We sparked some debate in our last copywriting blog post ─ What Many Advertising Agencies Don’t Know About Copywriting. We feel it’s good to have some controversy about copywriting and we’re replying to the comment.
We wrote the article to highlight the fact that some copywriters don’t focus on the customer in their copy. We looked at some copywriting samples from advertising agencies to show that they use the words ‘our clients’ when the word ‘you’ would be more effective.
We didn’t pull this idea out of thin air. All the copywriting books that we’ve read recommend using second person (‘you’) in your copywriting.
For instance, a seminal work on copywriting is The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly. This book was first published in 1985 and has been reprinted several times.
In The Copywriter’s Handbook, Bly writes about what he calls ‘customer-oriented copy’.
One technique to help you write for the reader is to address the reader directly as ‘you’ in the copy ─ just as I am writing to you in this book. Copywriters call this the ‘you orientation.’ Flip through a magazine and you’ll see that 90 percent of the ads contain the word ‘you’ in the body copy.
Bly shows the difference between customer-oriented copywriting and advertiser-oriented copywriting in the following examples.
1. BankPlan is the state-of-the-art in user-friendly, sophisticated financial software for small business accounts receivable, accounts payable, and general ledger applications.
2. BankPlan helps you balance your books and manage your cash flow. It also keeps track of customers who haven’t paid their bills. Best of all, the program is easy to use — you don’t need special training.
Which do you think is more effective?
In the previous copywriting blog post we showed that many advertising agencies fail to apply ‘you orientation’ in their copywriting. Their copy is more like the first example above.
Robert Bly isn’t the only one to write about customer-oriented (second person) copy. If you do international Google searches for the phrases “second person” copywriting and customer-oriented copywriting you’ll finds hundreds of copywriting blog posts and articles about the benefits of writing directly to your readers.
So when advertising agencies write ‘our clients’ instead of ‘you’ in their own promotional copy, they aren’t ‘wrong’ ─ they’re just not being effective as they can be.
We welcome your comments.