Paying Attention–Paying for Attention–Paying a Price when Attention Isn’t Paid

Attention is a commodity with an ever-increasing cost—that’s because of a drastic decrease in supply.  It’s become an antique, an artifact–priceless.  The quest has become seemingly weaponized.  Our media devices and advertising have such stroboscopic, skull-prying intensity that they can affect early childhood brain development—how do you compete with that?  How do you stand out from the nauseating swirl of memes, .gifs and banners?

Your words must be precise. 

With such a blitzkrieg on the senses, perhaps a few steps back to the basics could help your message stand out.  Tightening your headlines and AdWords could help, so let’s revisit some writing exercises that might tighten-up your writing and get some eyes on your product or website.

Here are 4 prompts to help you write effective Google AdWords.

6 Word Short Story

Literary journals have tried to harness the short attention span of modern readers by devoting whole sections, sometimes whole publications to flash fiction—a burgeoning genre.  But beyond flash fiction, the Six Word Story has become more than a Hemingway-inspired writing prompt—it has taken a life of its own on social media over the last few years.  Twitter and Reddit competitions have become creative Thunderdomes of wordsmith competitions.  In ad writing, concision is king, so give the exercise a try.  It will make 140 characters seen like too many (or not).

Did you say Punderdome?

The card game, Punderdome, was a Christmas gift this year from my fiancé. It’s amazingly fun.  Puns don’t necessarily mean great ad fodder, in fact, they may annoy some target markets, but they certainly get the juices flowing for the writer’s-blocked copywriter.  Instructions here from “A player (the prompter for that round) draws two prompt cards from the deck, and then reads the prompts to the rest of the group, who have 90 seconds to create a single, groan-worthy pun that combines the two prompts.”   To be honest, haven’t formally played yet, i.e. with a group, but I keep the box of cards on my bookshelf, pull two of them, and start brainstorming puns.  After all, all a copywriter receives sometimes are a few product descriptions, and maybe a general description of the target.


Now that Google AdWords have given us new character limits–30-30-80 for headline 1, headline 2, and the description–we are in the realm of a Tweet’s character limits.  So get on Twitter and practice.  Read AdWords from big brands, see what they’re doing, and break down the language into a template.  Find a product similar to yours or one that targets a similar market, and see where they place their call to action, how they address the customer, etc.  What pronouns do they use?  Is it a passive description or an active narrative?  Then take to Twitter and practice writing in those character restrictions.  Enjoy the #frustration.

Love may be blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener: One liners

It is odd that in a time of commoditized attention, the storytelling comedian would be so popular—set ups, punches and tags are so wound-up in 5 minutes of storytelling that the blatant structure of a one-liner is lost.  But the appeal of the old school one-liner, perfected by greats like Rodney Dangerfield, Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg, is still revered.  Listen to the classics and see how they use language in such a sparse way, leaning hard on double-entendres and surprising turns on a path, which seems obvious, but often veers into double meaning.  A classic: “Once my dog ate all the Scrabble tiles. For days he kept leaving little messages around the house.”  98 characters (with spaces), but with some cleaning up (yes, pun intended), we can get it shorter. “My dog ate some Scrabble tiles. For days he left tiny messages around the house.”  Now we’re at 80 characters (with spaces)—a Google AdWord description for anyone in the pet industry—not really, but it is just a fun exercise in concision.

The bottom line, start writing, then start cutting, then cut some more.  Again, we are talking in terms of Google AdWord writing, or captions, radio spots, etc.  Long form content, in my opinion is still the most engaging, but not always a practical option.