USA Today was the first newspaper to have colour photos and a flash design. It was ahead of the curve, and its recent website redesign is busy but cool. It certainly stands out from its major competitors – the WSJ, the NYTimes, CNN & NBC News.
As I was exploring the redesigned site, I stumbled across a column from Michael Wolff called “What ad biz needs are writers”. In it, he explains how advertising has moved away from solid writing because of new technology. He shares stories of how advertising executives don’t write memos because they can’t write.
Almost all the intellectual capital of the advertising business is still vested in campaigns, most of them print campaigns, from the early ’60s through the mid-’80s: The Silver Cloud (Rolls-Royce); Think Small (Volkswagen); We Try Harder (Avis); You Don’t Have To be Jewish (Levi’s Rye Bread); The Ultimate Driving Machine (BMW); The Absolut Bottle (Absolut); Just Do it (Nike); Macintosh introduction (Apple).
These are all word ads. They tell a story; they make a case; they offer a big idea; they change the way we think. And often it takes quite a lot of words — text-heavy copy. The more you get someone to read (the job of the copywriter), the more the reader is engaged with what you are saying — and selling.
Steve Jobs Though Words Were Important
My favourite part of the column is where Steve Jobs understanding of how important good writing is:
The late Jay Chiat, then CEO of Apple’s agency, Chiat/Day, once told me that every time a new person was put on his account, Steve Jobs, who was as shaped by good advertising as he was by innovative technology, would say “but can he (or she) write?
Although advertising is currently obsessed with social media, video and “fluffy” branding exercises, good copy can create a connection between a customer’s problems and your company’s solution. Writing clearly requires thinking clearly about your product first. If you can’t explain why your product is best in a few sentences you need to go back to the drawing board.
Web Marketing Copy Should Be Clear and Concise
I think that copywriting is extremely important. If you simply copy and paste your print copy onto your website, you are just making it harder to connect with customers.
Copywriting for a website needs to revolve around your unique selling point and short, snappy descriptions that drive customers to more detail if they want to read it.
Putting up a link to a PDF brochure is not going to help you win business! Is it really that hard to break that PDF down into 5-10 brief slides that include links to more detail?
An easy way to stand out from your competition is to choose the words on your website carefully.