Should you swipe, follow a formula, or be creative? That is the question.
Three sources have come to my attention, and they all talk about their own perspective on this issue.
The first I'll mention is from Ben Settle, a professional copywriter out of the Pacific Northwest. In his most recent post, he says, "An ad that's completely put together with a swipe file is nothing more than the copywriting equivalent of a boob job."
He goes on: "Everything may look good from a distance, or even at first glance, but if you get up close and take a good look, it'll be obvious you're looking at something that's...well...less than genuine."
I read this and "busted" up laughing. Partially because I'd recently read a "professional" copywriter's web site that was a combination of two famous swipes with what appeared to be some original stuff down at the bottom.
When I read it, I couldn't help thinking the copy resembled Frankenstein's monster.
About this same time I was corresponding with Ken McCarthy. He said something to me that I wanted to share with you. So I asked his permission and he agreed.
Here is what Ken said that I thought was so profound...
"My biggest advice to all copywriters is after you learn the formulas, stay away from them and think creatively."
Think about this for a moment. Ken McCarthy, a master copywriter and amazing Internet marketer, says copywriters should stay away from formulas and think creatively!
Okay. Last source: Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples.
On page 68 of the 5th edition, he says: "Just as the physician uses the same prescription many times with beneficial effect, so can the advertising copywriter use formulas that have worked successfully in the past."
At first blush, this seems to contradict Ken's advice to be creative. But immediately after this statement, Caples goes on to say that formulas are useful "as a stimulus to spur your imagination toward the invention of new formulas."
There you have it. Ben Settle, Ken McCarthy, and John Caples on swiping, formulas, and being creative. Gets you thinking, doesn't it?
NOTE: I've been on Ken McCarthy's email lists for the past 4 years. I've learned to listen carefully to whatever he says. By the way, it was AFTER I'd purchased the 5th edition of Tested Advertising Methods that Ken informed me that this version hardly resembles the original. He recommends finding a used copy of the 4th edition or earlier. It's on my list of things to do. :-)