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

 

 

Our new website launched last week

 

Kid talking to a chimp about the Re:word websiteIt only took 30 months to write. Seriously. In all fairness, it’s 18,259 words — but in all fairness, that’s 1.198 words per hour. Shameful.

But the reality is that writing about yourself is hard. You’re too close to what you sell. You can’t separate what you’ve learned from what you instinctively know, which is tough because you have to stay firmly with the latter or you’ll lose your audience.

That’s why people hire us. We came close to hiring someone — but pushed through in the end. We’re glad we did — it’s some of our best work.

We hope you like the design too. Allie Payne did it for us. She dug deep to find the perfect image for each page. And she nailed it all. Our favourite is the gentleman on the editing page. We named him Maurice. He looks like a Maurice, no?

Fusion Studios Inc. did the development. They were very…um…patient with us. Kudos to you, Kevin. You’re the guv’nah!

We also started using Canva to make Instagram posts. Honestly, it’s a writer’s best friend. We can’t design our way out of a paper bag. Now we don’t have to.
Check out @rewordcommunications.

And please pass our new website around. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Tell your customers and suppliers. Tell your parents and grandparents. Show your dog (kinda curious to see what happens there). And tell anyone you know with any connection to the marketing department at Club Med. #DreamClient

 

Flagga Bloo Blee

If you spoke French like Phoebe, you wouldn’t need us. But since you speak it like Joey, drop us a line at info@reword.ca and let us help you out.

This commercial might as well be for typos

Typos are like stains. When your reader spots one, it’s all they can see, which means they’re not really concentrating on the rest of your content. What a waste.

 

A request.

social media spelling

If you’re one of those people who correct people’s spelling on social media, we kindly ask you to stop doing that. It’s annoying. It serves absolutely no purpose other than to embarrass. And honestly, if you have nothing better to do than correct someone else’s spelling, then you need to question your life choices.

Now, this isn’t to say you can’t make fun of them behind their backs. If someone doesn’t know you’re/your/yore, they deserve a feature in your next BuzzFeed-style shaming compilation. The comment section on Fox News is particularly rich with this kind of stuff.

But don’t publically correct them.

Let our collective judgement of them as people be enough. They won’t know you’re laughing at them. And they don’t have to know. They wouldn’t believe it anyway. And you won’t look like a pretentious d-bag — because who wants that?

We appreciate your restraint — we know it’s hard.

The RW team

Author review: Nick Bland

bland1

As of this writing, Re:word has three heirs apparent, all under the age of four. Naturally, we’re preparing them to take over as soon as possible so we can retire to the yacht. That means exposing them to fantastic writing and fantastic authors. Like Nick Bland, an Australian children’s writer whose work focuses on Bear and his friends Zebra, Lion, Moose, Flea, Boris the Buffalo and others.

What makes Nick’s writing so good is that it’s fun to read. And it’s not just the stories themselves. It’s the attention he pays to cadence: the beat of the words — and he doesn’t miss one.

A lot of children’s authors will force a rhyme into place like this:

This is John and this is Jane

And yesterday they got on a plane.

The yesterday is off beat. That should be a two-syllable, front-heavy word like ¾ well, like “heavy”: HEA-vy.

Bland3

Most parents excuse this kind of laziness. We’re not most parents. And neither, it seems, is Nick Bland.

“This is Bear and this is Flea

But flea’s a little hard to see.”

“In the Jingle Jangle Jungle

on the edge of Slimy Bog,

Bear was picking berries

from a very wobbly log.”

Fantastic.

bland 2

“To draw kids to reading, you have to make them feel good when they read,” says Jodi Goldstein, a reading specialist in Toronto. “Our brains are naturally comforted to patterns. It’s why we sing nursery rhymes. And it’s why you’re so jarred by a lyric that doesn’t rhyme or a line that throws off the beat.”

Jodi loves Nick’s work from a few different perspectives. “He mixes up the syllabic structure from story to story, and even from page to page within a story — but he never loses the beat. That’s not easy in its own right. He’s also skilled enough to fit his ideas into the structures he creates, and still make them palatable to kids.” She says she can easily pull out story morals from Nicks’ work, and they’re very repeatable:

“So Bear and Boris Buffalo went back to Froggy’s Cave,

agreed that bears and buffaloes are equally as brave.”

bland4

As a bonus, Bland’s books are beautifully illustrated, very colourful and look great on a shelf. Look for his books online or at all the best kids’ bookstores. Here’s his entire catalogue as of this writing.

The Animaniacs make us jealous

Animaniacs

Watch this.

Then watch this.

Then try to say they’re not the most brilliantly written songs you’ve heard today. You won’t be able to, because they’re objectively brilliant.

Think about it: Putting 171 countries and 50 states together in an order that (a) rhymes, (b) keeps to a beat and (c) doesn’t omit anything. Like, ANYTHING!

Sometimes, when we’re between projects, we try whipping one of these up for ourselves, y’know, to keep the fingers loose. One afternoon in our old building, we rhymed off everyone on the floor:

There’s Mel and Amy, Pam and Jen and Chris and Ian too.

There’s Gina, Lee and Wong and Tom and Grace the cockapoo.

Brooke and Jodi, Murf and Dan, Sara, Ron and Ryan

Shannon, Crissa, Steph and Bec, who’s young but really tryin’.

It was time well spent.

As is any time spent with the Animaniacs, like this ditty from Pinky & the Brain. Those two kill us.