Greatest Copy Shot Ever Written

by Nick Padmore

27 Reader Comments

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  1. Fully agree – I’m a big fan of long copy. This analysis was about the greatest copy shot though, rather than the greatest example of copy in general.

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  2. Thanks for flagging this up. Ironically enough this was done in the name of consistency! A lot of the lines lacking verbs come across in a declarative sort of way, but I’ve had to go with the central definition of sentence type as being conveyed at least in part by the verb.

    However, I appreciate your comments on the Betcha situation – this is unfair discrimination (though thankfully it was just a throwaway comment). Bit of a lapse on my part really.

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  3. I have read plenty of ad copies, but one rural real estate company took me by surprise when they had placed an advertisement for selling a piece of land. “The Greatest Earth on Show”. Simple, after 10 years, I still remember how clever it is.

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  4. Excellent analysis, Nick.

    I’m wondering, though. If you had also analyzed the 1.27 million or so copy shots and tag lines that did NOT catch on,(the world is littered with them) I’m guessing the stats would probably look much the same. Same length, same brand appearances, same mood, and the like. Lousy shots would parse out exactly like the classics.

    Which suggests to me, it all comes down to magic. Certain strings of words will twiddle something in the brain.  And some won’t.  And there’s no saying why. You can’t do it on purpose.  You can only recognize it when you’ve done it.

    As a writer, I’m actually more comfortable with that.  I’d hate to think it was nothing but some algorithm. 

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  5. I think that it’s because you’re a writer that you put it down to magic, and in a way I agree. But I also think that we become writers because we know (innately) what works best when it comes to words. Certain strings of words will twiddle something in the brain, and some won’t, but it’s our job as writers to make sure we come up with 10 of the former to every 1 of the latter.

    When you do something right, people won’t know you’ve done anything at all…

    That’s, in my view, the magic of the writer!

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  6. Dig the article, and even though I’m on the “art” side of things, I slogged through and read every word.

    Just wanted to comment on the “Free enterprise with every copy (The Economist).” I automatically read “free” as both modifying “enterprise” and also as a verb empowering the purchaser of a copy with freeing enterprise.

    Thanks for the thorough study.

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  7. Interesting article. My favourite is Tesco’s home delivery service:

    You shop, we drop.

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  8. Nick, I’m terribly disappointed in you for missing the wonderful metaphor in the Morton’s slogan. When it rains it pours has two meanings: 1) the one that has entered the popular lexicon as when something happens a little, it happens a lot (ie flavor is not just enhanced but WAY enhanced by our salt); and 2) the one that refers to the way that Morton salt (unlike other salts on the market) did not clump when it got humid. Therefore, when it rains, our salt literally pours. It’s literal and a metaphor at the same time.

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  9. Hands in the air – guilty as charged! The Morton Salt line was so full of rhetoric (repetition, parallelism, polysemy) that I must have just overlooked the great big purple elephant.  In all honesty I’m quite happy about this, as ‘When it rains, it pours’ is one of my favourite lines. Now we can call it a joint winner!

    As regards the Economist line – missed this interpretation entirely, but it’s definitely the right one. I retract my statement about it not containing a verb.

    Thanks guys.

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  10. I think Mr. Waites has it as the winner does nothing for me really. I think like all good print it’s about the emotion it evokes and not the science of it. This copy didn’t really stir any emotion in me probably due to the fact that I’ve never heard this statement before.  While others stir memories from my childhood and produce forgotten feelings and ties to those brands.

    It’s understandable that you needed some leg to stand on besides saying I really like this copy shot or my whole family loves this copy shot.  It would be interesting to have a follow up to the article with a poll to see which shot would win the readers poll. 

    It would also be nice to see what role age and geography plays in the study as some of these copy shots have never been heard of by some of your audience.

    Good read though, thanks!

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  11. Lot’s to think about (not a bad copy shot, huh?).

    However, why is it that I’ve never heard of your “Greatest Copy Shot Ever Written”? I’ve heard of every other example you gave, but not “If it’s on, it’s in”.

    As such, there appears to be something missing from your rating methodology. Maybe you should consider a saturation factor—like how many people have actually heard the copy? After all, that’s what copy is all about, right?

    Cheers,

    tedd

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  12. The Radio Times is an English publication, of course, so this line probably won’t be known by anyone from the U.S.

    (I’d like to just mention here that the fact that I’m also English doesn’t mean I fixed the results in any way!)

    This analysis does’nt pretend to be anything other than linguistic in nature. It’s not a demographic analysis, or a geographical analysis, or a social analysis. It uses the words themselves as a means of discovering the ‘best’ copy line, and purposefully blanks out everything else.

    There are, of course, other criteria which would contribute to making copy good or bad. Relevance to the product/brand advertised, perhaps, or how many times (if at all) the ad ran, or was recalled. However, I’m not sure I agree that the number of people who come across a copy shot can be seen to say anything about how good that shot is (though it might be a symptom of multiple recalls, of course).

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  13. Other comments regarding emotional appeals or the magic of copy triggered another element for me: most of the time, these copy shots are simply fun to say. Read them out loud. Think of how frequently they pop up in conversation or as the punch line or as a random exclamation. It’s a good reminder that while we writers may be aiming to have the perfect words on a screen, page, box, billboard, etc. it still matters how it sounds when spoken, too.

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  14. (Just wanted to apologise for the mysterious stray apostrophe in my last comment. It’s in, dare I repeat it, ‘does’nt’. Argh.)

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  15. I also loved the “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent”, as well as “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should”, but I never seem to find anyone old enough to remember them.  You certainly don’t look old enough.

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  16. “If it’s short you can say it a lot.”

    Twitter, anybody?

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  17. William Waites made an earlier comment:

    “Memorabilty is another important criteria. Your reference to the Pepsodent line omits the fact that it was “sung”. When you see the words you hear the melody and that jogs your memory.”

    In that line of thinking, two unforgettable copy shots from the 80’s come from the Chia-pet and Clapper commercials. For both of these, the melody and rhythm of the copy is critical.

    “Clap on. Clap Off. Clap on, clap off, the clapper”.
    AND
    “Cha-cha-cha-chia!”.

    I imagine anybody who watched TV in the 80’s starting to grin as they play these “tunes” (if they can even be called that) in their head.

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