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Cut to the copywriter

Dave Trott says advertising is getting lazy. Copywriters aren’t getting the freedom and the time to investigate products and services to find the gem of a truth, the golden nugget that brings everything into a bright new place.

Trott’s pearl of wisdom is well known in advertising circles, based on the view that a copywriter should ‘show, don’t tell’.

“Proof always works better than a claim”

Once you’ve got that truth in the bag, the rest falls into place (with a little bit of expertise and copywriting brilliance, of course. Oh, and great Art Direction. And ideally, with solid and inspiring Creative Direction…although not all of us have this luxury.)

I was once sent to the Rolls Royce factory in Goodwood to see if our marketing agency could ascertain the stand out values and place them firmly into a below-the-line promotional campaign.

It was an incredible opportunity; everyone was left goggling at the incredible attention to detail the firm puts into every car.

We saw a specialist team hunched over laser cutters, working on specially reared cow hides to cover the interiors in flawless, soft furnishings. The highly specialist team of workers were effectively artisans with unique skills.

In fact, the leather in a Rolls-Royce takes 17 days to hand-craft and comprises 9 bull hides; only 1 in 100 hides is chosen for quality. It was one of the take home blow-your-mind facts of the day.

Naturally, we whizzed back to London full of inspiration and excitement about the brief ahead. The final idea that went ahead was award-winning and it led with the truth that we’d all gleaned by visiting, touching and appreciating the car in person.

Dave Trott is right, investigating a brand from the inside out is by far the best place to start when approaching marketing.

Put copywriters and art directors firmly in the driving seat and you’ll soon see a difference to your bottom line.

Briefs might speed the work up (good for the agency’s profit margins) but they’re not always the best place to start. A collaborative effect between planners and creatives can really help to reveal the truths that might otherwise be overlooked.

If you’re a brand and you don’t have this luxury, you could consider engaging a senior freelance marketing expert to work directly with you. Someone who will come to your business with fresh eyes and ears.

Freedom is everything

It’s also why freelance copywriters can bring a new lease of life to your marketing conundrums.

We aren’t bogged down by years of office politics or hierarchical issues – we bring fresh eyes to the project and can work wonders where agencies can be, although not always, more cumbersome in their approach.

Not sure? I’ll prove it. Give me a call today.

Happy Awards Season

Ahhh the sweet smell of awards season. A brilliant time to celebrate the wonders of the advertising and marketing world. You know, for those lucky creatives for whom the stars have aligned, it’s a magical place to be.

It’s made all the more wondrous by the fact that everyone got their forms in on time, along with their hefty cheques, to book their place in Campaign history.

For independent agencies, awards can add an extra zero onto the CEO’s pension fund when the time comes to sell.  For corporate wizards, awards mean more column inches, employee retention and pitch glory. And all of that translates as big bucks. It’s well worth the effort and money investing in them.

And yet.

The self-congratulatory emails and tweets that fill our timelines and dominate creative team chat up and down the bedecked halls of ad agencies across the land have another side to them.

When you’re a creative, how do you get to make sure you land these juicy potentially award-winning briefs? Juniors have been heard to complain about this a lot. The brief may have been put out to all, but once the Head of Copy had his wicked way, well. And don’t forget the awards entry that doesn’t have enough room to credit every poor bugger who worked on the thing. Yes, the Copy Chief had a great idea, but who actually put the hard slog in? Chances are, it was a less senior member of staff or a freelancer.

Awards are a marketing exercise in themselves and not everyone will have been in the right place at the right time to nobble the Copy Chief out of the way and bask in their moment of glory. They were probably too busy making the work look good.

Ahhhhhhh. Poor little uncredited freelancer.

Yes, well, I’m not getting my bitter and twisted battleaxe just yet. My point is this. Awards are great for the few. But for everyone else, they can leave you feeling uncredited and undervalued.

Freelancers provide daily support to businesses across the land. Our work is to be valued and championed at every turn. I certainly feel very passionate about freelance copywriting and creating high quality work whenever I start a new brief.

We don’t need gongs to make us feel proud – a simple, ‘can we rebook you?’ will do. Because without the grafters who manage the daily bread, chances are, your website would be wordless. Your brochure wouldn’t create bookings. And your print ads would be pointless.

Great thinking and messaging should drive everything you do. Not just awards – or a lack of them.

So, well done to all those with sore heads this month. And an even bigger well done to those who didn’t take home the silverware.

What you do, matters. Remember that.


AI and the written word

There’s a lot being written about AI at the moment. You know it’s serious when your sister-in-law has an smart home device installed in her 17th century farmhouse. Amazon Alexa, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, you name it – everyone’s at it. By this time next year, we’ll all have a robot in the room – maybe even in several rooms.

After that, who knows?

Artificial Intelligence could be taking over our cooking, our diaries and our thought processes at a push – advertising messages could soon be beamed into our homes without the need of the internet, radio or TV to support them.


The question is, will robots be able to copywrite them too? For brands seeking to engage with customers, creating human connections is even more important in today’s fragmented media world. And strong, well thought out messaging is a crucial part of that.

If there’s one thing copywriters know, it’s that everyone – man or machine – thinks they’re a writer. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Copywriters needn’t worry too much just yet.

Meanwhile, if you’re off to put Alexa on the top of your shopping list, you won’t be the only one.

As Executive Creative Director, Paul Kitcatt, recently wrote in The Drum, “Just when you get wind of a new trend in technology, you find it’s already happened, and it’s changed your life forever.”


I’m on the hunt for a new role and your ad excited me.

Concepts. Long copy. Short form. Digital. Social. Direct. Film. Strategy. Proofing.
Bring me in. You won’t be put out. They say it’s hard to find a good writer these days.
Well you just have. Let’s talk…

Dream film script

I’m pretty happy with this piece of work, see below.

A dream piece, no less, featuring a few of my favourite things: Beer, Rugby and Cornwall. Lovely.

The brief was to deliver a brand film tapping into the brand promise, ‘Quality Speaks for Itself’, bringing this delicious local ale to new audiences further afield. Great photography with exquisite shots have really brought the original script to life. Just add one brilliant Art Director…




Say it loud

Copywriting tip no. 92

When you’re writing, say your words out loud before settling on a final draft.

Everyone knows this, right? Whether we want to be known as the office loon, is another matter. In a busy work environment, you might feel a bit foolish suddenly speaking what you’re writing, but it is hugely helpful when sense checking and proofreading what you’ve written.

Mumble it, mutter it or splutter it.

Far better to seem like madness is setting in than make a mistake. Remember, grammar is there to be respected but sometimes the vernacular is necessary when writing good copy. If your copy is too stilted, it won’t sound natural or conversational and will actually turn customers off.

Good English or good copy? 

Grammar pedants aren’t always right when it comes to critiquing the written word. This is where a good copywriter can bridge the gap between writing compelling sales copy and correct use of English. For example, in spite of what your teacher may have said, starting sentences with ‘and’ or ‘so’ is permissible. But we all know this, right?

So if we know so much, why is writing great copy, so difficult? Unfortunately, some things can’t be taught. You’ve either got a knack for it, or you haven’t. When it comes to your business, it’s this knack that brings results. And that’s where I come in.

Get in touch if you need a copywriter to bring some copy magic to your communications. I’d love to hear from you.










Happy New Year

Nothing says ‘Happy New Year’ like a good grammar debate about syntax. I’m sure other copywriters will agree, the use of the term New Year can be a total room 101 moment.

So, should it be new year or New Year when it comes to good grammar? Should you capitalise New Year or should you keep it in lower case?

The answer is in the context.

If you use a greeting, followed by the downtrodden exclamation mark – yes, it is still good grammar to use one! – then you should use uppercase lettering.

For example: “Hi Jane, Happy New Year!”

But if you are talking generally about the new year, it should be lower case. Do not mix your cases! I’ve seen this a lot on Twitter recently and it’s guaranteed to turn every grammar pedant purple. No ‘Happy new Year’, please!

It’s a Proper Noun, dude…

The reason is that the New Year in ‘Happy New Year!’ acts as a proper noun and as such should be capitalised. When it is a common noun (usually preceded by an indefinite article or ‘a’) it is lower case, just like every other common noun.

…but it’s not always proper

But if you’re talking about ‘the new year’, this is where it gets a bit more tricky. Because you’re using the definite article. If the reference is talking about the actual event of New Year’s, it should be upper case, e.g. “The New Year’s performance was given by Robbie Williams.”

When common, think lower case

However, if you’re saying “Spend over £50 in the new year and earn more points”, it should be lower case, because it’s talking about the new year in general and includes more than one day in the reference.

And there we have it. Your copywriting new year lesson in how to suck eggs in 2017. Have a happy, healthy new year and remember, a rolling stone gathers no moss. So tap me up for some freelance copywriting. Or if you need any freelance tea making, I can handle that too.


You want to sound like who?

Oh if we had a pound for every client who wants to sound more like ‘Innocent’. All the country’s copywriters would now be installed on a sun lounger in Jamaica, sipping freshly squeezed tropical fruit drinks from a coconut. Take that Innocent Towers, now owned by Coke!

When brands talk the talk

When a brand is strong enough to know exactly who its audience is and where they want to be, they don’t have to try to mimic their competitors. Today’s audiences want disruption: they’re hungry for it – hell, they expect it. With media clutter at an all time high, it’s going to be a strong voice that cuts through the chatter. So if you sound just like everybody else, how can you make sure your marketing spend is being heard?

When a brand knows what it wants to say and how it wants to act, its tone of voice is a pleasure to devise. The hard part is standing out from the pack as you implement it. Consistency and a well thought out application is key. A great ad campaign needs to be supported at every channel with the same approach to well-thought-through messaging. For example, there’s no point being the no-nonsense supermarket in town if your website is completely baffling and beyond user friendly.

Nice words, but is anyone listening?

If marketers can apply a consistently strong tone of voice, consumers will take notice. One false step however, and it could all blow up in your face. So attention to detail is key, and now that everyone is a commentator, it’s more important than ever to ensure your copywriter is on it – all over it, in fact. We all write tweets and compose Facebook updates. But when it comes to your copy, let’s ponder on a wise marketer’s words: ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’

With the right mix of creative strategy and strong writing, there’s no reason why a brand can’t take bold steps to stand out from the pack. It just has to be brave and ditch the obsession with Fruit Towers. Who’s doing it well? Aldi, Lurpak, First Direct and Virgin spring to mind, but there are a host of startups getting in on the act, like Propercorn popcorn and Fever-Tree, a premium drinks brand. I could go on. I won’t.



Copywriting tip no. 93

As a copywriter in London, it’s likely you’ll get to work all over the shop – especially if you choose to go freelance. It’s good for the soul to have a change of scene, and is also great for getting those creative juices going. So charge your phone and sat nav your way to copywriting glory.

The bulk of ad agencies used to be primarily based in and around Soho, Bloomsbury and Covent Garden. But there are branding and design agencies, digital shops and integrated agencies popping up all over the place. Everywhere is up and coming.

Here’s a little snapshot of my latest foray into Shoreditch where I’ve been working with some lovely, clever people. A descent into the madness of the new hipster generation…


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