Copy lessons from inside a cash machine

Imagine you’re walking past an ATM…and a handwritten note pops out of the cash slot.

It’s a cry for help, from a guy trapped inside.

Yep, it happened this week. In Texas.

A workman was changing a lock on a door, at the back of the machine. He needed a swipecard to get out – but he’d left it in his truck.

Oh bugger.

So, nothing else for it. He scribbled a note and poked it through the slot: “Help, I’m stuck – call my boss!”

And yes, the first passer-by thought it was a wind-up. He started looking for hidden cameras, Jeremy Beadle style. But a few notes later, someone called the fuzz. And the whole nightmare was over.

What’s this got to do with copywriting?

Ooh, lots.

See, ATM Guy didn’t do the agency thing and get all “clever” about it.

He didn’t start with a teaser campaign, like “Peekaboo!” or “Guess Who?”

He didn’t go onto Facebook saying, “Let’s get 10k Likes for this pic of me running out of oxygen!”

And he didn’t use a cheesy clickbait headline, like “There’s only one man stuck in here – and you’ll flip when you find out who…”

None of that guff. He just got to the point: man down, call for help.

Sometimes, direct is best. Just say what you need to say, with no ambiguity. It ain’t clever. It won’t win awards. It won’t make you the talk of Soho. But you’ll get your message over, and that’s a wee bit more important.

“Yeah James, but I’m not stuck in a box. So it’s different!”

No it’s not.

Like the trapped guy, you’ve got to make your point in a millisecond. You’ve got one tiny chance with each prospect, before they get bored. Then they’ll move on. Leaving you trapped in a box for the rest of your days – or going broke because no-one’s buying your widgets and wotnots.

Am I saying teasers never work?

Of course not – in the right place, they can work wonders. But in these days of marketing twaddle, everything’s a vague little tease. We’re forgetting that sometimes it’s best to tell it like it is.

So…take a look at your copy today. Are you getting your point over quickly?

If not, check your numbers. If responses are low, try the more direct line.

It got ATM Guy noticed. So why not you?

Just sayin’…

Meet the Author

James Daniel

You might not know who James is...but you've probably read his copy. Through high street clients like Hidden Hearing, or big gun marketers like Jonathan Jay and Chris Cardell. His words are out there, pulling in new business every month. What else? Well his books, Do You Talk Like That at Home? and Direct Mail 101 will help you squeeze out more sales. Oh yeah - and his next book Before You JFDI will help you plan your next campaign. Get on the list for a free advance copy here.

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