Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to not write copy.

Flicking through the Good Weekend last Saturday, I came across this ad for the HTC Touch smart phone. It caught my eye because it is so painfully wrong in so many excruciating ways.

The layout is dreadful (seven shots of the same phone and a target market Gen Y-er in his Dad's jacket), two or three pointless headlines and two logos specifically placed to confuse and disorientate the reader.

But as a copywriter, it was the words that really hurt me.

I'm no expert, but I understand that the HTC is actually a pretty good phone.

But being a touch-screen 3G gadget it's playing in a sandpit dominated by iPhone. So this ad should be weaving a pretty convincing argument as to why I should shun that beloved device and choose something that looks liken every other phone in the Telstra shop.

So how did they go?

Let's start with the headline;


Hmmm...the 'power' here helpfully explains that the Touch runs on electricity, not steam or uranium like other, less modern telephones. A quick scan of the ad doesn't reveal where the 'passion' comes from unless it refers to the Gen-Y'er, by whose glazed smile we can presume is watching downloaded Japanese porn on his 2.8-inch screen.

Look if you're going to have one, the headline is where you set out the stall of your argument.

HTC's biggest brand issues are that;

(a) nobody knows anything about them

(b) it runs on Windows, which everyone loathes, and

(c) it's not an iPhone

This headline adressed none of this and was a waste of 1.23 seconds of my Saturday morning.

To the first line of copy;

'HTC, one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of smart phones, brings you the Touch 3G, a phone that combines their innovative TouchFLO interface technology with the awesome power of 3G.'

Crap. Until six months ago nobody outside the industry had ever heard of HTC, and most still haven't.

A quick Google reveals it to be a Korean company that made its name making components for other phone companies.

HTC stands for 'High Tech Computers', a name that conjures up a dusty PC shop off the Oakleigh high street before a global colossus striding the smartphone stage.

And bin the self-adulation; 'world's leading', 'innovative', awesome'. That is your puffed-up opinion of yourself, not a fact that will persuade the equivocating buyer.


'The category-HTC Touch 3G (no, the iPhone defines it) powered by Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional (I hate Windows on my computer, why would I want it on my phone?) takes your touch experience to the next level (there's that puffed-uppiness again).'

'With next-generation TouchFLO (if it's next generation, how can this generation have it? Waste of words), voice and text communications (you know, talking to people), web browsing and media playing are now more intuitive than ever before (how? How? Are you going to tell me? No.).

The touch-reponsive interface of Touch 3G is designed to respond perfectly to finger gestures
(yes, it's a touch screen, you've already said that) helping you navigate seamlessly through contacts, media and web pages with speed and precision (so it doesn't take you to the wrong places, slowly? Wow!).

Look, there's a whole other paragraph of this rubbish and I can't be bothered going though it all. But it doesn't get any better.

If you're going to interrupt somebody's Saturday morning with a wad of words, try to make it something useful or funny or informative.

Tell me why Windows is better for a phone that OS/X. Give me the ammunition that will persuade my friends at the pub that this is cooler than an iPhone.

Tell my why HTC are better at making smart phones than Apple.

George Orwell once raged agains words that were mindlessly erected into sentences, 'like pre-fabricated henhouses'. Lord help any battery chook that has to live in this.

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