Monday, June 29, 2020

SPIN: Faces, Family, & Real Estate Marketing

I just shaved off my quarantine beard.

That's my spin on my new clean-shaven look.

Because prior to this morning, I haven't been beardless for around 20 years, but am now because of an easily avoidable trimming incident that makes me feel like an idiot. A beardless idiot. 

Spin: I meant to do that.

Spin is the way we knowingly offer a biased interpretation of an event or action or comment or whatever gaff that positions ourselves outside the way we want to present ourselves to the world.

My kids have never seen my chin. They will soon. Probably in minutes. As will my wife. I've had a beard since before we were engaged.

If ever there was a time for spin, this is it. 

When we do something potentially embarrassing, such as an inept attempt at facial hair trimming (which until today I had done successfully a few times a week for a couple of decades), we want to tell the story -- or spin it -- in a way that puts us in the best light. 

Outside of politics, the spin that amuses me the most is found in the world of buying and selling residential property.

Real estate is a veritable spin-fest. If an apartment is so small that you have to step out into the hall to change your socks, it is advertised as cozy. If the kitchen appliances are well-worn harvest gold remnants from 1963, the ad boasts original condition

Other real estate spin that entertains me includes:
  • Beachfront steal translates to, "You ain't never gettin' hurricane insurance on this baby."
  • Country living is an indication that your commute will be longer than your work day.
  • One-car garage let's you know that, with skill, you can squeeze your Fiat 500 in, but you might not be able to get it out.
  • Must see inside is code for: the outside is uglier than a lard bucket full of armpits.*
  • Usable land is spin for "no trees or landscaping."

As a copywriter, I am often challenged with positioning a product or service in the best possible light while, at the same time being truthful. Sometimes that includes describing a house that brings to mind, "What a dump!" as a home that needs TLC.

I'm glad I don't have to do that in my family.

When they ask, I won't give 'em the spin, I'll tell them the truth: 

  • When trimming my beard this morning, I made a stupid error and carved a stubbly swatch from just under the center of my nose to just under my left ear.

  • Then, after a few moments of looking at my gaff in horror and realizing there was no saving any of it, I mowed off the rest. Giving my face a look similar to usable land.

  • When I looked in the mirror, I had trouble recognizing myself. 

The kids'll be surprised. So will my wife. There will be laughter.  

And in a few weeks my clean-shaven appearance will be gone. But the ribbing about letting me near sharp objects won't.

*props to a very funny book: "uglier than a lard bucket full of armpits" is courtesy of Cooter Browns' South Mouth

Monday, June 22, 2020


What if you don’t really know what you think you know?

Perception. 6 vs 9

To survive, that's what an established product had to convince a sophisticated target audience.

Rolling Stone Magazine Logo

By the 1980s, Rolling Stone Magazine had moved from its fringe, counter-culture roots and had become a mainstream music and entertainment publication.

However, advertisers didn’t acknowledge the change, considering the readership as being closer to hippies frequenting head shops than to upwardly mobile Americans buying cars, homes, and clothing that wasn’t tie-dyed.

As such, media buyers were not buying much space. And that was a problem. Rolling Stone wasn’t making its numbers.

Enter advertising agency Fallon McElligot to plant the seed “What if you’re wrong?” in the heads of the advertisers Rolling Stone wanted and needed to buy ads.

The “Perception. Realty.” campaign was a smash hit, boosting Rolling Stone ad revenues by about 50% in the first year.

The campaign ran for around 10 years and featured over 50 “Perception. Reality” ads. Here are a few examples from this iconic campaign:

Perception vs Reality - Rolling Stone Ad

Perception vs Reality - Rolling Stone Ad

Perception vs Reality - Rolling Stone Ad

Perception vs Reality - Rolling Stone Ad

Perception vs Reality - Rolling Stone Ad

Perception vs Reality - Rolling Stone Ad

Perception vs Reality - Rolling Stone Ad

Good stuff, huh?

Friday, June 19, 2020

Punch in the Gut Poetry

Can something that wasn't composed as a poem be poetry? If it punches you in the gut hard, I say, "Yes."

Poetry transfers an intense expression of feelings, ideas and emotions from the poet to the audience. 
Poems can elevate the spirit and they can punch you in the gut.

This was never meant to be a poem.
But it is. 
One that should never have been made.  
One that should be read often.
One that could change everything.

8:46 by George Floyd

Some water or something, please. 
I can’t breathe, officer. 

Don’t kill me. 
They’re gonna kill me man.
Come on man. I cannot breathe. 

I cannot breathe.

It’s my face man. 
I didn't do nothing serious man. 
Please, please, please. 

I can’t breathe.

Please man.
Please, somebody.
Please man, I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe, please.

Man, I can’t breathe. 
My face. 
Just get up.

I can’t breathe, please.
I can’t breathe, shit.
I can’t move.

Mama. Mama.

I can’t, my knee, my nuts. 
I’m through.
I’m through.

I’m claustrophobic.
My stomach hurt.
My neck hurts.

Everything hurts.

They're gonna kill me, they're gonna kill me.
I cannot breathe.
I can’t breathe.

Please sir, please sir, please. 

I can’t breathe.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Interview with the Author of "Instant Inspiration for Copywriters"

I'm Darwin Adams, joining author, copywriter, and content creator R. Scott Frothingham for a cup of coffee to ask him about his book Instant Inspiration for Copywriters and to pose questions about his writing career, including advice for other writers.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: Incredibly fortunate. I found the perfect partner. I have two amazing kids. I get paid well to do something I love.

Q: I thought you would answer "carrotdangler."
A: I see you checked out my LinkedIn profile where I describe myself as a wordwrangler, carrotdangler and storyteller. The carrotdangler comes from the idea of trying to persuade somebody to do something by offering a reward, such as dangling a carrot in front of a mule to get it to walk. In copywriting, I think of it as thoroughly researching the target audience's want or need so I can demonstrate how deeply I understand that want/need so they'll take my advice about how. when, and where to get it satisfied.

Q: What got you into writing?
A: I've always liked to write. I wasn't a great student, but I could write well and that got me through school. The more I relied on my writing to cover up for other deficits, the better my writing became. My first full time job was at a small local radio station. In that and subsequent jobs, I was able to further hone my writing skills and use them to my advantage for advancement.

Q: What is the project that you have worked on that makes you most proud?
A. The answer to that question is typically, "the most recent project." So the project I'm most proud of right now is my new book that I think will be very helpful to writers, especially copywriters. I'm particularly proud of the positive response it has gotten from a number of copywriters I greatly admire, including: David Garfinkel, Steve Slaunwhite, Tom Albrighton, Drayton Bird, and Bob Bly.

Q: Speaking of Instant Inspiration for Copywriters, the opening headline is "Don't read this book." Doesn't your publisher think that sends the wrong message?
A: Headlines are supposed to, among other things, get attention. I think that this headline does just that and, since it's the first line in the book, it encourages the reader to say, "huh?!" It arouses curiosity that results in the reader continuing to read to find out why a book would be started that way.

The next line explains that the purpose of the book is to be used as tool. As a tool it is to be referred to when a writer needs some inspiration or a quick piece of expert advice. Basically, I'm giving the reader advice on how to use the information in the book by suggesting that the book should not be read cover-to-cover like a novel, but accessed page-by-page when needed.

Q: Why isn't Instant Inspiration for Copywriters available in eBook form, such as Kindle?

A: I believe that different types of information are better delivered through specific media. In the case of Instant Inspiration for Copywriters, I am convinced that riffling through a book is a better way to access this type of information than scrolling down a page. Since most writers are working on a keyboard and screen, I figured that a quick change of environment -- visually and tactilely -- would make more of an impact and do a better job of delivering on the promise of instant inspiration. 

Q: What advice to you have for people who want to get into copy and/or content writing?
A: Here are 3 pieces of advice that will serve any copywriter well: Read, write, and listen. The more you read the better writer you will be. The more you write, the stronger your writing chops will become. The more you talk directly with, and listen to, people in the audience you're targeting, the better you get to know their wants and needs, and how best to communicate with them. The better you know the audience, the more effective your writing will be.

One more bit of advice: the biggest mistake you can make as a writer is to be boring ... make sure your writing is clear, concise, interesting, relevant, and engaging. 

And one more. After this, I promise I'll stop. Don't start writing any copy until you know the desired outcome. Understand what the target audience must do to make the copy successful and then, in the copy, ask that target to do it with a clear call to action.

Q: Do you have any regrets that you have experienced over the course of your career?
A: Most of my regrets are minor and specific, such as submitting a piece with a typo I missed. It happens occasionally and it bugs me when sloppy errors sneak by and I beat myself up about 'em even if they are miles away in my rear view mirror. My biggest regret is not focusing on copywriting full time until later in my career. When that regret sneaks to the front of my mind, I remind myself that without the experiences I had prior to full-time copywriting, I might not be as good a writer.

Q: What is your personal advertising campaign? Why?
A: "In either lost revenue or lost time, poor copy will cost you far more than paying me for excellent copy." Why? If you accept payment for a product, the product you deliver should give, at a minimum, equal value to the payment made. Personally, I always shoot to deliver value above and beyond expectations. It bothers me when I see opportunities being missed by weak writing.

Q: What's next for you?

A: I have a number of assignments I'm working on for clients, but there's an idea for another book that's been bouncing around in my head. Once I get a better focus on that project, that's what my spare time will be devoted to.

Q: If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing?
A: But I am a writer and I ain't quittin'. If I was somehow barred from writing, I'd have to find something else that had to do with words and storytelling. 

Off the top of my head, maybe I could read to people for a living. I'm a big Dr. Seuss fan, maybe I could find folks who would pay me to read to kids and help 'em learn to love reading. Now that I've said that aloud, it doesn't sound like a job that could pay the mortgage.

Thinking about it, I might try being a professional demonstrator. Working a crowd to sell a blender or set of knives or something ... having to get their attention, hold their interest, build their desire, and get them to buy while keeping them entertained and involved. Nah, I'm too much of an introvert. Maybe graphic design of some sort that would allow me to continue to tell stories even though I couldn't use words.

 Instant Inspiration for Copywriters is available  in paperback on Amazon

book cover - Instant Inspiration for Copywriters - R. Scott Frothingham

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Darwin Adams is an author of fun and educational children's books focused on nature. He also vlogs on a wide variety of subjects. Check out his books on Amazon including: Toxic, Alpha Animals, Weird Animals (books 1-5), Weird Birds, and I Can Draw Animals (volumes 1 and 2).

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Interview transcribed from Author Interview Podcast 6/10/2020


Monday, June 8, 2020

A Most Unlikely Book

I wrote it.

I'm proud of it.

You've never heard of it.

A few years back I wrote a book. It was not a big seller, but it was definitely unique.

It got some high profile mentions on the Food Channel. It got a lot of positive reviews.

This 35-second video tells the story:

The book even includes a recipe from celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern (you probably know him from his TV shows Bizarre Foods and What’s Eating America?)

So why am I bringing this up now?

They’re back.

Millions of cicadas are expected this year. In parts of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, cicadas will emerge from the ground for their once-every-17-year mating cycle. 

What now?

Buy a copy.

It’s a fun gift … and … if you’re heading to a friend’s home for dinner, at $5 you’ll get a better reaction with this than with a $5 bottle of wine. Or the next time you have a party, leave it out and see how it becomes a conversation starter.

Also, the recipes are legit. 

No kidding. I played it straight. 

Many fit the description gourmet, including:
  • Cicada Frittata
  • Pasta a la Cicada
  • Cicada Curry
  • Cicada Tacos
  • Cicada Pad Thai
  • Caramel Cicada Crunch

This book has it all from snacks to meals to desserts, many with an international flair with taste profiles, such as Italian, Moroccan, Asian, and Mexican.

Cooking with Cicadas - R. Scott Frothingham

One of the reviews contained a great line: “I hope the author has something else to write about for the next 16 years.” Yes, I found other things to write about … but ... since the cicadas are coming back, I can now go back to writing about them (or at least writing about my book about them).

Like the cicadas, after a period of dormancy, it's still available:

The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

“You could sell sawdust to a lumber mill,” said my boss as he threw his arm around Byron’s shoulders. The team applauded as Byron held up th...