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Copy Writing Skills

Copy writing skills can add immense value to an advertisement. This ever famous advertisement for “Clairol” hair colour for women, was written by Shirley Polykoff in the year 1967 and was a runaway hit. Even today, you always ask yourself when you see a middle-aged lady with shiny dark hair , ” Does she or doesn’t she” use hair colour.


The Clairol advertisement in the early sixties


A recent advertisement for Clairol which emphasises more on visuals than copy.

Shirley Polykoff’s tag line ” Does she or doesn’t she” was revolutionary copywriting, considering it was the 1950’s. Many found it suggestive. But she proved them wrong. The sales of the product increased so much that hair colouring then became a necessity than a luxury to many housewives during that era.

Let me tell you why I’m talking about advertisements, of all the things. I pretty well know advertisements and their copy writing are nothing but a bunch of sweet lies carefully disguised as a bouquet of flowers waiting to be inhaled by each one of you only to be found out that they are actually paper.

The following quote by Paul Arden says it all.


I am laughing. It’s just a psychological war on your head. If you have read “Hidden Persuaders” by Vance Packard you will surely know what I am talking about. I had done a post-graduate diploma at the “Madras Advertising Club” during the ninety’s and everyday in class my thoughts only deepened on this reality.

But nevertheless it’s a fascinating world out there. You can sell an eraser or an expensive car by the clever twitch of your pen. But you need a pen and ink, or a computer, models, television, newspaper and you need repetition.


The key word, or rather, the mantra is the repetition. A mantra is also a sound or a word which is repeated as many number of times daily until it disappears into your sub conscious and then it re appears when it is most needed. The mantra has a profound positive effect.  This quote is too frank that it makes you feel shy. Stephen Butler says it in your face.


Likewise any advertisement you see , be it on newspaper, television or a hoarding, keeps on repeating day in and day out. Every five minutes the ad keeps re appearing. Is it not dumb to think that we are being tested for our memory. Once said is sufficient enough for us to remember, but the point here is not to remember but to surrender.

As the ad is repeated, it stays in your subconscious memory for quite a while. You switch off the TV after a great cricket match and hop on to your car and speed of to your regular supermarket. What do you see? What do you see? As you start searching the shelves for a loaf of bread, there it appears. The favourite two-minute noodles is staring at your face. Now the noodle advertisement you saw on TV a few minutes ago, matches your thought. If feels so nice to hold a bowl full of hot noodles dripping with tangy tomato sauce. So why not buy it now? Is it necessary? May be yes. May be no. But now your mind tells you to buy it, irrespective whether your wife or mother is going to like this purchase. So there it is. A clever repetition of the ad during a cricket match has made you an impulsive buyer.


David Ogilvy who is often known as the advertising man of this century, believed more in a good product. He did educate the mind but did not pollute it. I would call him a genius. If you see most of his ad’s, they described the product, and if the product was good, it sold by itself. He was one of those rare breeds in this advertising world.

He ran an agency called Ogilvy & Mather. O&M for short. His copies did magic for Rolls Royce, Hathaway shirts, Dove soaps, Schweppes etc. He never believed in flamboyance, or decoration, or graphics. He wrote such strong copy’s,that those ad’s, danced to his tune. I will write about him in my coming posts on advertising.

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