If you only have one minute:
- Performance Marketing Campaigns have redefined the way we approach copywriting and its functions
- The main driver that led to these ongoing changes is Google
- There are some aspects that make life a bit more complicated for copywriters online
- Technical aspects and the limits of the mediums of communication have a strong impact in the final ”product”
- The role of creativity alongside persuasion is up for discussion, for it rearranges some status quo type of concepts
Why do we address this issue?
The widely accepted definition of copywriting is based on some axiomatic notions – obvious and undebatable. The vast majority of those who write advertising texts know what copywriting is. If you need to check your knowledge, here are some general definitions.
The question I’m exploring in this piece wants to shed a new light on the topic, but in a more concrete way: so I wonder if the same definitions and rules on copywriting apply when we write for Pay-Per-Click and performance marketing.
The hypothesis we’re going to check together is that things differ, so I tried to sum up what still holds and what doesn’t, in the digital mediums.
Note: I don’t believe things are settled in this discussion, and arguments against the working hypothesis can surely be found. But the debate in itself should be useful.
1/ 3 main ideas associated with copywriting
- Persuasion – the copywriter knows how to challenge the reader and determine him to buy, to act, persuading by the use of words to act in a desired way
- Creativity – the copywriter knows how to creatively write and how to use the words in an original, new and shiny way.
- Brand voice – the copywriter knows how to adopt, in writing, a certain voice ex. pozitive, aspirational, comic, powerful, agressive, exclusive, simple, empathic, emotional, elegant, absurd etc.
2/ New premises – ”Google it!(…)”
At the annual conference for 2020, the Ads division of Google set the path for how ads will look and feel on the platform – in a nutshell – we inform correctly and completely, we do not appeal to emotion in order to persuade.
Almost three years later, after a bunch of adjustments, upgrades, suggestions, optimisations from Google, this exact direction was put into effect.
For short messages that address future clients – with limited amount of characters and predefined formats, the digital world came up with a new and very important addition relative to traditional mediums – client informing. OK, maybe not that new, but as a primary scope, definitely recent.
Just like the case was with Search Engine Optimization, this so-called novelty appeared as a direct effect of the Google Search Engine – because the user is in the process of informing himself on a certain need or product – e.g. ”plane ticket”. He doesn’t need to be persuaded into taking the trip by plane, he already decided that.
Let’s take the search query: plane ticket Bucharest-Amsterdam.
Our client is a low-cost airline operator and we have to make it so the person who searches for a plane ticket from Bucharest to Amsterdam can buy from our client, not from the competition.
The implicit mechanics – we don’t need to persuade the user to favor us, our service, our product, but the other way around, we need to make sure the user acknowledges we did him a favor by informing him honestly, quickly and directly (unequivocally) about your offer, and that you left him the final decision.
But informing is not all that changed: another new aspect is feedback mechanism. The fact that brands receive feedback, sometimes instantly, to their broadcasted messages also underlined the need for conformity and trustworthiness.
However tempting is is to use the phrase smallest price, to persuade your clients to buy from your brand, you now have to make sure it is actually true, otherwise it is very likely that a Google search to tell a different story, damaging your brand both short and long term.
Another aspect specific to the digital marketing ecosystem is the abundance of persuasive marketing messages – the sheer number of daily ads a user is exposed to online is estimated at around 3 to 4 k. If all these messages would actually convince us, then we would only be shopping.
3/ What are the risks / know thy enemy
Enemy no. 1:
Cognitive load is extremely high online and it’s very easy to reach the saturation point.
Decision making – the process of deciding consumes a lot of mental energy and is in principle hard to do
Enemy no. 3:
Ad-fatigue – we get tired of seeing the same ad or similar ads and we stop spending our attention on them – we just ignore them.
Although apparently it is tempting to consider some ads are not well written and that’s why they don’t convert, more times than not, the explanation is in a different place – more exactly, it resides in the overexposure to advertising and the resistance we develop, in time, towards these type of selling messages. This resistance is similar to beginning to be emotionally unavailable and unwilling to spend your attention and is developing with time. In turn, we keep being available to organic aspects of the communication, real, authentic, not towards fabricated content aimed to persuade us into doing things. Even more so, since the digital space floods us with real emotion and depletes our availability.
In this context, the objective features of the offer we communicate cannot be overlooked, by any means. We need to have a competitive offer in order to reach our goal.
We could state that, broadly speaking, the offer is more important than the ability to sell with words.
4/ What features and nuances appear?
Flexibility, control, measuring the impact and privacy →
all these features point to the contextual trait of the communication – not necessarily personalized offers, but surely adequate offers.
Nota bene: brand perception keeps becoming more and more important thanks to the digital world – check out the article on how you need a whole village to raise a brand – and we have to acknowledge that this aspect exceeds copyrights responsibility, pointing to the work of a brand architect that sets the values, the mission and so on.
Observație*: în plus, tot datorită mediului digital au crescut în importanță aspectele care influențează percepția brandului – vezi articolul despre cum e nevoie de o întreagă comunitate în social media pentru a crește un brand- și care nu sunt în sarcina mesajului dat de copywriter ci în sarcina celui care definește arhitectura brandului, valorile și misiunea etc.
5/ Informative and creative and appreciative
The working premise so far was this: before being creative, the performance marketing copywriting must be informative.
A combination of the two looks like the winner, given that the creative aspect is not self-referring, becoming more important than the message itself and failing to achieve the objective.
– to be able to inform the ads posted online, we need to have the exact information
– to get results, the information must include the most important benefit and a competitive offer
– the process that defines efficient ads is based on research and info gathering both from your client and the overall industry
– only after these conditions are checked we can start the discussion on creativity
6/ What info are indispensable
Let’s see what type of info we cannot live without:
– The general characteristics of the product/service, that unequivocally integrates it in his general category and make it easier to recognize – example: Samsung telephone case
– What is typical to our product/service?
– What does it offer as an unique feature or benefit
Answers to this question: only our product/service offers (…)
Example: 50% discount to a second bought product
- To define these keywords, we should use the keywordplanner option.
- We could also use the following mind-frame: how would I search for the product/service on Google?
- Many times the main keywords to use are variants of the terms appearing in the 1st category (1.)
Example: telephone case / protection screen phone
As we know, keywords are connected with the way search engines function – the query of the users being synchronized with the ”answers” stored in the database.
7/ Consistency and synchronizing the communication
- Synchronizing the ad with the landing page – LP – the ad must have the same tone of voice and manner of speaking as the page that will welcome the users who clicks it.
- Synchronizing with keywords that are bidded on
One of the main targets here is the ease of usage and a relatively reduced cognitive load
The consistency in marketing campaigns is usually ignored.
Active vs. passive
If we address at the 1st person, active voice, we should be consistent and keep it like that in every medium of communication. E.g. ”You enjoy the greatest benefits” vs. ”Our clients enjoy the greatest benefits”
8/ ”Technical” aspects
The length of texts aka the no. of characters limit –
The adaptation to the reduced attention span*
Respecting technical specifications of the platforms
*We have to be aware of the type of attention we target – out of the major 3 –
In most cases, we compete for the selective attention, unless we answer a search query, in which case we deal with the sustained attention, much longer and obviously more desirable.
For selective and shared attention, we have a couple of musts:
- We have to be eye-cathing aka attention-grabbing, but should refrain from abusing this part
- We should be aware if we inform or generate emotion, and we state that since we aim at the neo-cortex, we must prioritize information
- The medium is the message – the famous concept is still relevant when referring to Social Media – the user is already in a particular emotional state and than we can try to sincronize our messages with that state- one of the most used cases is using a comic tone of voice to spark interest, aiming at an already fun-having, relaxing audience.
- Grammar, phonetic and orthographic correctness – this aspect ticks the trust box and the lack of it can gravely damage brands health and reputation together with the performance of the campaings.
9/ And nevertheless, creative…?
Therefore, ”original” and ”creative” tend to be replaced by ”respectful” (of our time and attention) and ”measured”.
Yet, all is not lost. We can still resort to some tricks that generally work.
*Familiarity (recognisable message) – generally, we can a small satisfaction when we recognize something. Same happens with language – thus, although it might come as counterintuitive, I recommend the most commonly used expressions – maybe not quite the ones that are already considered cliches, but close enough.
*Linguistic creativity – puns (rime, comical aspect) – if the brand allows it, and the service or product can benefit from it, the small linguistic gems can help.
In a digital advertising market with a fast-paced growth in maturity, but at the same time with some setbacks and inertia, we would definitely find examples to act as arguments for whatever our hypothesis is, be it the classical approach to copywriting, or the one I proposed in this material.
There are out there, especially in RO, new categories of consumers, that have not yet been exposed to advertising communications that much as to develop a resistance, but nevertheless, our main goal should be to anticipate what is next and how to be prepared for what is to come – no matter if we are the ones who write or the ones who ask others to write for our ads.
If I managed to make you reconsider your own way of thinking related to how we write ads, to be on the lookout for the ethical aspect of the job, the relationship between informing and persuading, attention and resistance, my job here is done.
Be well and write well!