In literature, there are novels, short stories, poems and — the ultimate distillation of thought and emotion — haiku. Three lines. Seventeen syllables. In marketing, there are white papers, brochures, data sheets and… the pay-per-click ad.
As a copywriter, I love the challenge presented by these little nuggets. You get a short headline (25 characters), two lines of text (35 characters each) and a display URL (35 characters). That’s it.
It’s the tiny tip of your entire marketing iceberg, poking out above the surface of an Atlantic of yaddda-yadda-yadda. Or maybe a better metaphor: it’s the little eye of the periscope extended up from its zillion-ton nuclear submarine (except the Google ad wants to be noticed). After all, these little marketing poems can also be powerful intelligence-gatherers — just talk to Roger, our resident AdWords Ayatollah.
I can think of few equivalents in marketing — few media that impose such severe limitations. The prostitute’s one-line murmur to passing trade comes to mind (In New York they used to say ,”Wanna go out?”. My reply: “I’m already out.”).
Packaging copy comes close. I’m a big fan of shampoo bottle prose (“the glorious realisation of bounce, body and shine”). And one of my favourite lines is emblazoned across the top of the packet of Walkers Crisps (the ones you get in pubs). It says, in massive yellow letters that dwarf the Walkers logo itself: BIG EAT.
The guy who came up with this has got to be proud. Think of the target audience: big, fat, hungry, male drunks. You can’t ask for a tighter demographic than that. What do they want after their third pint? Do they want to hear about how Walkers source their potatoes? Do they want to faff around with details like the actual flavour or even the kind of food inside? They want BIG EAT. The first draft was probably BIG EAT NOW but, on balance, I think they made the right choice. BIG EAT sells crisps to big, fat, hungry male drunks. Always works on me.
I’ll blog about favourite pay-per-click ads soon. If you know any that you think do a great job, send them in. And you could do worse than reading The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords by Jerry Marshall and Bryan Todd.