Better Copywriting Through Breakfast Meats: A Lesson Via Jim Gaffigan

Stand up comedians have long provided some of the best lessons on how to improve the descriptive and engaging power of your copywriting.  And I’m not referring to the crowd-rousing F-bomb stadium acts of the Dane Cook school: as someone who’s long fought a losing battle with salty language, I nonetheless subscribe to the adage “swearing’s just lazy speech.”  Instead, I’m talking about the raw power of true comedy as practiced by Newhart, Cosby, Seinfeld–the kind that wrings laugh from audiences of every age and background.  Because that’s most relevant to advertising.

You Can Do Lots of Things With Bacon
You Can Do Lots of Things With Bacon (photo via

Jim Gaffigan is one of those comedians that a bunch of people seem to have some connection with: Derek Sherman, award-winning CD/CW at Energy BBDO went to Georgetown with him, my brother-in-law Marty’s college roommate Joe ran around with him at tiny La Lumiere High School in La Porte, Indiana, and he’s long been a David Letterman favorite.

This past Holiday weekend, my nephews punched up his bits on YouTube, including this gem where Jim riffs on bacon.  It’s all good, but his bacon material runs from 2:19 til 6:59; that’s four minutes and forty brilliant seconds dedicated to this humble breakfast meat.  His references are both universal and personal, his insights immediately induce head-nods.  It’s a dizzying performance built on the most mundane of topics.

And that’s where the lesson lies.  As a copywriter, it’s all too easy to rely on the prefabricated descriptors suggested on the brief, to simply regurgitate the list of client-approved adjectives.  But where’s the fun in that?  It’s not creative, and it’s not particularly engaging.

So if today you wonder what you’re gonna do with another $7.99 weekly dinner special or how you’re going to pitch another new MRI machine or where you can find the magic in auto insurance, watch some of Jim’s clips (Hot Pockets has particular relevance for our industry).  Take a lesson from a master on how to mine a subject for the universal human relevance.

And never, ever–even under the most dire of circumstances–lower your standards and acquiesce to using anything like that unholy, grammatical aberration “goodness.”  You will never forgive yourself for it.  Nor should you.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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