My Copywriting Tips and Advice from 1984

“Positioning + creativity + guts = effect.” That was my formula for successful advertising, as quoted in this 1984 article from the Colorado Springs Business Journal by Ron Wallace. I was 29 years old.

The Ad Vantage: On Words And Up Words
“Positioning + creativity + guts = effect”
By Ron Wallace
Colorado Springs Business Journal, January, 1984

Almost every hour of the day we are a candidate for hearing a message from a total stranger. When we wake to the radio alarm, drive in the car, read the paper, or watch television, we are constantly bombarded by message from anonymous copywriters who urge us, one way or another, to buy someone’s product or service.

I recently met with three of the best local copywriters, Steve Haggart and Tom Bulloch of Bulloch & Haggart Advertising, and Walt Jaschek, creative director of The Flynn Group, to discuss the role of copywriting in the marketing process.

What is copywriting? According to Walt Jaschek, writer of the commercial that won best-of-show at the Pikes Peak Advertising Federation awards presentation, “Copywriting is the science and art of transforming concepts into words and pictures. It is the process of communicating information, of taking a specific message and telling it to a recipient in an attempt to get the individual to act upon the message. Copywriting is not just words. It is creating the concept that will trigger an emotional or intellectual response in a particular audience, and it is the writing of the words themselves.”

A similar definition was given by Steve Haggart. “On a basic level, copywriting is writing the words that appear. It begins with a selling concept, a basic decision about how the product is going to be shown. The creative concept is very much intertwined with the writing of the words.”

A print ad for Cedar Heights home sites, written by Walt Jaschek of The Flynn Group of Colorado Springs

Like A Lawyer Presenting A Case

Tom Bulloch adds, “Copywriting is like a lawyer presenting a case. There is a statement of the problem and a solution provided.” So, in short, copywriting is the hand of the marketing process that makes the message real and get it down on paper to be produced so that we can read it, hear it, and see it.

For Walt Jaschek, copywriting propels the abstract into the tangible. First, says Jaschek, comes the research, then the marketing positioning and finally writing the ad. That’s the key that turns the system. Both Haggart and Jaschek feel that marketing strength and creativity are not mutually exclusive.

“In copywriting, there is a symbiosis of marketing information and an expression of relevant information the audience needs to know,” says Bulloch. “It’s really hard to see where art stops and the copy begins. Sometimes we couldn’t tell you who came with layout or copy headline, and those have been our best ads.”

Just as marketing research and positioning have to work with copywriting to achieve the communication goal, art and words also have to work together in a good ad. “In the best advertising, you can’t really separate the warmth from the selling message,” says Haggart. “How can you separate the marketing concept, the idea you’re trying to get across, from the execution? They’re too closely related.”

Create A Shared Space With The Audience

Copywriting is an important profession, because it so directly works to stimulate the economy. So what type of people become copywriters? “Anyone who has an acumen for translating concepts into language in a compelling ways,” is Jaschek’s answer. He also says that honesty is of utmost importance in the advertising process.

“What I like to do is create a temporary space, share with an individual member of the audience, and use their intelligence as a tool to understanding the message even more. For example, in the Baron’s Saloon “Subliminal Seduction” radio commercial, we were simply saying that, whatever technique we use to get your attention, the core message is, we’d like you try Baron’s.

“Subliminal Seduction” | Radio spot for Baron’s Saloon, Colorado Springs | Written & Produced by Walt Jaschek

“The best copywriters know a lot about life,” says Bulloch. “They know what language people use. They know a little bit about a lot of things.”

Haggart says, “Curiosity and a willingness to ask questions marks the type of person that becomes a copywriter, along with the sheer ability and enjoyment of putting ideas into words.”

What happens if a client doesn’t like the advertisement but the copywriter thinks it will sell? Both agencies take a strong stand for their ideas. They present the campaigns to their clients after much thought, and say, this is why we think it will work for you.

“A doctor can argue with you that you need your appendix taken out,” says Bulloch. “You may not want that but that doesn’t change the fact that you went to him for his opinion, you think he’s good, and you need it taken out.”

There are many rules to follow in advertising. An Ogilvy disciple is respected by all. “The main rule,” says Haggart, “is to take an offer and make it as attractive as possible by pointing out how well it solves the problem – dramatize it.”

Creative Director Walt Jaschek concocts new creative ideas from a perch in the Garden of the Gods, overlooking Colorado Springs, 1983.
Photo by Bill McMullan.

The Jaschek Equation

Jaschek’s rule for successful advertising is, “positioning plus creativity plus guts equals effect.” In order word, he says: understand your product’s unique selling position. Communicate that with creativity. And take some chances.

“A lot of people believe the standard for good marketing is to do what everybody else is doing; that’s safe. It’s like the saying, ‘nobody gets fired for hiring IBM.’ But nobody gets remembered for doing that, either.”

What is the rule of typography in copywriting? Jaschek says it is tremendously important. The typeface, the amount of white space one uses, is crucial how the words are read. The type should complement the method and Haggart points out that the size of ad and what one has to work with often designates the typography.

When asked, at what level of sophistication is Colorado Springs’ advertising, compared to towns of its size, all felt there was a great deal of good work coming out of this market. “For towns of its size, Colorado Springs is way ahead,” says Jaschek.

“Good advertising and good agencies depend of good clients,” says Haggart. “If, like Topeka, Kansas, Colorado Springs was the capital of the state, then there would be larger companies based here and even stronger advertising.”

What’s the worst thing one can do in advertising? “Insult the readers’ intelligence,” says Jaschek. “It’s a mistake to assume that the audience won’t understand. Use the audience’s intelligence, imagination, perception and awareness for you.”

Get the Address Right

A different but equally sound answer was given by Steve Haggart. “Leaving the client’s name or address off is the worse thing you can do, or otherwise make it impossible for the prospect to buy your product.”

And finally, what advice do these copywriters have for the small businessman or woman who can’t really afford a large agency? All agreed that they should get some sort of professional consultation from a freelance copywriter, a media representative, or an ad agency. Contacting a good agency for just two hours of their time might provide a solid marketing understanding of the business and a direction to pursue.

“Ask other businessmen for their advice,” says Tom Bulloch, “and above all, when a plan is made, stick to it.”

So, as you hear advertisement copy throughout the day, know that copywriters work to use their marketing expertise and creative imagination to not just sell you product, but to talk to you like your best friend.

List of Colorado Springs ADDY winners, 1983. Jaschek’s radio spot for Baron’s Saloon won “Best of Show.”

Related: Radio’s Word Magic | Article from the Colorado Springs Sun, 1983

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walt-copywriting-process

  1. Study creative brief.
  2. Ask for clarifications.
  3. Research
  4. Feel sorry for myself and vow to quit copywriting forever.
  5. Sit butt in chair and finally write for 3-4 hours.
  6. Rinse and repeat until the copy is fantastic.
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Trust your process.

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Seeing Video Scripts Turn Into Real Videos: A Thrill, Still

waltjaschek-pa-scripts-2018-lowrez-4

Completed after weeks of work: a series of dramatic, dialogue-driven, leadership training video scripts I wrote for an international management consulting firm. Take a look there at page 7: that’s a great scene, huh? (Just kidding.)

Bonus: Just spent a few days on the set, watching a great director, dedicated crew, and gifted actors bringing my words to life. Gotta say: that never gets old.

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Happy to report I’m writing adventure comics again! Just completed a script (scroll to see it) for a deep-diving tale of The Terranauts, the team created by Paul Daly and Don Secrease. Splash page complete. What new menace taunts the ‘nauts? We’ll find out — in a cold, dark place.

terranauts-call-page1-color

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Here’s the fully inked page, just before I sent it to Don to do his amazing color stuff.

terranauts-call-page1-bw

Bonus! Here is the 

SCRIPT

TERRANAUTS 2020
“CALL OF COLD DARK, PLACES”
8-Pager
Script by Walt Jaschek

++++++ SPLASH ++++++

CAPTION: In the middle of the Aegean, we locate the anomaly.

CAPTION: We are warned it will sense us.

CAPTION: And will not be friendly.

CAPTION: But we are…

[LOGO] TERRANAUTS 2020

CAPTION: So we dive.

++++++ PAGE 2 ++++++

PANEL 1

A hero shot. Under the surface as Adam and Maria complete the dive, each arcing upward to stabilize, a trail of bubbles indicating their trajectory.

SFX: KER-SPLASH!

ADAM: Read me, Connie?

MARIA: Si, Adam. It’s as if we’re in the same ocean.

ADAM: Very funny, Terranaut.

ADAM: Propulsion mode.

PANEL 2

Having stabilized after the jump, Adam and Maria have activated the propulsion packs: they are jetting swiftly through the water in a downward diagonal,

ADAM: How ‘bout the ship? You with us, Harry?

HARRY (from off): With you and remind you…

PANEL 3

Back in the ship, Harry is standing with his walker, but is surrounded by sensors and screens and sonar, some of which are hologram projections.

HARRY: The sentient is self-replicating.

HARRY: It doubles in size every 6 hours…

HARRY: …along the top of a seamount ridge…

PANEL 4

Close on Maria as, through her mask, her eyes go big. She sees something.

HARRY (through transmitter): …close to surface.

Maria: Madre de Dios!

PANEL 5

In the foreground, a jagged “arm” of ice, coming from bottom right corner of panel and seeming to reach out like a warning finger to our oncoming divers in the distance.

And in alien letters and/or alien balloon, the word: S T O P

++++ PAGE 2 ++++

PANEL 1

And there is the creature in full, as seen by our divers in foreground. They are about a mile away. The creature is a huge, octopus-shaped alien crystal. It sits atop a mountain in a mid-ocean ridge. Gigantic tentacles are growing down the side of the rigge and into the surrounding ocean. It’s half holding on. And half spreading out.

Near the the top of this icy mass a “face” has formed, chunks forming brow and dark holes in the ice forming “eyes.” At the moment, the face is glowering..

Alien balloon: G O A W A Y

PANEL 2

ADAM: Getting this, Harry?

HARRY: Threat projections.

HARRY: Translated by your partner’s telepathy.

PANEL 3

Adam turns to look Maria in the eye, through his goggles and hers.

ADAM: You heard him, Connie. You’re our conduit.

ADAM: Can you get in there

ADMA: And read its “mind”?

PANEL 4

Maria is “floating” in an all-white panel with no background, to suggest she is in some other place, some netherworld of telepathy. She has her hand to her temple, reading incoming signals.

MARIA: Memory synapsis evasive…

MARIA: Like static…

MARIA: Wait… I have something…

PANEL 5

Outer space. Earth a blue ball in background. A huge comet is hurling in blackness, rocky, irregular, minerals in catching distant sunlight. But attached to the bottom is of the comet much, much smaller version of our creature, an irregular mass of icy lichen on a rock. A piece of it, though, is tugging away.

MARIA (from off): It was using a comet…

MARIA: (from off): As habitat.

MARIA: (from off): On a near-Earth pass…

MARIA: (from off): It tore itself off.

++++ PAGE 4 ++++

PANEL 1

Long shot as the creature crashes hard into the ocean, speed lines indicating its trajectory, a circle of waves where it hits.

MARIA (from off): After eons inert, all it needed was…

PANEL 2

Back in the ship, Harry has taken off his glasses and is holding the bridge of his nose with his fingers. A realization is sinking in.

HARRY: Something to drink.

PANEL 3

As close as we’ve been on the creature yet. We can see its whole “face.” And its “scrowl” is deep.

ALIEN: I DRINK.

ALIEN: I GROW.

ALIEN: I TURN YOUR SEAS…

ALIEN: INTO ME.

PANEL 4

Maria and Adam are jetting through a “cave” – AKA a hole — at the edge of a tentacle. Maria is shining a light into the foreground, where we see floating dead fish and brown, limp sea plants, and a murk of grey gasses.

MARIA: Not good, Adam.

MARIA: Whatever alien chemical stew it’s excreting…

MARIA: …is killing sea life for kilometers.

ADAM: Roger that. “Sentient bad.”

PANEL 5

Adam presses down one of the buttons that make up a grid of rectangles on his high-tech band on his wrist. The button he’s pushing is green.

ADAM: But as I’m sure Harry would agree:

ADAM: “Sentient” does not equal “smart.”

++++++

PAGE 5

PANEL 1

In the ship, Harry is looking at a looking at a screen. It shows a large panel opening at the bottom of the ship. Emerging from the panel are five, high-tech harpoons, pointed down, ready to be launched.

HARRY: It does not.

PANEL 1-A, small inset panel. Closer on the screenshot of the harpoons. Words appear over picture: HARPOONS BOOTING

PANEL 2

Wider shot as Maria and Adam make a loop around a tentacles and shoot off in the opposite direction, away from the creature.

ADAM: Yo, cranky alien! Ever heard of the internet?


You should have used it to search… 

“Where Not to Breed Underwater.”

PANEL 3

The creature squints, trying to understand.

 ADAM (from off): Top answer:

ADAM (from off): “Above a Geothermic Vent.”

PANEL 5

Adam and Maria are booking out of there, full propulsion speed, diagonally up and away.

CAPTION: They’re all over the ocean floor.

CAPTION: Temps up to 3000 degrees Celcius.

PAGE 6

PANEL 1

Looking up at bottom of the ship. The panel is fully open and the harpoons have been fired. They’re raining down on us.

CAPTION: The vents it’s sitting on have been clogged for a while.

PANEL 2

The high-tech harpoons shoot through the surface of the ocean.

CAPTION: We’re the plumbers.

PANEL 3

Harpoons penetrate the surface of the ocean

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

PANEL 4

Alien: M I S S E D

PANEL 5

Unclogged, the geothermic vents turn into geysers of super-hot water. All around the geysers, the tentacles of the creature are instantly melting and dissolving.

ADAM (from off) Didn’t. 

PAGE 7

PANEL 1

The face of the creature as it knows it is doomed. Already the ice of its face is melting and dissolving into streams shooting upward with the hot water.

ALIEN BALLOON: [SCREAMS WHILE DISSOLVING]: AAAA

PANEL 2

ALIEN BALLOON (GETTING SMALLER WHILE THE LIST OF LETTERS GETS LONGER):   AAAAAAA

PANEL 3

ALIEN BALLOON (GETTING SMALLER WHILE THE LIST OF LETTERS GETS LONGER):   AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

PANEL 4

Now back outside: long shot of the ocean as seen from the ship. A mile or so away, globules of dissolving creature are sending up wide showers of steam. A piece of the ship in foreground suggests scale and distance.

No copy

PANEL 5

Inside the ship, Harry is looking very closely at a censor and tapping on it as he does so.

HARRY: 99.9% decrease in sentience.

ADAM (communicator balloon): Not 100?

HARRY: 1% margin of error.

SFX (as Harry taps on censor screen) TAP TAP TAP

ADAM (communicator balloon): Well, I’ll round up and call that…

PAGE 8

PANEL 1

The surface of the ocean. The large raft we saw hanging from the ship is now floating on the surface, waiting, stocked with containers for food and dry supplies. On either side, rope ladders. A dripping wet Adam and Maria are climbing the ladders and climbing into the raft. The sun is low in the sky.

ADAM: …“mission accomplished.”

MARIA (a disappointed grunt): Hurmph.

PANEL 2

Maria pulls off her hood and goggles: we are seeing her face full for the first time. She is looking at Harry pointedly.

MARIA: Shortest. Mission. Ever.

PANEL 3

Reverse angle looking at Adam as he removes hood and goggles, too. Also, in the background, the silhouette of the hovering ship against the late afternoon sun. (A silhouette to save you from drawing those details.) Its presence subtly underscores what Adam is saying.

ADAM: Be thankful, Terranaut.

ADAM: They get longer.

PANEL 4

Maria hugs herself, shoulders hunched, cold. Her wetsuit is now slighting zipped open at the neck, revealing a small crucifix necklace. Adam is reaching out to her, handing her the cup from atop a Terranauts-branded thermos. It steams with a hot beverage.

MARIA: And I’m still cold.

ADAM: Warm your core, Maria Consuela Santos…

PANEL 5

Deep down below. A tiny chunk of the creature, sinking even farther into the crevices of the ocean. A stream of bubbles follows it down. It is breathing.

ADAM: “They also get colder.”

End of script

 Update: Read the finished, full-color comic now!

Walt Jaschek likes spending time in warm, bright places.