Good graphics help sell

Taxi 132211Contrary to popular belief, graphic design is not just about making things look pretty, it’s about adding to the message in a meaningful way. Here is a very simple but really good example of how graphics can help sell a product or service. Years ago, the jingles used to remind me of the taxi number to call, but there seem to be so many numbers lately, you can’t remember any of them — especially when you need them!

One day, I was stuck in traffic and found myself staring at the phone number on the cab in front when it occurred to me that the larger number 2s would surely make that phone number easier to remember. A couple months later I had the proof. A friend of mine went for a job interview in the city, was then driven out the other side of town with the team, and after the ‘interview’ he was left stranded at Tea Tree Plaza and told ‘just catch a bus back’. When he rang me ranting, I said call a taxi — 13 22 11. (He did. Yes, they did refund him the taxi fare. No, he didn’t take the job.)

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Jeep ads a bit hit and miss

Jeep’s ad agency has been pretty busy making lots of ads for all their cars. Now, as someone who doesn’t know one Jeep from another, I don’t separate the models’ advertising, it’s all just ‘Jeep’ to me. And I really think they’re a bit hit and miss. Currently, there are three ads that seem to be getting a lot of air time…

1. The Fortune Cookies — sure, there’s an idea there, but it’s kinda middle-of-the-road for me (excuse the pun)

2. The Aircraft Carrier — I find this ad so confusing, there seem to be a helluva lot of messages in there, in fact I’m left wondering how much survived from the original script. Smells of client interference to me. Plus it looks bloody expensive. I call this lots of style, not much substance. And it’s a complete contrast to my favourite.

(Footnote: When I was looking for this aircraft carrier ad on YouTube, I could only find the extended (45 sec) version, which sort of explains why I don’t get the 30 second version — the voice-over has been cut, and I think the message has been lost. And it’s not that I’m not into aircraft carriers, I loved Top Gun! And yes, I know that it’s probably not called an aircraft carrier but you know what I mean.)

3. The Kid on the Bucket — My favourite. Simple idea, lovely casting, well executed. It makes me crack up every time I see it. Love it. All ads should be this good.

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Do people remember your business name?

Choosing a business name is so important, in fact I would go so far as saying that it could be the difference between success and failure. Here are some business names (and a tagline) I’ve noticed lately, that really stand out.

1. Sneaky Pickle — brightly coloured foodie truck with a menu that’s sneaky because it keeps changing…

2. Ugly Dog Transport — they don’t seem to have a website so I have no idea if there really is an ugly dog or the driver gets called that, but isn’t it a great name! Sure stands out from the usual ho-hum on those big trucks…

3. Danny’s Pest Control “The best bugger in town” — I had a laugh as I sat behind their ute in traffic. Nice to know he’s a killer with a sense of humour.

Whenever I introduce myself, I usually get a comment about my business name, Copy with Cream, and it is one that people tend to remember. Having to spell ‘copy’ over the phone for the rest of my working life is surely a small price to pay. If you’re starting a business, and need a good business name, give us a hoy. I’ve helped quite a few people with theirs.


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Better writing tips and benefits


Specially for my ‘Best of Marion and Morphett Vale’ group, here are the tips I presented at my talk on Tuesday night. (If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve probably seen these before but it doesn’t hurt to have a refresher…)

  1. KISS — Keep It Simple, an oldie but a goodie.
  2. No jargon — most people don’t understand it and you will confuse or annoy your your audience. And there goes the sale :(
  3. Spelling, grammar, punctuation — if it’s not good, it makes you look sloppy. Don’t worry if you’re rubbish at this, just get someone to help you.
  4. Break it up — don’t have big blocks of text, it looks too daunting, people are busy, and they just won’t bother reading it. Make your copy easy to read by breaking it up with subheadings, bullet points, graphics etc.
  5. Cut and polish — don’t stop at the first draft, your work is not done! Craft your copy till it reads well.


  1. Makes you look professional
  2. Easier for customers to engage
  3. You stand out from the crowd
  4. Google loves good copy
  5. Higher ranking = more visitors = more customers = more $$$

We’ve all seen websites, brochures and ads that are really badly written. Don’t let sloppy copy let your business down. Give me a call and let’s chat. 0412 322 982 Karen :)

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Ads that treat you like you’re an idiot

At the other end of the spectrum from the arty ad that you need explaining to you, is the ad that bashes you over the head with the bleeding obvious. Like Metropolitan Plumbing. Now, those of you who live in Adelaide and listen to commercial radio may have heard this gem on the airwaves — it seems to have been running for years. I hate it.

It features a male voice over (probably a radio station presenter) repeating the words ‘Metropolitan Plumbing’ over and over and over and over again, accompanied by the dulcet tones of, yes you guessed it…a dripping tap. Well, this ad has now made it to the silver screen. Or at least your TV. Joy. In case you are lucky to have missed it, here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Personally, I reckon it’s like water torture, but hey, maybe it works because we’re all getting brainwashed by it. I can though, perhaps, give you a bit of an insight as to how it may have been created…

Why all radio ads are not created equal
As a copywriter, I mainly work on websites, brochures, print ads, etc, but occasionally I get asked to do radio ads. As a freelancer, I am my own boss, so I get the luxury of a few hours to come up with concepts, and I usually come up with as many as three different ideas for my client.

The copywriters who work at the radio station have no such luxury. They need to come up with XX ads a day and fast. Maybe they only get half an hour — pulling rabbits out of hats that fast, something’s gotta give. The cost of the concept and production is included in the package price so that’s why a lot of clients on a budget decide to get the radio station to create the whole thing. Most of the good ads are created by advertising agencies which, of course, is much more expensive. Just don’t let them get too arty…


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Wanky TV commercials that nobody gets

There seem to be a few ads around lately that are so out-there, nobody has a clue what’s going on. Self-indulgent, arty ads that I think don’t work. Like the new ad for Adelaide. Maybe it’s a case of The Emperor’s Clothes, where you have to be really clever to get it. I obviously failed this IQ test. Do you pass? Here’s the link.

But who is this ad made for?
Are we making ads to make ourselves feel better because we have an identity crisis in Adelaide? Or are we really making something for the Eastern states? According to the article in Travel Weekly, our Premier said “It will get people talking about and travelling to Adelaide to find out for themselves what it is that is changing here.”

I hate to burst Jay’s bubble but according to market research conducted recently in the Eastern states, people’s response to Adelaide was actually ‘nothing’ – not negative or positive, just neutral. They really don’t care. And I’m not sure this ad will make them change their minds. They definitely won’t jump on a plane on the off-chance. Personally, I’m into recycling, so I reckon we could re-edit the previous ad for Adelaide, which at least showcased our festivals. Here’s the link for that one.

The ad is made by the same mob as did the Barossa ad a short while back. I’m sure you’ve seen it but if you haven’t, here’s the link.

So where the bloody hell are you?’
The new Adelaide ad not only makes me think ‘What the bloody hell is going on?’ it also makes me think ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ because the ad makes you wait till the end — a minute and a half! — before telling you that you are actually in Adelaide.

Speaking of the famous ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ Lara Bingle ad, that’s another one that missed the mark. Why? Because that tagline was clearly written for Australians. In fact, if the ad had been designed for Australians who’d moved overseas as part of the big brain-drain and wouldn’t come home, it mighta worked bonza. If you can’t remember the ad (and I’d be surprised) here’s the link.

It’s all a bit like the upside down ads in the paper
Years ago, I used to work at The Advertiser Newspaper, where part of my job seemed to be to try and stop clients doing stupid things. There was always the client that insisted on putting their ad in the paper upside down, thinking they were really clever. They wouldn’t believe us when we told them that sorry, nobody is going to put in the extra work needed to turn the paper round and read your ad — they’re busy flicking through to the Sports section. In much the same way, nobody is going to care about sitting through an ad that looks like 10 different movie trailers. In fact, the only place you’d sit through the ad is at the movies, because you are forced to. No remote.

Testing, testing…
It was also while I worked at the paper that I learnt a really good lesson. Just because I get the ad, doesn’t mean everybody else will. So I came up with a test. I’d come up with the ad concept, do a visual and then show the creative team. But they were creative. They weren’t the man in the street. The man in the street was the rep. Which was the real test. So even when I got a ‘yes’ from the creatives, I wouldn’t assume I could go with it.

Because creatives are not the man in the street
So, off I’d trot to the sales department and show the reps, one by one. If 9 out of 10 got it immediately, I’d present it to the client. But if half of them said “Sorry, I don’t get it…” I’d go back to the drawing board. It didn’t matter that I was ‘only’ working on $50 ads, not $500,000 TVCs, the principle was the same — no matter how much I love what I come up with, it’s important to make sure the target audience gets it. Otherwise, I’m just being self-indulgent.

Who is the target audience, anyway?
The question I always, always, always ask a new client, very early on, is — ‘Who exactly is your target audience?’ And I keep asking until I either get a clear answer from them or they let me help them find the answer. Only then will I start the process of trying to come up with ideas and direction for their advertising and communications.

The Kangaroo Island ad
The Kangaroo Island ad is also arty but at least it shows a family (who I assume is the target audience?) holidaying there and doing stuff together. It’s been well over 30 years since I visited Kangaroo Island but I can immediately recognise some of the touristy places in the commercial, so I think it portrays it fairly accurately for an arty ad. Here’s the link.

Why does the Eyre Peninsula ad feature 2 young women?
I wouldn’t have thought this was the target audience. But at least they show them doing things you can do on Eyre Peninsula. (Which they are promoting as a little bit scary.) They also set the scene at the very beginning of the ad by spelling out, on the screen, in words, Eyre Peninsula. Perhaps the target audience is young men? Who would never admit they’re scared of anything but who might well be enticed to go to the Eyre Peninsula because they think there are cute young girls holidaying over there? Maybe the idea was like getting the girls into the nightclubs with cheap drinks because the boys will follow? I have no idea. But here’s the link.

But it all kinda reminds me of Melbourne
Looking at all these ads together kinda reminds me of that old TV commercial for Melbourne. Remember? The one with the girl with the ball of string? Personally, I really liked it, even though it took me three viewings to get it. (Another epic fail in the old IQ test, clearly.) But did it work? I have no idea. Here it is.

Art for art’s sake
I hate bad ads that yell at you and/or treat you like you are an idiot. But I’m also not a fan of arty ads that appear to be have been made by frustrated film directors who’ve been given a big bag of money and a very long leash. Surely there’s a middle ground.

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Sometimes the original really is the best

You may or may not have noticed but it seems that Hungry Jack’s burgers are better again. Hungry Jack’s famous tagline (slogan) “The burgers are better at Hungry Jack’s” that we’ve grown up with was ditched in 2011 after doing the job quite well (or so I thought) for 16 years. The time of the ditching coincided with a new advertising agency winning the account. Well, surprise, surprise.

It appeared that the old tagline had “become a limitation for the brand” and a new tagline was needed to “reflect health changes.” In other words, if Macca’s were tossing salads around, Hungry Jack’s felt that they had to keep up. The new tagline lasted about 2 years before they reverted to the original.

Being of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought, I’ve written about this previously and Hungry Jack’s aren’t the only culprits, by any means. VB resurrected their famous “For a hard-earned thirst” after 2 years trying something else that obviously didn’t work. What it really comes down to is knowing what your product strengths are, getting clear on who your target audience is, and creating advertising to suit. Because trying to be everything to everybody is surely the fast road to failure.

One product that I wish would change its tagline back to something else is Maltesers. “The lighter way to enjoy chocolate” just doesn’t roll off the tongue at all. I seem to remember a previous slogan of theirs being “Have a ball” but despite some searching, I can’t find it on Google, so it must not exist, lol. Or maybe I’m mixing it up with another product. In case you know the answer, please do email me and let me know. Thanks. karen :)

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Stealing other brands’ taglines

Ok, it appears that I’m on a bit of rant here about taglines (or slogans) and I don’t want to bore you but I think if we have a problem, it’s better to get it out rather than stew on it till it drives you nuts. So here goes. But I’ll keep it short.

What’s with the American Express ad that says YES all the time? Every time I see YES it reminds me of Optus. In case you haven’t seen it, the link to the ad is below. Oh, and one more thing while I’m at it… the girl doing the voice-over has quite a nice voice but her inflection is the same at the end of a lot of sentences, especially near the end of the ad. Maybe I’m just being nit-picky but surely this is something which should have been picked up by the producer when they were making the ad? Now that I’ve told you about it, you’ll probably notice newsreaders doing it on TV. Sorry about that. L


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Cheers to this clever ad

P1000005I was in Adelaide CBD last week and just had to take a photo of this ad on North Terrace. There is so much advertising around that’s just ho-hum or downright terrible, that when I see a good ad I feel like cheering.

This Pure Blonde ad leveraged the fact that The Tour DownUnder was in town. Their headline says “With so much lycra you’re going to see more than just a great race.” It’s my favourite type of ad, no, not because it refers to men’s bike shorts but because it uses humour. And also because it assumes that the audience is intelligent enough to join the dots ourselves without them having to spell it all out for us. Nice one.


More about letting the viewer join the dots in my previous blog

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When writing, how much detail should you go into?

This is a question I get asked a lot, and it is a good one. When you’re selling a product or a service, it’s important to give some detail to explain the offer to your prospective customers and also to try to set yourself apart from the competition. Being specific adds to your message. To illustrate my point, in the 2 examples below, which do you think have more of a punch? A or B:

A) Lots of people attended the rally
B) Over 14,000 people attended the rally

A) Our products are exported all around the world
B) Our products are exported to over 50 countries.

Statements B have more of a WOW factor because they are specific.

However, you can go overboard
For example, the newest Coles as I just saw on TV the other night had Curtis Stone talking about all the great foodie products you could get from Coles that are perfect for Christmas. He’s doing his best to make your mouth water with his descriptions of the delicious products. I was quite ok with all that until he got to the fish dish. When he mentioned that the melt-in-your-mouth salmon was “responsibly sourced from the pristine waters off the Apple Isle” I thought PULEEEEEEZE! It just sounds ridiculous.

In fact, it sounded a bit like the client insisted on shoving that in there. Too many adjectives and going overboard with too much detail just sounds forced. It’s just like shoving too many keywords and keyword phrases into your web copy. It’s not easy to digest. In fact it turns people off. Don’t do it. In case you haven’t heard it, and only if you can bear to listen to it, here it is…


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