What do you get when you put 12 inspiring speakers in front of a room full of copywriters? Ideas. We get ideas.

At Adido, we see copywriting as so much more than just words on a page. Whenever we put pen to pad (or finger to keyboard in our case) we create stories that either bring a brand to life, compel a reader to take action or get the audience to share our stories with each other. We are always keen to hear from other copywriters and professionals in the industry, so we recently attended Copycabana 2016 to learn from some of the best wordsmiths around. Here are the highlights.

Being authentic

Our first speaker, one of ELLE UK’s 30 inspirational women under 30, Deanna Rodger, began with something a little different as she opened her heart to us with a beautiful poem (which you can listen to below) all about the poets’ favourite topic – ‘love’.

While Deanna openly admitted that the subject of ‘love’ for a poet was quite unoriginal, her message to us was that despite there only being so many combinations of words you can use to describe something, the key to success is authenticity. Don’t be afraid to draw upon your emotions when writing and bring your audience a new perspective that can be grasped differently to the norm.

Consistent tone of voice

Next up was a talk from ITV’s internal communications director, Nicole Dempster, who regaled us with tales of ‘playing it cool’ when her celebrity idols Ant and Dec entered the ITV lift with her for a few fleeting moments. But the talk wasn’t all about her star struck moments in the industry, she also gave us some insight into how important internal communications are at ITV to make brand advocates of their masses of employees.

Nicole had quite a niche audience to write for as they consisted of only the people who work for ITV. The key for her was to recognise that employees and viewers of ITV are all the same audience and the tone of voice needs to stay consistent across all communications in order for it to be believable, recognisable and effective. Nicole and her team realise that the world is a highly informal place today, therefore their tone of voice and approach reflects that throughout their communications, from a tiny Tweet to an enormous email.

One of the speakers we were most looking forward to was Miles Carter, the brains behind the John Lewis ‘Man On The Moon’ Christmas advert. Miles reiterated a point that resonates well with us at Adido – the best stories are influenced by your real life experiences. He explained that the Man On The Moon advert idea came about as Miles and his partner were discussing how sad they felt that they couldn’t see their grandfathers for Christmas this year due to complicated travel arrangements. They took that emotion and turned it into a script for a highly successful advertisement.

Miles talked about the importance of using real emotion within your writing in order to get the audience to feel something, but don’t fake it or try and force the emotion, otherwise you might get a negative reaction from the audience. The example he gave was the below advert by German company EDEKA, which may leave you feeling conflicted emotions! The lesson here – don’t use death!

Use stories to bring your point to life

The next talk was a real eye opener (despite being a bit ‘salesy’) as Sue Unerman and Kathryn Jacob, authors of ‘The Glass Wall’, brought attention to the fact that women are underrepresented in the top positions within the business world. They told us that the reason they wrote this book was to ‘get something straight’ and were able to put real passion into their writing as it regards a subject they really believe in.

The main takeaway from this talk came from the real life stories they used within their writing as metaphors for wider issues. By including stories which are slightly off topic, you can engage a harder to reach audience and get them to better understand the issues you are discussing by making them more relatable.

Give them a reason

Pete Cain, comedian and mastermind of the legendary Carling advert (below), then gave quite a colourful talk which used more F and C words than Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. He explained that copywriting can take a lot of influence from comedy, as you set the reader up with your initial writing and then hit them with the punchline to get a reaction from them.

Peter stressed the importance of deciding on the number one thing you want your audience to take away from your writing and ensuring that you make your point known. He also talked about the number one method of persuading your audience to take action, simply by giving them a reason to. Instead of writing about how amazing your product looks or the technical aspects behind it, tell the reader what that product will do for them to enrich their life.

Ask an idiot

Known as ‘the godfather’ of direct marketing, Drayton Bird took to the stage to share some of his many years of experience. Drayton provided some real nuggets of gold throughout his talk and described the importance of keeping your writing simple enough for the audience to understand. As a copywriter, you must remember that the audience may not have the same background knowledge as you, so don’t complicate things. His best piece of advice was to ‘ask an idiot’ to proof read your writing; if they understand what you are trying to say, so will your audience!

Be sensitive to the reader

A powerful talk by Debbie Coats, the clinical information manager at Cancer Research UK, shed light on what it’s like to write truly life changing information to a highly sensitive audience. As part of the team who wrote the copy for the Cancer Research UK website, Debbie had the challenge of providing crucial information to those who want to discover as much as they can about a disease that may be affecting their life.

Debbie explained the difficulty of creating copy that wasn’t too morbid but didn’t have an overly jolly tone to ensure the audience were not upset by what they were reading. She told us how they used ‘common language’, breaking down the more complex medical terms into easy to understand pieces. Her writing had to be sensitive to the readers’ emotions, ensuring that when talking about life threatening conditions, they were using language such as ‘patients may have swelling’ instead of ‘you may have swelling’ so that the reader would not feel panicked or alarmed.

Germanic vs latinate words

Saatchi & Saatchi’s very own copywriter, Caitlin Breeze was next up to give us an insight into one of the most infamous advertising agencies in the world and how they approach their copywriting. She described writing as a form of seduction as you entice the reader with your words. She detailed how the use of Germanic and Latinate words can alter your approach to copywriting, with Germanic words being forceful and immediate while Latinate words are a bit more frilly, appealing to a more sensitive or descriptive audience.

Senior writer at Innocent Smoothies Hayley Redman was next up to tell the secrets of another major brand and big player in the world of clever copywriting. Hayley told us to not fear the unknown and just because something hasn’t been done before, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done at all. She gave the example of the messaging on the underside of each Innocent Smoothie bottle, ‘Stop looking at my bottom’, which had never been done before and the clever strapline really brought the brand and the product to life.

Hayley went on to explain that with all of her copywriting, she is keen to keep the main thing ‘the main thing’, as important messages can sometimes get lost in a page of fluff and irrelevant information. If you’ve got an important message to put across, make it the main pillar of your writing.

copycabana innocent smoothies

Be ballsy

The final speaker of the day was the Economists’ digital marketing manager, Mark Beard. Mark’s advice was mostly regarding ad copy, especially eye catching straplines. The Economist have run many successful campaigns with their easily recognisable red backgrounds and bold statement in white, such as ‘I never read the economist’ or ‘If you want to be a CEO, grow some’, designed to entice clicks and new subscribers.

Mark showed us several quite ballsy examples, including ads that did not get approved because they went beyond being ballsy and just became inappropriate. The purpose of this was to show us that ad copy can be provocative in order to gain the audiences interest, but just don’t make it distasteful!

All in all, Copycabana was an awesome event with some truly great minds to learn from. At Adido, our passion for creating epic copy grows exponentially when we attend events like this and we look forward to discovering the line-up for next year!

Header image courtesy of @Natalka_Design

Natalka Design Copycabana 2016

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