#1) Check your USP
What’s the reason somebody should buy your product and not the other guy’s?
It’s supposed to be what legendary copywriter Rosser Reeves called your USP,
Unique Selling Proposition.
There has to be some compelling reason that your
goods are better than the other ones out there. You, as the creator of your
little sales message, ought to not only know what that is, but be able to
state it succinctly--and probably use it in your commercial.
It’s not enough that you have a good product that’s pretty much like the
other ones in the marketplace. Do you have a feature nobody else has?
Is there a problem you deal with that the others don’t? Are you
cheaper, or faster, or better-designed or made?
These are the “big questions” that writers of traditional advertising have
struggled with for years. Don’t think they don’t apply to DRTV. In our
live-or-die world that demands we get immediate results from our copy,
they’re doubly important.
#2) Tighter is Better
By the time you’ve finished your script, you’re in love. That poetic
wording, the way you built your sales argument, the clever way you used that
problem-solution setup are priceless, aren’t they, destined to live forever
in the Direct Response Hall of Fame.
Now cut them.
The novelist William Burroughs once said that he thought advertising was the
most difficult kind of writing there is.
Why? Well, Jack Foster, one
of LA’s most famous creative directors once explained it to me very clearly.
He said that advertising was more “idea-intensive” than other forms of
He was talking about the fact that there’s so much thinking
behind each sentence, each point you make in advertising, that’s it’s just a
lot harder to do than, say, writing a page of your novel.
trying to say must be boiled down into its tightest, purest essence,
especially if it’s going to make it into your :60 TV commercial.
I know my own scripts go through 10 or 15 revisions before I’m done
with them. In each pass, I’m constantly looking for ways to say things
crisper, shorter and cleaner.
My advice to anyone in this medium is to go
line-by-line through your script and throw out anything that isn’t
#3) Get to the Point
Want to know the easiest place to shave time? It’s usually the
beginning. In my experience, there’s usually the most fat in a script right
at the top.
You’d be amazed how many scripts I’ve seen that have two or three paragraphs
of copy that are unnecessary, totally cut-able. It’s almost as if the writer
needs a little warm-up before he gets to the point.
Here’s a rule of thumb I use: if you’re not showing and saying the
name of the product by about :10 into the CTA, you’re wasting time. Busy
prospects need you to get to the meat of your little coconut sooner.
Besides, if you don’t, you’ll never have time for all the rest of your
points before the fade out.
#4) Testimonials, Anyone?
It’s a cruel reality, but, try as we might, we professional writers and
producers aren’t always the best salesmen.
Oftentimes, it’s the average,
ordinary man or woman who beats us out. And for good reason: he or she
has actually plunked down money and used the product, in the real world to
solve their own, real needs. They know what they’re talking about, and so
they’re the ones who often sell it the best.
One time I was creating a sales video for a retirement community in Arizona.
I’d packed by show with industrial strength sales copy, my best material.
But the real star of the piece turned out to be this old guy I’d interviewed
by the swimming pool, saying: “I’m gonna take a picture and send it
back to my friends in Detroit. Here I am, barbecuing hamburgers, and they’re
up there freezing their butts off.”
Gee, I thought, how come I didn’t
A scene from a kitchenware infomercial
#5) Make it Visual
TV is a visual medium. But selling is often a verbal one. I mean, in the
end, what we’re really doing is “talking people into buying,” right?
The best TV scripts blend the two worlds into one powerful whole. They show
and tell powerful points about their product. They are interesting to look
at, and convincing to listen to.
I once did a TV campaign for a company that leveraged purchases of precious
metals. It doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of subject that lends itself
to sparkling visuals, right?
Actually, the solution we came up with
was. We had piles of gold and silver bars and coins “grow” before your eyes,
visually emphasizing how leveraging works to your advantage. It was a
powerful visual that pulled a ton of calls, yet very inexpensive to shoot,
once we had the right idea.
If you’re a writer, you may feel most comfortable building concise, pithy
statements about your product first, then sitting down and thinking of great
ways to visualize them.
It takes work, and time, but you have to come up
with ideas for images and pictures that get your point across.
#6) Value Built to Last?
If your commercial or show doesn’t work, what went wrong?
one simple way of explaining what happened: you didn’t build up enough
value in your product to justify the price.
When a consumer watches TV, she wants to see products and services that can
have a positive impact on her life. She wants something that can save her
time, or trouble, or money. She’s looking for fun, or security, or love, or
a dozen other things.
It’s your job to make sure she gets it.
I once spent $39.95 for a bottle of household cleaner (and then later
went on it sell the same product on TV). Now, I’m not sure this was the
smartest purchase I’ve ever made, but it sure seemed so when the salesman
was at my door.
The reason? His presentation built so much value for the product.
He demonstrated it, he talked about this universe of things it would clean,
he talked up the ingredients, he even drank the stuff, for heaven’s sake!
Before you ask for money, you have to build an overwhelming case for the
idea that your product is going to be huge, a real plus, in the consumer’s