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One driveway south of Milky Way

We got new office space earlier this year at Queen and Dufferin. That’s in the southwest corner of downtown Toronto, between up-and-coming Parkdale and formerly up-and-coming-but-now-booming Beaconsfield Village.

There really is an alleyway called Milky Way. Our building backs onto it. We’ve yet to find milk in it.

But the front of the building is pretty cool. We have a cute little courtyard lined with trees and greenery in the summer that provides a reprieve from the wind in the winter. We have a covered area complete with bike racks and a few chairs.

But the office itself is the real piece de resistance. We have a 100-square-foot end of a 35,000-square-foot room with brick walls, 35-foot ceilings, three breakout rooms, a sound studio, a ping-pong table and the nicest man at the front desk. His name’s Behrooz and he loves klezmer music.

We were the very first tenants so we got our pick of location. When you come for a visit, you’ll see that we chose our “where” wisely. Seems to be a theme.

Funny thing is that we found this place through an ad on Facebook. We tell ourselves that Facebook ads don’t work. That we’d never actually click on one. Well, we did. And we bought. Facebook ads worked on us. Good thing too, because Dan owns a bit of stock.

Copywriter tales

On March 10th, 2017, the Page 7 Copywriting brand was folded into Re:word. For nine years, p7 was the copywriting agency of choice for some of the biggest brands and best agencies including Google, BBDO, HP, Bodog, The National Ballet of Canada and Madd Munchies Late Night Food Emporium.

But the name Page 7 was always meant to be a placeholder. Dan promised himself he’d change it when he had some downtime. It never came. Probably a good thing. But if he did change it, Re:word would’ve definitely been a contender. But then Gina would’ve had to take Dan to court and it would’ve been a whole thing.

So this way is way better. But a lot happened in those nine years that deserves a place of honour because, well, they’re damn good stories.

Here’s one of the best:

SABRINA 

It was May 2008 and Dan was looking for a job. He had just turned down a job offer in Calgary with a company called Watermark* and had found a posting for an ACD position in Toronto. He sent his CV in and got a call back requesting an interview for Friday morning — except Dan was going to be in London, England, visiting friends. No problem, he thought. He’ll do a phone interview.

Friday morning came and Dan called in to have his interview with Sean (that’s important) and a few other people. And the first thing Sean said was, “Hey…you and I live on the same floor. You’re in 412 and I’m in 417 — so we could’ve done this in our bathrobes.”

“Would’ve saved me some long distance charges for sure,” said Dan. Everyone giggled. Good vibes. And they got on with it.

Nothing came of the interview, and a month later, in June, Dan started Page 7 with no clients and no clue.

One random Thursday morning in July

It was 5:45 in the morning, Dan’s wife was out of town and the dog started barking. Dan woke up, and standing at the foot of his bed was a half-naked girl. She was wearing a bed sheet around her waist and nothing else.

Naturally, Dan thought he was dreaming. But no…there she was.

“Hi?” he said.

“Hi!”

“Who are you?”

“Sean, it’s me, Sabrina.”

Then an awkward moment of silence, after which Sabrina “woke up.” She had slept walked out of 417 (Sean’s place — told you it was important) and into his place.

“Oh my god!” she exclaimed as she covered herself with her hands.

“Relax,” said Dan, pleasantly confused. “We’re all adults here. Would you like a t-shirt?”

“Yes, please.”

He got her a white t-shirt and politely walked her back to Sean’s.

The next day, Dan wrote this note:

Hi Sean…

Dan here from 412. Still have your email address from the spring. Hope all’s well.

Listen, your friend walked into my place last night. She’s a very nice girl and I got her home safely, but you now have my shirt. If you could just hang it on my door whenever you have a chance, that’d be great. Thanks. : )

page 7 copywriting
chose your words wisely™

A minute later, Sean responded.

Holy shit dude…

I heard the other side of the story. Wildest thing ever. Yeah, I’ll get your shirt back to you. Also, I see you started  a new business. Looking for work? I’m leaving here soon and I need a copywriter at my new place.

And because of Sabrina, page 7’s first accounts were Scotiabank, RIM and Ford. And Dan’s not locked his door since.

 

If it wasn’t for Maui’s bark, who knows where we’d all be?

 

Step 1 — The brief

When a copywriting job comes in, the first thing we do is create a brief.

If you’ve worked agency before, you know that some briefs should really be called lengthies or novels or endless streams of written diarrhea that leave you more clueless than you were when you were actually clueless.

We respect the word brief. We’re known for that.

We keep it short to give the creative process room to breathe. We give our writers what they absolutely need to know and let them come up with the rest. And we hire writers that can.

Here’s what our brief looks like:

What are we doing?

Be specific. Mention the client, the type of work and the reason for doing it.

Example: We’re writing new web copy for Bobby’s Bits because their organic search rankings are poor.

What do we want people to do?

This is an action.

Example: Get a quote; Call in; Vote for the candidate; Start following us.

Who are we targeting?

Describe the target audience in as much detail as you have. Personify them if you can.

Example: Bill purchases tractors for his company. He’s been buying working vehicles for 20+ years. He knows what’s important and what’s not, and he can smell bullshit a mile away. Quality is more important to him than price. If he sees the long-term value is something premium, he’ll find the money for it. He’s married. He has grown children, none of whom work in the business.

How will we benefit our client?

This is a feeling.

Example: They’ll feel confident in their purchase; They’ll feel smart for saving so much money; They’ll feel more connected than they’ve ever felt; They’ll feel like they’re in the future; They’ll feel desirable; They’ll feel young again; They’ll feel invincible; They’ll feel heard.

What does our target think now?

One sentence to describe their mental/emotional relationship with the company, product or service.

Example: I’ve never heard of this; These guys do this really well, but nothing else; These guys do everything, but don’t do anything really well; These guys are a blast to work with.

What do we want our target to think?

One sentence to describe the mental/emotional relationship we want to create.

Example: I love this brand; I could see myself wearing/using that; These guys make me laugh every time; I’ll go to them first; They’re my new fallback.

Why should our target believe us?

These are proof points — reasons for people to think what we want them to think and do what we want them to do. List them all out, even the little ones.

Additional notes

Anything else we need to know; Any attachments and where to find them; Thought starters.

Deadline

Include delivery deadline and internal deadlines.

Gobsmacked.

We were in Banff last week at The Gathering, a celebration of “cult brands.” Incredible speakers, considered content, a well-curated guest list and the occasional throw-down made it by far the best conference we’ve attended in years.

Our favourite speaker was JoAnn Sciarrino, Knight Chair, Digital Advertising and Marketing, at UNC Chapel Hill. She spoke about the difference between brand loyalty and brand attachment, arguing that creating attachment (I want to be near you) is more powerful than loyalty (I want to keep buying from you). Essentially, she made the case for telling over selling, which is what we tell our copywriting and editing clients all the time. When you make them love you for who you are instead of what you can do for them, you’re moving them from the selfish to the selfless. They see you as more than a supplier of something; you become a part of their identity.

As Professor Sciarrino spoke, we got to thinking about our Detroit Lions. Yes, they’re our Detroit Lions — we’re pleased to report that Gina has jumped on the bandwagon, despite a hard attempt from Matthew O’Neil, Sr. Director Brand & Media at the Dallas Cowboys who blew us away with his speech on delivering a customer experience. His best bit was about “The Second Song,” which he described this way:

“When a fan walks through the door, the music he hears will set the tone for the entire game. But as you’re planning the second song for him, remember that that same song will be someone else’s first, and the tone you set for her will be just as important.”

But back to the Lions. They’re so ingrained in the fabric of Dan’s being that his 40th birthday cake was Lions-themed. His Facebook profile pic is a Lions logo. He travels to Detroit at least once a year for games.

And they’re the worst team in the history of the NFL.

But that’s the point. For Dan, the Lions are a Cult brand. It’s not about winning and losing. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself; something you can believe in; something that inspires you to seek out others who share your passion. This year’s honourees for Cult Brand of the year were Fender, Mountain Dew, Chapstick, Make A Wish, Levi’s, Canada Goose and Zappos. Zappos won, amazing considering how much older and established the other nominees are.

As incredible as the program was (and it really was, so kudos to Cult), the best part of it all had nothing to do with professional development:

 

Frozen Lake Louise in February