How to Super-Charge Your Copy


You’ve just finished that script for your next infomercial or DRTV spot, and it’s a killer. But what can you do to make sure that it’s absolutely the best it can be?

If you’re smart, you’ll go back over it one more time, making sure that it meets all the touchstones of great direct response writing. Here are 11 of the most important points to look for:

#1)  USP

What’s the reason somebody should buy your product and not the other guy’s?  It’s supposed to be what legendary copywriter Rosser Reeves called your USP, Unique Selling Proposition. There has to be some compelling reason that your goods are better than the other ones out there. You, as the creator of your little sales message, ought to not only know what that is, but be able to state it succinctly–and probably use it in your commercial.

It’s not enough that you have a good product that’s pretty much like the other ones in the marketplace. Do you have a feature nobody else has?  Is there a problem you deal with that the others don’t?  Are you cheaper, or faster, or better-designed or made?

These are the “big questions” that writers for a digital marketing blog have struggled with for years. Don’t think they don’t apply to DRTV. In our live-or-die world that demands we get immediate results from our copy, they’re doubly important.

#2)   Tighter is Better

By the time you’ve finished your script, you’re in love. That poetic wording, the way you built your sales argument, the clever way you used that problem-solution setup are priceless, aren’t they, destined to live forever in the Direct Response Hall of Fame. Now cut them.

The novelist William Burroughs once said that he thought advertising was the most difficult kind of writing there is. Why?  Well, Jack Foster, one of LA’s most famous creative directors once explained it to me very clearly. He said that advertising was more “idea-intensive” than other forms of communication. He was talking about the fact that there’s so much thinking behind each sentence, each point you make in advertising, that’s it’s just a lot harder to do than, say, writing a page of your novel. Everything you’re trying to say must be boiled down into its tightest, purest essence, especially if it’s going to make it into your :60 TV commercial.

That I know my own scripts go through 10 or 15 revisions before I’m done with them. In each pass, I’m constantly looking for ways to say things crisper, shorter and cleaner. My advice to anyone in this medium is to go line-by-line through your script and throw out anything that isn’t absolutely essential.

#3) Get to the Point

Want to know the easiest place to shave time?  It’s usually the beginning. In my experience, there’s usually the most fat in a script right at the top.

You’d be amazed how many scripts I’ve seen that have two or three paragraphs of copy that are unnecessary, totally cutable. It’s almost as if the writer needs a little warm-up before he gets to the point.

Here’s a rule of thumb I use:  if you’re not showing and saying the name of the product by about :10 into the CTA, you’re wasting time. Busy prospects need you to get to the meat of your little coconut sooner. Besides, if you don’t, you’ll never have time for all the rest of your points before the fade out.

#4)  Testimonials, Anyone?

It’s a cruel reality, but, try as we might, we professional writers and producers aren’t always the best salesmen. Oftentimes, it’s the average, ordinary man or woman who beats us out. And for good reason:  he or she has actually plunked down money and used the product, in the real world to solve their own, real needs. They know what they’re talking about, and so they’re the ones who often sell it the best.

One time I was creating a sales video for a retirement community in Arizona. I’d packed by show with industrial strength sales copy, my best material. But the real star of the piece turned out to be this old guy I’d interviewed by the swimming pool, saying:  “I’m gonna take a picture and send it back to my friends in Detroit. Here I am, barbecuing hamburgers, and they’re up there freezing their butts off.”  Gee, I thought, how come I didn’t write that?

On a special effects stage

#5)  Make it Visual

TV is a visual medium. But selling is often a verbal one. I mean, in the end, what we’re really doing is “talking people into buying,” right?

The best TV scripts blend the two worlds into one powerful whole. They show and tell powerful points about their product. They are interesting to look at, and convincing to listen to.

I once did a TV campaign for a company that leveraged purchases of precious metals. It doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of subject that lends itself to sparkling visuals, right? Actually, the solution we came up with was. We had piles of gold and silver bars and coins “grow” before your eyes, visually emphasizing how leveraging works to your advantage. It was a powerful visual that pulled a ton of calls, yet very inexpensive to shoot, once we had the right idea.

If you’re a writer, you may feel most comfortable building concise, pithy statements about your product first, then sitting down and thinking of great ways to visualize them. It takes work, and time, but you have to come up with ideas for images and pictures that get your point across.

#6)  Value Built to Last?

If your commercial or show doesn’t work, what went wrong?  Well, here’s one simple way of explaining what happened:  you didn’t build up enough value in your product to justify the price.

When a consumer watches TV, she wants to see products and services that can have a positive impact on her life. She wants something that can save her time, or trouble, or money. She’s looking for fun, or security, or love, or a dozen other things. It’s your job to make sure she gets it.

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