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A Very Useful Checklist For Creatives

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Bloody hard, isn’t it?

So maybe you’re not that amazed at some of the weird stuff that emerges.

Do you recall an old TV campaign for Barclays? It must have cost millions, and featured Samuel L. Jackson walking though the country accompanied by a most appealing pig.

Being a bit thick, I didn’t see what this had to do with banking.

So I asked an audience of 1,500 salespeople if they thought it would persuade a single person to switch to Barclays. One person did. Most of the rest thought it would do nothing – or actually lose customers.

Then I asked a class of marketing students what they thought. Not one could even understand it – and even if they had, the most lucrative customers for any bank are middle-aged or older.

To be honest, I wonder if those who created or approved the ad had any idea what makes advertising persuade and sell. I imagine they just fancied the idea of meeting and working with Mr. Jackson. Or maybe they just liked pigs.

Nothing changes. Now Barclays runs guff like “the hole in the wall” and deeply embarrassing stuff about their staff outside their banks. Trying to be matey and friendly, I imagine.

What do you want from your bank? I know one Barclays customer very well. She just wishes they could be vaguely efficient from time to time. No signs of that, though.

Enough! Here is today’s helpful idea.

For more years than I care to contemplate I have tried to determine what makes messages sell. Not based on my opinion, but on all the available research and testing.

So here’s a checklist based on what I learned you must look for if you want to sell.

A quick creative checklist

1. The opening must quickly offer or clearly imply a clear, strong benefit.

2. Is everything instantly clear. If it’s funny, clever or obscure – beware.

3. Unless you give every sensible reason to buy, answer obvious questions, overcome all reasonable objections, you’ll lose sales.

4. Is what you sell fully, clearly described?

5. Is the tone right? Don’t be funny about serious things (eg, charity, business or money)

6. Show it to someone uninvolved, preferably a likely prospect. Ask if they understand it – and if they would buy

7. Do you prove your claim is true? Testimonials? Independent figures?

8. Do you ask firmly enough for a reply, tell people precisely what to do? Repeat your arguments at that point.

9. Is the coupon, order form or request to reply big enough, clear, simple and easy to use?

10. Read the copy aloud. Does it sound like someone talking? Good!


You may find using this check-list a bit of bore. But a lot less boring than stuff that flops.

Because if you want to sell, you’ll find that some, perhaps many of your messages miss one or more of the points above. And if you look out for them I promise you will improve your results – perhaps so much it will surprise you.

By the way, the principles are similar, but not identical, in advertising not designed to sell immediately, which usually (but not always) has less copy. And usually (but not always) would be a damn sight better if it did try to sell immediately.

Steve is a copyrighter working for several international advertising agencies and has an immense range of experience in marketing, digital advertising, and creating new branding concepts.