June 9, 2023

A local Santa Barbara web design shop asked me for a bid on a copywriting project.

I looked at their site to see what they had to say about copywriting: not much, except that they were extremely good at it, just like they are extremely good at everything else. According to them.

I’ve examined the sites of hundreds and hundreds of web design shops from San Diego up the coast to San Francisco and they brag about the skills of their graphic designers and video editors and animators and coderz but very very few of them have a copywriter on staff.

A current buzzword in adbiz blab is: “storytelling.” People are more willing to read text if it connects the product to events in human lives.

As an example of their copywriting skills, this web shop’s portfolio showed pages from their e-commerce website for a company in Chicago that sells expensive leather wallets. It’s a very good-looking and competent ecommerce site.

The web design shop’s copywriting stance:

Tell the strongest Americana story

Ashland is well positioned to get a huge boost
from fans of old-world craftsmanship and
made-in-America businesses, and so we
amplified that narrative both in copy and
with visuals on the site.

Sounds good. But in a prime example of Advertising About Something Else, the made-in-America business narrative they decided to amplify was: Al Capone’s crime empire.

The creative copy is all about making comparisons to the days of the Chicago mob in Prohibition days–Capone Money Clip, Johnny the Fox, Bugs Moran, Frank the Enforcer, and Fat Herbie.  

The reason this wallet is better is because Frank the Enforcer says so. Got it?

 The web shop’s apparent definition of “copywriting:” take whatever the client gives you, and then add a layer of something else that’s more interesting than the client’s product. There’s your “storytelling:” a story about something else. Because it’s too much work

It’s a lot easier to write about Chicago gang members zestfully murdering each other than it is to find out what kind of craftsmanship and materials make a leather wallet better than the competition.  

A copywriter absorbs the information about your company/product, and your competition, and the demographics you’re aiming at, and presents a story that persuades the visitor that you have something worth looking at.