Internet Creative: Think Old, Not New
To learn how to write for the Web (or any medium), the place to start is with the Grand Controls in the WHO’S MAILING WHAT! Archive—the old ones and the current ones―because the rules of direct mail copy and design directly apply to the Internet. For example:
• The subject line on an email is the equivalent of the direct mail envelope teaser. “All direct mail is opened over the wastebasket,” said freelancer Lea Pierce. Dash off a subject line on an email as an afterthought without testing, and chances are your message will not be opened, whereupon your effort is deader than Kelsey’s nuts and your time is wasted.
• If your lede doesn’t grab readers by the collar and relentlessly hang on all the way to end, they’re gone in a wink.
• The emotional hot buttons work in all media: fear – greed – guilt – anger – exclusivity – salvation – flattery. “If your copy isn’t positively dripping with one or more of these,” said Seattle guru Bob Hacker, “tear it up and start over.”
"You cannot bore people into buying. The average family is now exposed to more than 1,500 advertisements a day. No wonder they have acquired a talent for skipping the advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and going to the bathroom during television commercials.” —David Ogilvy
The new and inviolable rule for Web writing: “You are a mouse click away from oblivion.”
What About Studying Space Ads?
For “WRITE IT RIGHT,” I have spent many hours scouring the Internet for space ads, and have discovered a slew of older masterpieces―some that ran for 10, 20 and even 30 years—by the greatest copywriters of the twentieth century. They are interruptive, brilliantly written and powerfully designed—as relevant today as back then. The great New York Times editor Arthur Brisbane would describe them as, “easier to read than skip.”