MANLEY: I’m making things more efficient.
DAVE: Give me an example.
MANLEY: LOL. I text that to my plumbers to remind them to LOOK…OUT… for LEAKS.
DAVE: You’re texting that?
MANLEY: Yep. And sometimes the guys text back “D-K.” That means DRAIN… CLOGGED.
DAVE: But clog is spelled with a C.
MANLEY: Not in internet talk, Dave. Other times they text me that the WATER… TANK’s… FINE.
DAVE: Do they ever text LMAO?
MANLEY: Sure. That means LOOKIN’… MIGHTY… A-OH
MANLEY: That’s short for “A-Okay.” Dave, you need to learn internet talk.
© 2019, Roy H. Williams
We were only 18 words into that exchange when you realized one of the characters owns, or manages, a plumbing company. You figured that out even though the character never said it.
You walk into the middle of conversations every day and quickly figure out what’s happening. When you’re writing banter in advertising, you must allow your audience to do the same.
And did you notice that neither character said “WTF?” It was you that said WTF after the plumbing company owner said, “WATER… TANK’s… FINE.” That was the moment you participated in the ad. Marketers like to call this “engagement,” but a more accurate word is “participation.” You want your readers, listeners, and viewers to participate in your ads by filling in what you left out.
Is the manager of the plumbing company really that dull-witted, or is he just having fun with his friend? You’ve got to figure that out for yourself.
Are you beginning to see why well-written banter is difficult to ignore?
Ad campaigns built around the banter of memorable characters never get old. Instead, they get stronger with each passing year.
You won’t learn to write banter by studying advertising. Instead, you must study screenwriters and novelists.
This passage from Sea Swept, by Nora Roberts, is a good example:
CAM: You can’t buy decent socks for twenty these days.
ETHAN: You can if you don’t have to have some fancy designer label on them. This ain’t Paris.
CAM: You haven’t bought decent shoes in ten years. And if you don’t pull up that frigging seat, I’m going to –
PHILLIP: Cut it out! Cut it out right now or I swear I’m going to pull over and knock your heads together… I’ll dump your bodies in the mall parking lot and drive to Mexico. I’ll learn how to weave mats and sell them on the beach in Cozumel… I’ll change my name to Raoul, and no one will know I was ever related to a bunch of fools.
SETH: Does he always talk like that?
CAM: Yeah, mostly. Sometimes he’s going to be Pierre and live in a garret in Paris, but it’s the same thing.
The best advice I can give you about putting banter in ads is this: Don’t start writing until your characters have come fully alive in your mind. You’ll know this has happened when one of them says something unexpected.
Write that down. And then listen to what the other character says in response.
If you ever force an imaginary character to say what you wish they would say, that character will immediately die and your ad will sound like an ad.
Worse than that, the rotting corpse of your dead character will make your ad smell like an ad. So trust your characters to know their jobs. Sooner or later one of them will say something unexpected about whatever it is you need them to help you sell.
A boring, annoying person says exactly what you expected them to say.
“Boring and annoying.” Describes most ads, doesn’t it? Please don’t let it describe yours.
When your imaginary characters have come fully alive, you’ll enjoy spending time with them, and the audience will look forward to your next ad.
Roy H. Williams
Christina DeBusk spent 15 years working in law enforcement before she caught the writing bug. With no formal training, she took any and every job she could get, grinding out content 16 hours a day. It paid off. Today Christina is an Olympic-caliber writer, having completed six books of her own, ghost-written a handful of others, and generated a whopping 5,000-plus paid content projects. In this week’s episode, Christina shares the secret of her phenomenal output and roving reporter Rotbart confesses his envy of her productivity. Listen. Learn. Be inspired. MondayMorningRadio.com