battered nations and surviving on rations, that De Beers decided it wanted to sell more diamonds. Precious stones were something most people did not want and most definitely did not need.
Frances Gerety was working at the Philadelphia agency, NW Ayer and Son, at the time. The story goes that, after a long day at work, and having finished a few ads, Gerety had forgotten to create a signature line. Exhausted, she exclaimed: “Dear God, send me a line”, scribbled something down and got into bed. When she awoke the next day, she read what she had written, considered it OK and presented it in a meeting, where it was received without much enthusiasm.
In 1999, two weeks before Gerety died at the age of 83, Advertising Age named ‘A diamond is forever’ the slogan of the century.
The slogan was simply an idea; the eternal emotional value surrounding the diamond. It appealed to both men and women. For a man to spend two months’ salary on an engagement ring for his fiancée was nothing compared to eternity. For the beloved woman, the diamond symbolised everlasting love.
This powerful slogan transformed our relationship with the product. It worked in 1948 and is still in use today.
It Does Exactly What It Says on the Tin
This phrase entered our consciousness in the UK during the mid-1990s.
Nine words which made sales of Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain shoot up the scale and transformed the company into a brand leader.
It soon became a byword for any product name which reliably describes its attributes. Now the phrase has widely come to mean a product, service or policy that is open, honest and delivers on its promise.
These are an example of simple words that, when used to describe a brand, endow it with a priceless reputation. A perfect example of less is more.
What everybody ought to know……
This was the headline for a 6,540-word ad placed in the New York Times. ‘What everybody ought to know’ described the complexities of the stock and bond business in plain language.
This full-page newspaper ad was to transform stockholding in US companies, unearthing over three million prospective new clients for copy owner, investment company, Merrill Lynch and lasting fame for the author and promotional genius, Louis Engel. He did it with over six thousand words that were read by millions.
Words in the digital age
Enough of history. Those messages are timeless but the modus operandi, while not obsolete, is certainly dated. The words we search online are now key to how we make purchases and, for businesses, understanding the keywords that should be woven into your website is essential to ensuring your online presence reaches your customer.
Warning: professional copywriters don’t charge by the word. Their skill is not reportage, or writing words for pleasure, but in crafting copy that helps organisations become a recognised brand leader.
Advertising copywriters are great at selling, but there is more to this art than promotional hyperbole. Copywriters strive to gain a sound understanding of their client AND their target audience.
They select words and create phrases that change perceptions, spread influential messages and compel people to act.
What are words worth to your organisation?