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Tired of Hype-Filled Copy?

August 14th, 2008 by Bob Bly

My colleague Dean Rieck, a veteran copywriter, thinks today’s new copywriters use too much hype in their writing (example:

“These days, more writers seek freelance work, spurred on by promises of big paychecks in myriad get-rich-quick e-books sold online,” writes Dean in DM News (8/11/08, p. 10).

“The result is a flood of inexperienced, poorly qualified writers. I’ve seen increasingly club-fisted writing showing up in sales letters online and offline. Are copywriters today so tone-deaf, so mired in over-the-top hard sell patter that they can’t hear how ridiculous they sound?”

My questions to you for today:

>> Do you agree there’s too much hype in copy in general — and online in particular?

>> Does hard-sell long copy turn you off, repulse you, or do you enjoy writing and reading it?

>> Does the hype-filled style of copy work in your experience or opinion? Or are today’s readers too sophisticated to be persuaded by it?


This entry was posted on Thursday, August 14th, 2008 at 12:52 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

24 responses about “Tired of Hype-Filled Copy?”

  1. Dean Rieck said:

    Ahem. You know I was not talking about YOU, Bob. Right?

  2. Bob Bly said:

    I know. I posted the excerpt from your DM News column precisely because I AGREE with you….

  3. Jonathan Fields said:

    Agree on the use of too much hype, but not necessarily on the use of long format. A marketing piece can be plenty long, while still being compelling and believable. If there’s a genuine purpose for each word, if every phrase further a persuasive process or deftly greases the slide, go for it.

    If it’s just there, because you can’t figure out what’s really so powerful about the solution your selling, you’ve got more work to do.

    Hype is the hobgoblin of small copy minds [of course, this only applies when it not me doing the hyping 😉 ]

  4. Amy said:

    I will have to agree with both you and Johnathan Fields. I see so much hype filled copy all over the internet. yet i hve found a number of dynamic and authentic entrepreneurs online who not use both genuinely compelling copy as well as a longer format. Thanks for raising the question…good food for thought for all those copywriters out there.
    Amy Miyamoto
    On Twitter @amymiyamoto

  5. Josh Can Help said:

    When you’re asked to write “copy,” given 101 goals to fulfill, 3 different people to satisfy, and a bunch of crap to promote then the hype comes in vomits (the content comes in dribbles). Marketing copy IS hype for the most part, no? Speaking to the positive, down-playing the negative, up-selling the product… writers who are talented enough to write compelling content for marketing purposes probably find themselves quickly motivated to shift their efforts to something a bit more satisfying *cough*

  6. Wedge said:

    Not keen on the hype, detest the long. I won’t read those long single pages, they’re an insult to my intelligence.

  7. Landon Ray said:

    Honestly, I ignore both long and hype now.

    If you’re doing long or hype, you’d better write for double readership, ’cause I’m headlines only.

    Overall, I think the page design impacts my sense of the ‘scammy-ness’ of the marketer. If it’s really big and red, that feels like a flag.

    But if it LOOKS reasonable, I can forgive it.. scroll on down and buy or not buy.

    That’s just me.

  8. Louis Burns said:

    I’d say a more important criteria than hype is whether the claims are true and substantiated.

    Just today I was reminded of one testimonial that claims a particular copywriter’s work sold out a $10K/person seminar in 4 minutes creating a $110K/minute windfall.

    Obviously if it sold out in 4 minutes, no one had time to read the long copy. It was all in the prelaunch promotion. The same copywriter may have contributed to that as well but the implication is that the copy was entirely responsible for the result. How about the more important elements of the list and the offer? It all seems a bit misleading. I’d call that hype. It’s a turn off because now I’m skeptical of anything else that follows.

    I love outrageous claims as long as they’re backed up with straightforward facts or experience. Just don’t tell me you jumped over the moon and expect me to believe you without any proof.

    I never read long copy unless I’m studying it for strategy and techniques.

  9. Clarke Echols said:

    I looked at I wouldn’t touch that with a 40-foot pole.

    I am a big fan of Bob, Clayton, Daniel Levis, David Deutsch, and some others. No baloney. Just real, nice people who make a good living but who provide good value too.

    Some of AWAI’s stuff is a bit “over the top”. I wish they had revealed the disclaimer that travel writers don’t make the “big bucks” their copy implies, but I’ve spent the money, even though I haven’t had time to dig into the material yet.

    Clayton’s/Tony’s Desktop Copy Coach is a treasure, though I’m just getting into it.

    But I do like copy — even long copy — that is well written, reasonable in tone, with no hot-shot get-rich-yesterday or I made a million bucks in 10 minutes nonsense.

    How many of these guys make money writing stuff on how to make money doing something they’ve never done.

    I’ve been writing for third of a century, and I’m a long way from the masters of the craft because my work was in technical publications.
    But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to master a different field.

    Same is true of anyone. You get good by working at it. Anyone who says it doesn’t take hard work is either lying, or they’re not telling the truth.


  10. Lou Wasser said:

    Wouldn’t the degree of hype vary with your target audience? Am working on an email letter for a software company in which I had to back track. The other day I found myself writing in an email advertising piece for a software company “let us put steroids in your XYX application.” The next morning, after thinking about it, I rewrote the sentence to read “let us ‘customize’ your XYZ application.”

    Obviously the hype-charged word “steroids,” at least as a metaphor, doesn’t make sense for IT folks. But it be an acceptable metaphor for selling different kinds of products to twenty-five-year-old men in a men’s magazine.

  11. The Guy said:

    Hype has gotten ridiculous to the point where everyone has become cynical toward all things marketing and marketers. They’re ruining our language!

    Heck, how much marketing copy do YOU actually believe? I’m the same way. I always look for the weasel words to see how the writer is secretly negating those otherwise extraordinary claims.

    Keep it simple. Keep it full of benefits. Make it compelling. Make sure it is accurate and by all means, make sure every word is absolutely true and relevant and I will read every last word of that copy–probably even multiple times because it will be so refreshing.

    Yes. I am long past tired of the hype. The day of the quick sale is over. The day of relationships built on trust and accurately-conveyed value delivery are here to stay. With that type of trust and value there simply is no room for (or need for) hype.

    Hype usually disguises dishonestly and I don’t think too many dishonest marketers will stay in business for very long anymore.

  12. John W. Furst said:

    Love your questions?

    >> …too much hype in copy…?
    Yes, too many superlatives

    >> Does hard-sell long copy turn you off…
    No, if the offer looks like something I could use and is written well.

    >> Does the hype-filled style of copy work in your experience or opinion?
    I don’t have test results on that so my opinion is not backed up, therefore I shut my mouth.

  13. dianacacy said:

    Hype is very discouraging to me, and a waste of my time.

    Hard sell long copy doesn’t work either. Give me the details of a good product or service, good incentive to buy, and a reasonable price. I expect to be told the details, but I expect the information to be honest. I expect to be told how it can fit into my life, but I expect it to be believable and real. I expect to be given a strong reason to buy, but I expect it to be honest, well thought out, and not insulting.

    On long or short copy in general … whatever length is right for the product/service. I’ve seen some really crappy long copy online, and some really good copy. Good copy engages me, irregardless of the length.

  14. Stacy said:

    Most long-copy sales pages on the Web annoy me, especially those that can’t explain why the product or service is right for me within the first few sentences. (And I want solid evidence of the product’s superiority, not just exclamation marks and loud fonts.) I quickly click away, concluding that it’s probably a scammer selling a lousy product.

    Too many online sales pages sound like they were written by the very same guys who spew out cheesy pick-up lines at the bar.

  15. wayne said:

    I had considered going into copywriting. This is the main reason I decided against it. I just can’t be responsible for hitting people over the head with hyped up nonsense.

  16. Sean said:

    [@Clarke- I think some of AWAI’s marketing has evolved a bit in the past year. On their new website they are relying much more on free content, articles, and blogs, and less on traditional sales copy. Plus, the Travel writing course is now marketed as a “LIfestyle career” where as Copywriting and Graphic Design are “Wealth” careers. I only know cause I’m thinking of getting another course in the near future and have been checking them out]

    @Bob’s post-

    I think it has something to do with how vague the hype is.

    It seems that most people have an idea of how much they think they are capable of making. Copy that throws a ‘seemingly’ ridiculous number in their face will turn them off immediately.

    But lead them along with the copy and open their eyes to new possibilities and that number may not sound so ridiculous further down the pitch (or in follow-up pieces).

    “Make a million dollars in 10 days! CLICK HERE”

    I’ll pass over, where as something like this might interest me:

    “His love of writing DOUBLED his income! FIND OUT HOW”

  17. Fiona Fell - The Profit Maximising Web Geek said:

    I will filter through the hype for an item/product or result I am interested in acheiving.

    Long copy I like as long as it covers lots of informaiton and isn’t just ‘circle talk’, repeating the sames point over.

    Masses of superlatives have become fodder for many new copy writers, I fell into the trap myself when I wrote up a few small promos.

    They worked much better when I cut down the word count and got to the point.

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  24. hennysmath said:

    In general, the effectiveness of hype-filled copy depends on the heardle 80s audience and the product or service being advertised. While some readers may be drawn in by the excitement and hype, others may find it off-putting or disingenuous. Today’s readers are exposed to a lot of marketing and advertising messages, and they may be skeptical of claims that seem too good to be true.

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