Marketing copywriting is salesmanship in print. Yes, it is, because John E. Kennedy said so. (‘E’, not ‘F’ – that was another Kennedy). He also said that ‘Mere opinions on Advertising Copy should be excluded from consideration.’
Strong words. But they popped into my head again as I watched the Telefónica O2 enterprise marketing team claim two prizes at the 2014 B2B Awards for their Local Government Digital Fund campaign. They won Best Live Event and Best Campaign for Corporate Decision Makers.
I was reminded of Mr Kennedy’s timeless insight because we agonised over the theme of the award-winning campaign: ‘Do different’.
We knew the sentiment was right. After years of budget cuts, UK councils were desperate to find fresh ways of getting things done.
The Local Government Digital Fund was aimed at helping councils who wanted to develop new digital services as a way of providing better services, without spending too much of their limited cash. ‘Do different’ was a call to action, in the spirit of Telefónica O2’s award-winning ‘Be more dog’ campaign.
But, can you ‘do different’? ‘Different’ is something you are, not what you do. We could feel the wrath of countless English-language academics descending upon us. Would the audience see our clients as hopeless illiterates?
The reality is that advertising copy is not about grammar. It’s about emotion, impact and clarity. English students do not necessarily make good copywriters (or any writers, come to that). After all, is good, formal written English a pre-requisite for success in selling?
Not judging by the emails I get from some of the best salespeople I know.
So we didn’t agonise for long, actually. We knew that ‘Do different’ was just the first attention grabber, a banner that expressed the problem and the solution in a single phrase. A bit like ‘Be more dog’, in fact, which also makes no sense if you run the dead ruler of grammar over it.
Sure enough, we got 57 entries for the Fund, 20 more than a similar campaign the previous year. We also got open rates of 41.6% for the email marketing programme and attendance rates of more than 70% for the events in London and Glasgow.
Then, at the Digital Fund final, the ‘Do different’ banner was there as the backdrop to the awards presentation and the videos accompanying the event. And there it was again at the B2B Awards, as we celebrated the Telefónica O2 team’s momentous double.
For me, the most vindicating aspect of the whole thing (is ‘vindicating’ a word? Do I care?) was that the B2B Awards focus heavily on results. I can look John E. Kennedy in the eye and say, ‘yes, John E., my advertising copy is effective and leads to sales.’
And, on a more personal note, I can look Lynn Truss, John Humphreys and other agents of the grammar police in the eye and say, ‘saucy, pedantic wretches, in my calling I would be unruly. Language evolves, or it dies.’
Otherwise, ‘Do different’ would have to be, ‘gescéadnes missenlic’, which the internet tells me is the Old English equivalent. It probably isn’t, but it doesn’t matter. I’m sure you catch my drift.