How clever copywriting makes it impossible to look away
A long time ago in a career space far away, I was handed my first copywriting assignment for a then unknown car maker trying to break in to the Canadian automobile market. I quickly discovered that crafting some compelling words for a car ad was a big challenge for two reasons:
- The need to review key selling features sucked up much of the available space for my clever copywriting
- There were no "new" ideas – just slightly rewarmed concepts used countless times since the first Model Ts rolled off the line
I would have been inspired to greatness, however, had I first seen the latest 30-second commercial from Alfa Romeo. It's called, accurately, Love Story, and is among the best written car commercials I have seen in the 40 years since I wrote my first automobile ad (for a then unknown company called Hyundai).
I heard Love Story for the first time while in two-screen mode (tablet and TV) and with my primary attention focused on the tablet. I should also point out that I had virtually no interest in buying that car (a little above my punching class) or any other since I had just purchased some new wheels. Yet that 30-second master piece grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go until the final call to action.
The magic is created by an uncommonly clever execution of a common copywriting trick: delivering a positive sales point with a negative phrase. In this case, the negative phrase is "look away", a seemingly foolish turn of phrase for a commercial meant to do the opposite: look this way.
But you know what happens when somebody says look away. We do the opposite, just as we can't help but look when we pass a car accident. You know you shouldn't look. It is not safe. It is not right. But you can't resist.
The crafty writer of the Alfa Romeo commercial knows exactly how to play on the look-don't-look urge. It's all about raising your pulse with increasingly suggestive look-away declarations that leave you wondering: does a car like this get you a sexy woman or is the car the sexy woman?
Either way, resistance is futile. You are hooked. And you stay hooked until you reach the last achingly sexy request to please...please...look away.
It is the verbal Avatar for the sexy model that is in every other luxury car commercial, but would be redundant in this mind jolting spot. (Five stars to the voice-over talent who delivered a note-perfect reading, and the director, who deftly married the clever script with some equally inventive beauty shots of the car. You might imagine that this would be easy when the car is less a mode of transportation and more a piece of art. But that's actually what makes it harder, not easier, to film).
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