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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Radio’s Word Magic: Colorado Springs Sun article, 1983

This post reprints a 1983 article by Debbie Warhola of the Colorado Springs Sun about radio commercials, including an interview with young creative director Walt Jaschek.

Spread from the Colorado Springs Sun, December, 1981, featuring images of Walt Jaschek of The Flynn Group and D.J. Mark Cardaronella

Radio’s Word Magic

Putting together those essential, captivating commercials is ultimately “a roll of the dice”

By Debbie Warhola
Colorado Springs Sun
Friday, December 23, 1983

Commercials, so very important to radio stations and advertisers, are often misunderstood by the public.

That’s according to Phil Emmert, sales manager at KRDO radio, who says, “People are touched by radio everyday. The listen to music, news, weather … but they don’t understand that the production of a radio commercial is important.”

Although some people consider flipping the station when one is aired, commercials provide 100 percent of the revenue of radio stations.

“We haven’t figured out a way to pay for radio other than commercials,” Emmert said.

The trick is to convince those listeners not to switch the dial.

“Igniting the Human Imagination”

“It’s tricky. No, it’s very, very tricky,” said Walt Jaschek, creative director for The Flynn Group Advertising Agency.

Being an auditory medium, radio provides an intangible experience. It’s what Lee Durham of Gabel Advertising calls “word magic.” Mark Cardaronella of Z-93 says it’s “larger than life.” Emmert refers to it as “the theatre of the mind.” And Jaschek dreams of “igniting the human imagination.”

It’s what makes one listener think of a romantic, candlelight dinner when hearing the pop of a champagne cork, while another listener has visions of a broken window.

Because radio touches people differently, commercials are a gamble. Some work and some don’t. Some are good and some are bad.

“It’s a roll of the dice,” Jaschek said.

Jaschek is a copywriter/producer/director of many local commercials, including the Baron’s Saloon “Subliminal Seduction” commercial, which recently captured the “Best of Show” trophy at the 17th annual Pikes Peak Advertising Federation award ceremony.

“I was more surprised than anyone from the reaction of the public and my peers,” he said of his award-winning commercial.

Jaschek said he feels commercials are an artistic endeavor.

“I look at radio as a visual medium,” he said. “No art director can create the same emotional triggers as you can with the power of sound effects.”

Cartoon by Chuck Asay to accompany the Colorado Springs Sun feature article about radio advertising.

Cardaronella, on the other hand, believes that the purpose of a radio commercial is to sell the product. Some commercials that are not artistically pleasing still achieve that goal.

But an offensive radio commercial may prompt a listener to switch the dial, which could be detrimental to a radio station,” particularly during a radio rating period.

“At the same time, there are some exceedingly obnoxious commercials that work better than anything else,” Cardaronella said.

Cardaronella has been at Z-93 two years, since the Transtar radio network placed him as a disc jockey there. Transtar has a satellite 50,000 miles above the equator and beams the signal to subscribers worldwide.

Although a radio station by law cannot refuse an advertiser, it can refuse a commercial because of unacceptable quality,.

Jaschek said when he created the first of five Baron’s Restaurant radio commercials, one FM Station in Colorado Springs refused to air it because it did not have any music.

“The station’s policy, at the time, was to not air commercials without background music,” he said. The station has since changed its policy and airs many voice-only commercials.

“Supply and Demand Situation”

Even though commercials are how radio station stay in business, most stations limit the amount of advertising they carry. In fact, some stations emphasize the fact they offer hours of commercial-free music.

At Z-93 there are four commercial breaks per hour. The breaks are never longer than 2 ½ minutes and not more than three commercials are run consecutively.

Cardaronella said that limiting advertising is smart in the long run.

“It’s a supply and demand situation,” he said. “Listeners want to hear music. Have fewer advertisers costs the station more, but generally it’s a more successful stations because it keeps the listeners.”

The average household has five radios which constantly bombard listeners with information.

“The trick to radio commercials is to break through the radio barrier,” Jaschek said. “You want to be heard, remembered, and remembered well.”

The “Subliminal Seduction” Story

People remembered one of Jaschek’s radio commercials so well, that they began to recit it – in restaurants, on the street, even in a swimming pool.

Jaschek’s 60-second Baron’s Saloon “Subliminal Seduction” commercial, with no music, two voices and simple copy, caused a phenomenal reaction.

And it was written overnight.

The commercial not only brought people to Baron’s Saloon, 310 S. Academy Blvd., but also had the power to prompt listeners to act it out.

Bob Chamberlain, general manager of Baron’s., said the purpose of the commercial was that Baron’s be recognized.

“It works,” he said.

The response was stronger in having people comment on the commercial and mimic it than it was in increasing the volume of customers, Chamberlain said.

Jaschek said his strangest experience came when he overheard two people acting out the commercial in his apartment building’s swimming pool.

He not only wrote, directed and produced this award-winner, but also starred in it by providing the background voice.

The commercial, which denies that Baron’s succumbs to any “subliminal seduction nonsense,” actually tells people to take our their wallets and give Baron’s their money.

First, a booming, announcer voice: “No doubt you’ve heard about this ‘subliminal seduction’ nonsense. You know, commercials that are supposed to have hidden messages in them. Well!”

Then a tiny, mechanical voice in the background: “Come to Baron’s.”

Announcer: Obviously Baron’s has that rare combination of good food…

Subliminal Voice: Take out your wallet.

Announcer: Good fun…

Subliminal Voice: Give us your money.

Announcer: And good prices.

Subliminal Voice: Give us your cash.

And give Baron’s their cash they did. After all, isn’t that what all commercials tell us?

To be effective, a commercial must intrigue the listener, Jaschek said. It must provide information that the listener will retain.

“Many commercials created an adversarial position between the advertiser and the listener,” he said. “The most effective commercials teams up with the listener and doesn’t insult their intelligence.”

Jaschek, who writes and produces six to 12 commercials a month, said the “Subliminal Seduction” commercial targets the young, profession adult who is media-saturated and can identify with the sarcasm and satire.

“In some cases, the most simple is the most complex,” as it was in this case.

What Can Go Right, What Can Go Wrong

What makes an award-winning radio commercial?

The birth of any commercial begins with an idea. Because radio is an intrusive medium which allows you to do other activities such a drive a car or do the dishes, it must be a simple idea.

Jaschek said he can struggle with an idea for a day or a week. And he daydreams a lot.

“There’s really no secret to it. You struggle and struggle and the moral is – you never know,’ he said.

Anything can throw a commercial off: the wrong voice, inaccurate sound effects, even incorrect station placement.

After deciding what information with go into the commercial and how the idea will be conveyed, it is crafted into a 30- or 60-second script.

Then the props must be set up. Will it have music or not? What kind of voices will deliver the words? Are sound effects necessary?

The voices can be professional, such as from the Screen Actor’s Guild union, or people off the street. Jaschek said agencies are always looking for interesting radio voices.

Sound effects are available from tape libraries, which most production companies stock.

A 30-second commercial can take five minutes or all to day to produce. For this market, production can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000. And the stations charge a fee for each time the commercial is aired.

Another factor to consider is on which station the commercial will air. Jaschek said the commercial should fit the station’s target audience.

After all of the considerations, whether the commercial will instill magic in the listener’s imagination or instill the desire the change the station, is always up to the listener.

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