The more choices you have, the more you can’t decide

This is it. I found the freaking jackpot. Experiments that confirm what I have believed all along. All those times clients picked apart creative options and tried to make them into 1 rojak creative, now I know why!

Because they couldn’t decide which creative option to choose.

Rojak means mixed up!
Quick! Don't think, just choose a rojak...

In advertising, giving clients design or copy options is the norm. It shows that the agency takes the initiative to provide choices, and that we’re not a bunch of lazy arses force-feeding one single idea to the client.

But it turns out, providing too many options, actually makes the client decision much harder to make. Consider these studies conducted, excerpted from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch!

Study 1: at a Gourmet food store

On a sampling table, 6 different jams are on showcase for free tasting by customers. The next day, 24 types of jams were on display. As expected, the 24-jam display attracted more customers. But when it came time to buy; shoppers who saw only 6 jams were 10 time more likely to buy.

Study 2: on a speed-dating night

Singles meet one-on-one, spending about 5 minutes with each person. The result? Young adults who meet eight other singles make more matches that those who meet twenty!

This is called Decision Paralysis where too many choices make making a decision much harder than usual. I guess the key words here is ‘too many’, we can’t help but weigh in all the options presented to us. One or two options (at most) are still fine I’m sure.

Well now we know what “Less Is More” really means. While people like having choices, they hate weighing those options to make a decision, probably for fear of making the wrong choice.

So think about all those times that you found it hard to make a choice. Were there too many options?



With each passing year, I think copywriters are turning into writers who copy. I’ve always defended my profession claiming that what we write is original, authentic and very much involves the creative side of the brain. I’m starting not to buy into that bullshit myself any more.

You see, I’ve written for cars I never drove, products I never used, facilities I never enjoyed, places I’ve never been to, events I’ve never attended and even beers that I never drank (oh what a sin!). And how do I manage to pull enough crap out of my arse to keep clients happy? I turn to Google.

Google is increasingly becoming my ally in writing. At first, I used it as a research tool, but now even clients are saying “just Google it”. While Google is a valuable resource, it can never replace the real, tangible, tactile experience of testing, using or consuming a product that needs to be advertised.

A copy search on Google
The future of copywriting perhaps?

How am I supposed to gain that unique insight when all I do is base my thoughts on what has already been written? Would one buy a car solely based on his or her research on Google, without even bothering to test drive? I didn’t think so. How can I make a compelling argument when I have not seen or at the very least be properly briefed about the product?

If all copywriters were to research and refer on Google to form thoughts, opinions and even insights; then the ad writing profession will surely lose its appeal. Because after all, we will all become to the true sense of the words: nothing but copy writers.


Yes, Goggle is indeed a blessing. It has made my job a lot easier, with the sheer abundance of data and materials. But I still believe writers should be provided with varied resources (and of course time) to develop insightful, compelling ideas.



We addies like to use quite a number of words in our day-to-day hustle and bustle. But do we know what they really mean?

If I were to ask you the definition of the word “Concept”, would you be able to answer me from the top of your head? (No Googling now, please). I bet that not many of us will be able to clearly define the word “Strategy” either, yet we are so fond of using it like a superlative. Or how about the word “Copy”? I am always amused at how the plural term for copy can become ‘copies’… alamak!

Behold the death of ad-ignorance!

So allow me to set a few things straight. Let’s get Ad-ucated!


A concept is “an abstract or general idea inferred or derived from specific instances” … what!? Okay, that’s just one of the many definitions of concepts out there. Granted, it was not a good one, but the point is there are possibly hundreds of ways to define “Concept”; be it in general or under the context of advertising. For me, a concept is an idea that engages, then inspires and finally compels action. And concepts are not just limited to creative ideas; novel execution or delivery ideas can also be regarded as concepts too. Basically, a concept is as unique as the problem it is trying to solve. So the next time you hear someone regurgitating dictionary-like definitions, permission to smack em’ granted.


This is a simple one, due to its military origins. A strategy is a plan to WIN. It’s basically the actions taken to outdo, outwit and outperform the competition. I’ve always believed strategies are tactical and require actionable methods. Meaning, it cannot be NATO (No Action, Talk Only). For a strategy to work it has to be in the battlefield: provoking the competition, taking no prisoners and advancing market share. Strategies are also great as a holistic plan, where some battles can be lost in view of winning the war.


Like seriously people, there is no such this as “copies” or worse still “copys”… period! If there were, it would be more accurate to call me a Copieswriter for the sheer amount of copy that I write. “Copy” in terms of advertising, editorial and/or publishing is an irregular noun, which has the same singular and plural form. Which means, it’s okay to say something like “The copy for project A and B has to be summarised”.  But there’s one exception to this rule, a very important one at that. The word “copy” ideally should not be followed by one and/or a combination of the following: now, ASAP, urgent, today, revise, amend or change.


Words Used In Ads and What They Actually Mean

Advertising is the war. Copy is the weapon. Words are the ammunition.

Although copywriters are equipped with an arsenal of words to use as he or she pleases, there are quite a number that are ever-popular in ads. These are usually everyday words, mindless superlatives and hard sell calls-to-acts. I must add that I have been a chronic repeat offender myself. But then again, not all the words you see or hear in an ad are from the writers; if you know what I mean.

Ad words are sometimes nothing but empty promises

Here’s the top 5 words used in ads and what they actually mean, in no particular order:

1. Exclusive

If you think you’re going to get special, preferential or any form of private privileges, you’re wrong. The word exclusive is added to make things look more desirable than they actually are. I mean, if you really want to be exclusive, would you advertise in a website that gets like 1 million hits a day?

2. Enjoy

This one’s an evergreen favourite and probably the all-time, most used ad word. “Enjoy the experience. Enjoy the offer. Enjoy the freedom. Enjoy the splendour”… I could like go on forever. It’s a word used to get you thinking about enjoying yourself, hopefully with the product somewhere in the picture.

3. Free

This word is a dirty little fellow. One rule of thumb to keep in mind when you see this word is that there’s never such a thing as a free lunch. Nothing is free, period! The cost of whatever is “free” has already been added to the amount you are going to pay. So unless the ad is referring to air, be wary.

4. Amazing

This is probably the easiest superlative to use for a writer, simply because anything can be amazing. This post could be amazing, or maybe your internet connection or that client who’s an amazing pain in the ass. See? Something amazing need not be advertised if it truly is.

5. Hurry

Hurry! Offer ends XX Month 2010. So you are supposed to call, click or visit to purchase this exclusively enjoyable and amazing product that comes with a free gift before a particular date.  Hurry means they aren’t selling enough as it is or think you are a sucker to fall for such a cheap trick.

Man that was fun. I think I’ll do it again sometime.


Know You, Like You, Trust You, Contact You & Refer You

That’s it isn’t it? The full circle of making a sale, and perhaps earn a few more leads at the end of it. No complicated marketing or advertising mumbo jumbo; just plain clear and simple.

It's a deal!

Whether you’re selling a product, writing copy, pitching for a new client or looking for a girl/boyfriend (minus Refer of course), these steps could help you close the deal or at least put you in the right path:

Know You

I remember in college when A.I.D.A. was drummed into my skull. Getting Attention, then creating Interest, which leads to Desire and ultimately Action in the form of a purchase. But for AIDA to work, the prospect must Know You or better still Like You.  Would you pay attention to someone you don’t know, no matter how hard he’s trying to get your attention? Even of you do, would you actually buy from him? So for a sale to happen, you must take the effort to introduce yourself to your prospects. And if they want to Know You more, then you begin to work on the next step.

Like You

Okay. Now your prospects know who you are. It’s time to develop the relationship and get them to Like You. Freebies are good, but not a great way as most prospects can see through your gimmick. You should instead begin to persuade them in a compelling manner with hard facts thrown in. Anticipate a problem that requires solving or a need that has to be filled. If a prospect likes what she’s hearing, she’ll most probably begin to Like You as well.

Trust You

Trust is a powerful influencing factor. You can get people to join a cause, divulge their innermost feelings, get into bed with you and of course, spend their money buying your product or service. But just because someone Likes You, doesn’t mean he or she Trusts You. Here’s where the saying “Seeing is Believing” comes into play. Any form of visual representation of your product or service in action could do wonders to alter your prospects perception. Testimonials or endorsements are also good, as others’ trusting behavior could lead your prospects by example.

Contact You

When someone, on their own accord gets in touch with you, then you’ve pretty much done the job. Your prospects may Contact You for a number of reasons: to enquire, take up an offer and hopefully to purchase. The ball is now at your court to live up to their expectation: either by solving a problem or fulfilling a need. No hard-sell is required at this stage (or any of the previous steps for that matter) as your prospect – believe it or not – Knows You, Likes You and Trusts You. Now, it’s all about turning your prospects into customers by giving them exactly what they want.

Refer You

This is the bonus round so to speak. You can do without it, but it will be such a waste. Because referrals are great for building trust. More often than not, you can skip the Know You, Like You and sometimes Trust You steps through referrals. If a satisfied customer passes the word to his friends about your wonderful product or service, then your job becomes so much easier. Peer to peer “word of mouth” is still the most effective form of advertising, nothing beats it, nothing ever will.