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December 2007

Copywriting as Poetry


Maybe it was the fact that we’d been on the road for over 8 hours when we finally stopped last night at the Steak ‘n Shake off I-85 in Gastonia, but I couldn’t stop laughing at this menu. The waitress told me I could keep it.

Some favorite lines included:
"Well, look what the north wind blew in." (Holiday Milkshakes)
"A beloved old tradition that we just now came up with."
"Thinking of a hand-dipped Milk Shake? You are now."
"It's like a steak dinner in a convenient burger form."
"There many directions a meal might take. Here are some likely options. Focus. Be sure to think this thing through. Order with confidence. You've made the right decision."

The cheeky tone kind of reinvents what a menu is supposed to do for a restaurant. And suddenly, Steak ‘n Shake is like some bitchy friend that I want to hang out with. Writing witty copy about fast food is unbelievably hard. Getting it approved as part of a campaign is even harder.

Also, try this for a poem:


"Crispety, Crunchety, Peanut-Buttery"

Captivating! Who’s idea was it to add those extra syllables, Dr. Seuss style? Those aren’t even words, but they’re fun to say. What makes it work so well as a tagline? Meter!

If I actually read that book on poetic meter over the summer, I would be able to point out that those dactyls (CRISP-et-y, CRUNCH-et-y) ratchet up the tension, which dallies with the spondee (PEA-NUT) and then waltzes to climax with another triplet, this one a satisfyingly real word (BUTT-er-y). All that wordplay has me chewing and drooling on the words. You think I’m kidding but I’m not. Writing ad copy is a serious art form and my extra $12,000 MFA in Creative Writing is so gonna be worth it.