What Copywriters can Learn from Comedians

December 17, 2018 - Reading Time: 3 minutes

We all love a good laugh but behind every joke is a less hilarious, painstaking process: comedy writing. From the setup to the punchline, every word is meticulously planned, much like copywriting.

Comedy and copy have similar goals. They’re all about finding common ground with the audience and highlighting a pain point. A comic’s job is to make people laugh about it; a copywriter’s job is to convince people that Brand X is the solution.

Comedian and author, Caimh McDonnell, wrote an article on the “golden rules” of comedy writing. The thing is, these “rules” could easily act as guidelines for copywriting too. In this article, we pick out key quotes from McDonnell’s piece and dissect them through the lens of a copywriter.

1. Know your audience

“It is really hard for someone to get a joke if it relies on information they don’t have.”

A joke referencing an obscure fact about Star Trek may get tons of laugh at a science fiction convention but may be met with clueless stares from the man on the street. A comedian needs to know his audience and write jokes with references that they are familiar with. Likewise, a copywriter should write specifically for their target audience, and use language and references they are familiar with to establish a connection.

2. The importance of editing

McDonnell recounts an odd habit of his housemate in his article:

“He will move words around and around in a single sentence for hours to find the correct order for them…it is incredibly important. It’s the difference between a gag sort of working and ripping the roof off.”

McDonnell attributes his housemate’s hilarious one-liners to his meticulous editing. Comedians are constantly playing around with words and rewriting their material so that their punchlines really do pack a punch. Likewise, copywriters must develop a keen eye for detail in language and a patience for editing.

Words with the same meaning can carry different connotations; a good copywriter is hypersensitive to these connotations. One way to develop this “writer’s sense” is to read more and look at how other writers use words – take note of the contexts in which they are used. Try putting these words into practice in your own writing. Rearrange sentences and swop out words until you feel your copy has the effect you want it to have.

3. Always remember who you are

That subheading may sound like a cheesy line from a movie but it is important to remember it. Comedians, characters and brands have personalities. What they say, then, has to be aligned with these personalities.

“A really good line works two ways, it is funny in its own right and it reinforces the character.”

In copywriting terms, this sentence can be rephrased as such: “A really good copy works two ways, it is persuasive in its own right and it reinforces the brand’s personality.”

How do you craft such copy?

Start off with a draft. Picture your brand as a human being. Can you see it? Now, picture him/her saying what you’ve just written. Does it sound like something he/she would say? If it doesn’t, tweak it.

Here’s a specific example of this exercise:

If you’re Singaporean, you’ll be familiar with DBS Bank. Now, picture this bank as a person. You’re probably thinking a man in a smart getup carrying a suitcase with very neat hair. This man wants to express empathy towards a customer, how does he say it?

Get the point?


The next time you’ve got copy to churn out, put yourself in the shoes of a comedian and remember these three pointers. As with any writing skill, comedy included, copywriting skills are only developed with practice – so don’t put down that pen.

For more writing tips, check out our other article – The Importance of Copywriting and How to Write a Good Copy.


Our Favourite Black Friday Campaigns

December 3, 2018 - Reading Time: 3 minutes

Black Friday has come to an end and as consumers we weep a little at the exit of massive discounts. As marketers, it’s a good time to relook at the marketing campaigns that stood out over the years and figure out what we can learn from these brands.

1. Cards Against Humanity

Known for their absurd Black Friday stunts meant to mock the annual discount season, Cards Against Humanity, once again, launched an event to remember. In 2016, they asked people to donate money to the digging of a “holiday hole” (read the FAQs – it’s hilarious). This year, the company sold random products online, from 600 actual ants to a 1.5 carat diamond engagement ring, at a 99% discount. In case you were wondering: yes, people who purchased these items can expect to get them in the mail. It’s all real.

From a business perspective, a 99% slash in price seems like a terrible idea, and it is if your aim is to make money during Black Friday. But Cards Against Humanity isn’t in it for the money. In fact, they’ve described Black Friday as a “repulsive consumerist frenzy right after a day about being thankful for what you have”. But not making any profits doesn’t mean they don’t stand to gain. Just look at the amount of press coverage they receive every year for their stunts.

So what is the takeaway? Don’t just slash prices like any other brand would – think more long-term. Use this opportunity to really impress your target audience so that you don’t just earn money in the short-term, you build a loyal fan base.

2. Forever 21

This campaign was done quite a few years back but it remains relevant.

It’s hard enough getting your marketing emails read, let alone convincing recipients to click on that link to your site. Simply slapping “20% off” on your body copy no longer cuts it; marketers need to come up with creative ways to make their call to action more enticing.

An element of mystery goes a long way.

Via Email on Acid

You want that 25% offer, don’t you? Well, you’ll just have to click to find out.

Having the sale for only one day also creates buyer urgency – an area Cotton On has also been successful at generating in their own marketing emails.

3. Cotton On

Creating buyer urgency is one of the most effective ways to quicken the purchase process. Cotton On uses vivid colours and GIFs to hold the recipient’s attention while phrases like “final hours” and “ends midnight” attract them to click on one of the product categories at the bottom.

Another great thing about Cotton On’s marketing email is its layout. Crowding your email with too many elements just turns people off. Cotton On’s design is clean and simple but not boring, thanks to that bold pink.

4. Playstation

Advertising becomes especially competitive during this period, especially on social media. How do you get people to pay attention to your ad instead of scrolling past it?

If you catch their eye, you stop their thumb.

Playstation’s ad on Instagram checks all the boxes: it uses bright colours, emphasises the words “Black Friday” and highlights compelling discounts.


That wraps up our list of favourite Black Friday campaigns. Do you have any unforgettable campaigns to share? Leave a comment below!