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Kiely: Copywriting


Kiely: Copywriting


My friend Fred received a letter from Julian Potter recently. Julian is head of Macquarie Bank Cards. It was part of a mail piece sent to shareholders to sell them a Platinum card. I was struck dumb by Julians words.

“Dear Frederick
There comes a time when the old way of doing things needs to be re-evaluated. When convention has to be reconsidered. That time is now and we are making it easy.” (Fred thinks: “What the **** is this about?” I tell Fred its not Julian, its his copywriter having a fit of hysteria nervosa.) It goes on: “Introducing the Macquarie Bank Visa Platinum Card: the new form of currency.” The new form of currency? Later it is described as “a card that takes you beyond traditional currency.” And in the brochure it says it “redefines the notion of currency”. Dont all cards do that? Traditional currency being notes and coins. At the height of the copywriters hysteria, we are to be “inspired by the thought of being part of a currency revolution”. This is embarrassing.

There is not a scrap of evidence for any of the claims, even though they fall like confetti. It is a card that “makes others seem distinctly old-fashioned”. It “readdresses the idea of service. Shifts perceptions of reward experiences…”. As a Visa card, it “redefines acceptance”. Ive got a Visa card. Macquaries card doesnt redefine anything.

“Your card can take you on a journey that is genuinely inspirational. A voyage thats so personal you can get on any flight at any time on any airline you choose.*” The asterisk referred us to the back of the brochure: “*Subject to availability.” Hold on. I can get on any flight on any airline at any time subject to availability?

The exclusivity of this offer is also bull. As the letter says: “Macquarie Bank shareholders are among the first to be offered our new Visa Platinum Credit Card with Founding Member Status.” Who else is among the first? And what does “Founding Member Status” mean? We arent told. But wait, it gets better: “If you are not eligible to apply, we would be happy for you to pass this offer on to someone you know.” We dont know if you are a shareholder or not. Anyway, this offer is so exclusive, you can pass it on to anyone you like.

Now Julian, I am sure you sniffed the bull**** when your people or the creative kids in Big Budget Agency were presenting this piece of crap to you. They were hugging themselves and congratulating each other on the brilliance of the copy, none of them having ever met a Mac Bank shareholder except you. You were swept up in the group hysteria. Or you were too busy to check it. Didnt see it?

I have a great respect for Mac Bank. Circumstances have conspired to give me extraordinary access to the banks culture and inner workings. I believe they are the best of the best. They are growing quickly. They take risks and mostly they succeed. When they don’t, they take it hard. (I have seen a head of one business reporting poor results at the staff general meeting hurl himself into the air and come crashing down on the floor in a demonstration of remorse. But he jumped up immediately, shadowboxing vigorously to the sounds of the song ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba: “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down…” Typical Mac Bank response.)

This mail piece is unworthy. Julian, your name appears under this piece of copy. Dont let them do it to you again. Even if this campaign works, it is not fair to inflict such compost on the shareholders and the brand. The copywriter should be forced to meet with 25 shareholders before sitting down to write. They should be forced to write the letter to one of the shareholders. Only then will the copy be authentic and powerful. Double your response rate.*

I was once asked to quote on a project to teach managers how to judge copy and the junior managers how to write it or commission it. The Bank didnt proceed with the project. Shame. For you, Julian.

PS. This copy goes into the finals of the WORLDS WORST COPY EVER WRITTEN. Send me your entries.

*There is no such thing as bad publicity. This article will, knowing how these things happen, set off a word of mouth viral campaign that will carry the Macquarie Bank Platinum Card message far further than your budget allowed… boosting your response rate by at least one percent and increasing enquiries. I will settle for the fee you paid Big Budget Agency to write the now legendary letter.


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