There I was banging away at my Mac, looking for an easy romantic get-a-way for my wife, Sue, and I. We wanted something different and exciting, we were sick of the old New England standbys (though wonderful destinations) like Martha’s Vineyard, Newport Rhode Island, Woodstock Vermont, and even Foxwoods™ Resort and Casino. With 720,000 square miles from Maine to Connecticut there just wasn’t anything that we were interested in doing in all six states combined.
So I decided to look elsewhere outside of New England, but within driving distance, that we could spend a quality three-night romantic weekend during the Fourth of July holiday. I looked at Niagara Falls, the Poconos, and even another jaunt down to Virginia (that we’ve been to many times), but nothing sufficed. We weren’t interested in flying, spending way too much money, and being under-whelmed by cheesy tourist traps.
And that’s when I said to Sue, “How about Canada?”
To which she replied, “I don’t know, I’ve been to Montreal and didn’t like it all that much.”
“Well, maybe there’s somewhere else in Canada we could go to,” I retorted.
“Well, go ahead and look,” she added.
So I did and after about two-seconds of searching on the Internet I came across Quebec City.
And we’re so glad I did.
I started with the official site of the city that had some basic information about visiting this French Canadian enclave. That piqued Sue’s and my interest. Then I came across the official tourism site and we watched a well-made Quicktime video about the wonders of Quebec City (i.e. the capital of the Canadian province and the surrounding areas) and we were hooked.
What a charming little city it seemed to us, and potentially a wonderful adventure for to embark on within a six and a half hour drive. Quebec could be the perfect romantic destination that we’ve been looking for—and it was as it turned out.
I made a few calls and got us reservations at a quaint little B&B near the old city (more on that later), and Googled the driving directions, looked up some sites and attractions, and asked my wife how to say, “good day,” and “thank you,” in French.
Just before our trip we made sure to get our passports as per the on-again off-again TSA rules for going between North American countries. We also got lots of recommendations from co-workers of things to do and see while there. And finally we packed up our car and were off to the Great White North on our little odyssey.
Though the Google maps website puts the drive at about six and a half hours, it really took us more like nine and a half with the stops we made for lunch and gas and just plain stretching out. No matter, the country-side that far North in the US was absolutely amazing. Lush old New England landscapes (right out of a classic painting) permeated the horizon and beyond, the little NE hamlets lining the road and the valleys were charming, and mountainous regions like the Franconia Notch in New Hampshire was awe-inspiring. Even though the Old Man isn’t there anymore it does not detract from the beauty of this venerated place.
Crossing over into Vermont for the last fifty miles before the US/Canadian border I began to get a sense of something unique, something I’ve never felt before: I have never been this far north in my entire life. What a feeling it was to be driving to another country. Sure, I’ve been to other countries like Italy, Germany, and The Bahamas, but I’ve always flown and expected the routine to be the same—kind of a disconnected “get on the plane in the US, sleep for a bit, have a few drinks, and get off the plane somewhere else.” But this was not the case when driving to Canada. I felt like a real explorer (for what it’s worth), charting new territory, and getting exhilarated in the process.
Finally it was time to cross the border. The Canadian border check point was relatively quiet and the person checking our passports was pleasant and unassuming. He waved us through and then we were in Canada. Just like that. Not just Canada, but a French Canadian province with its own language and customs. How incredible! Now I was driving Nord on Autoroute 55, and trying to take everything Canadian in as much as I could from the driver’s seat of my car. My wife was amused by my fascination with this whole experience as if she did this everyday and it was no big deal, but it certainly was to me.
We made a couple of nondescript pit stops along the way, but ultimately we got to our destination: Quebec City. I was still having trouble resolving miles into kilometers when suddenly the outskirts of the city crept up on us as the sun was starting to wane. What a beautiful site it was seeing the Saint Lawrence River for the fist time in my life as we crossed over it at that part of the day. Finally, we crossed the bridge we were on and headed for the heart of the city.
Our immediate goal was to get to the Rue Grande Allée towards the Old City. Our bed and breakfast, L’Arvidienne Couette et Café, was a charming little chateau-like home right across the street from the famed Plains of Abraham where the French residents fought the British army for control of the city back on September 13th, 1759. The French lost, and for over a hundred years Quebec City was ruled directly by the British until 1867. Founded on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River by Samuel de Champlain in 1608, this little settlement had seen centuries of war, development, industry, culture, tourism, and world renown to become one of the greatest North American cities. Per capita, Quebec City has the highest number of fine dining restaurants, and is one of the few places on the continent where English is “not” the most commonly spoken language (excluding Mexico of course).
Our ebullient hosts at the L’Arvidienne, Mireille Hubert & Serge Gauthier, were fabulously attentive and endearing as they doted on us from the moment we arrived. Mireille had taken the liberty of making dining reservations for us that evening at an impressive little French restaurant in the Old Walled City called, Le Saint Amour. After freshening up a bit we headed out on the Grande Allée to the restaurant.
The most recent tagline, 21st Century Digital Writing, is my LinkedIn professional headline rather than whatever job title I’m shooting for. I believe my tagline in this case (i.e. for my entire profile) conveys far better what I can offer clients and companies than a job title that might get outdated. Good copywriting is future-proof!
Now granted, this doesn’t work in every case. And in fact, I chose to headline my Candidate Profile One-Sheet with a job title that makes it easier for prospective hiring managers to give my credentials a cursory glance for possible jobs that reflect that title.
Next up is the brand new and exciting tagline for Dedham Television.
Here was the old one:
Here is the new one that I wrote:
Integrated Media for a Connected Community!
Which one would you prefer?
Obviously the newer one that I wrote. The old tagline was wrapped up in the old logo and simply did not reflect the newer digital times that we live in. Therefore, I made a case to the Exec. Dir. to change it, and she agreed. The new tagline is used on the new Dedham TV website, product data-sheets (as on the reverse page of the document to the left), and on marketing collateral such as the business cards—see the Websites page and the Branding & Logos page for examples.
Best Western Centralized Advertising Website Program – ISM
Back when I was working at Irma S. Mann Strategic Marketing (ISM), I did a lot of copywriting for their Best Western Centralized Advertising Website Program (a mouthful, I know). My primary duty was to promote and grow the program which was a subscription service to a proprietary website builder app for BW franchisees. This involved reaching out the BW members nationally and internationally through direct mail, HTML email advertising, and faxback solicitations (yes, faxing as in facsimile machines, if you can recall what those were!).
The example here is a direct mail piece that I created in a Adobe Pagemill (a now defunct desktop publishing program, superseded by Adobe InDesign and Photoshop/Illustrator to a lesser extent).
Below is an example of a faxback solicitation!
And finally, below is an example of a rich HTML Email (direct mail) marketing campaign for the BW website program. This was actually created in both Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia (now Adobe) Dreamweaver. I coded this in HTML before it was sent to Constant Contact for distribution.
Note: Though the graphics and design might be a little slim on these three examples—due to the fact that I hadn’t fully developed my Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator skills at the time (ca. 2003-04)—the important thing to note is all of the actual copywriting in these samples. They are filled with all of the features that make for sizzling copywriting: hooks, humor, pithy witticisms, value propositions, price points vs. pain points, and calls to action to name a few. ISM actually had real graphic designers working on other client projects; I was one of the few writers who could bridge the divide between writing and design, and do it digitally!
Best Western Centralized Advertising Website Program – ISM
Even though there is a whole page Marketing and Communications page that is full of marketing collateral examples of my writing, I thought that a few examples here from the BW website program might also serve as samples of my copywriting work.
While I managed this program for ISM, I wrote a ton of stuff from technical documents, webcopy, reports, proposals, to the aforementioned direct mail pieces and more. Below is a sample of a report that was used as part of a Welcome Kit that I created for the BW website program. The kit’s purpose was to get the new subscriber to the program up-to-speed quickly to all of the features and benefits of the program, which included website statistics and SEO.
Print Ads are a staple of copywriting. As the Senior Communications Manager at DVAC I got to create a number of print ads that made their way into the local news publications such as The Dedham Times.
Below is an example of one such print ad announcing Dedham Television’s new website (that I built, see the Websites page for more info). Not only did I write all of the copy for this ad but I also created the design in Adobe Photoshop.
The important thing to note here is that the Dedham TV tagline also appears here on this ad. Furthermore, the fonts, branding, and logo were all carefully chosen to represent the organization. The ad succinctly illustrates all the new features and benefits of the DedhamTV.com website.
To the left is another print ad that also appeared in The Dedham Times that I worked on with Susan Howland of Creativedge – Innovative Marketing Solutions. This one was a simple promo for a live audience recording of a spiritual medium experience hosted by Dedham Television. Though the copy on this ad is pretty bare bones, the color graphics are what makes the ad really pop out.
Cut the Crap and WRITE THAT DAMN SCREENPLAY!
A long time ago I wrote two non-fiction books on screenwriting, the first one was titled Cut The Crap and WRITE THAT DAMN SCREENPLAY! It was, as the following banner describes it:
The concise easy-to-follow no BS book on screenwriting!
And it was!
In fact, the book was even endorsed by the organizers of Hollywood’s Great American PitchFest. So much so, that I was invited to be a guest exhibitor at their annual conference. They gave me a nice booth to occupy, for which I created this banner:
Note: This is a greatly reduced version of the original banner image. The original is a Photoshop file tops out at about 400MB and is over 8K pixels wide! The printed version of the banner that was used on the booth is almost 6 feet long!
Not only did I write the aforementioned non-fiction books but I also wrote a series of Science-Fiction books titled NLV (A.K.A. New Las Vegas). They were in novella formats, each chapter a semi-stand alone story but with an overall story arc. They featured a suite of recurring characters all loosely connected to each other.
The concept was about a super-sized version of Las Vegas in the future where almost nothing is illegal.
I managed to write, produce, and publish two EBooks of NLV—future chapters are still in development.
And to promote them, I created marketing collateral, which included promotional post cards. The following sample was distributed at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con resulting in thousands of downloads for each chapter!
Note: This postcard really highlighted the fact that the books were only available in EBook formats. This was a conscious choice to tap into the lucrative digital publishing market with almost no overhead for physical printing needs. Furthermore, the QR code on the back of the postcard takes you directly to NLVProject.com. The website also dedicated to the promotion and details about all things NLV. It was a great website full of media and news and so much more. The website is currently in a mothballed state as I am retooling the entire writing project for traditional publication.
What are Spec Sheets? They concept or idea documents. Essentially, an organization’s marketing department would bounce around new ideas and if they have a really good creative staff—especially writers—they can put together a flyer or data-sheet on a speculative product or service.
This type of copywriting can also be employed when campaigning for new opportunities at companies. I have had the opportunity to put together spec sheets for companies like GTECH(now IGT), BOSE, and HASBRO.
The following are my spec sheet samples that I created for each of the aforementioned organizations.
Back when the iPhone was a relatively new thing, it seemed like there was an app for just about anything coming out in droves. It was only a matter of time before online gambling apps would become a reality—albeit a mostly illegal reality. However, there are quasi-legitimate gambling apps that exist today such as: SLOTS.LV, DraftKings, and Lottery.com.
However, thinking forward as I was campaigning for a copywriting role with GTECH, I created and delivered this spec sheet on a new product called the iLotto by GTECH!
As you will see in the sample, this spec sheet has all the copywriting tropes: catchy headline, problem-action-result sales pitch, a call to action, plus some quick and dirty technical information to help entice customers.
When I create a spec sheet, I go all they way, which includes elements like copyright info, legal disclaimers, actual company graphics and branding styles, and design elements (sidebars, text boxes, etc.). This particular sample was created in an older version of Adobe InDesign.
Back when my desktop publishing skills were still in its infancy, I used Microsoft Word a lot to create more primitive spec sheets. However, my focus has always been on the writing first, then the graphic design. I’ve gotten a heck of a lot better since now that I use Adobe InDesign to create most of my spec sheets and marketing collateral for companies and clients.
But back in ’04 the iPod Click Wheel was all the rage!
Anyway, BOSE is a great company in Framingham Mass. and I really wanted to work there. So I put this spec sheet together as part of an interview strategy. This one isn’t as tricked out as the GTECH sample but the copy is what’s important here.
HASBRO: G.I. Pony & Escape From Starkiller Base
Hasbro is like a fortress: trying to breach the employment wall there is extremely difficult—even when one of your relatives works there!
I can’t tell you how many jobs I have applied for, phone screened, and interviewed for in the past. However, for one reason or another they never seem to move forward with me. I have sent them numerous portfolios and the following spec sheets. Sometimes when it seems like I’d be moving to the next level in the interview process, the job gets put on hold or cancelled. Sometimes I simply never hear from them again.
I often joke that no one gets hired at HASBRO…well, almost no one!
Anyway, here are two of my masterpieces during my feckless attempts to work at the “Star Wars and Marvel” toy company!
The first is G.I. Pony: Viva La Ponyville. This is a mash-up of My Little Pony and G.I. Joe, two HABRO merchandising properties. I thought it would be fun to put this together to demonstrate my Brand Writer skills. I have to credit Susan Howland of Creativedge here for the kick-butt pony images. I put together the spec logo at the top the sheet in Adobe Illustrator. Note the witty and whimsical style in the overall copy—especially with the horse puns used for the characters’ names.
I actually think this would have been a great toy line had I got a chance to pitch it!
The second is Star Wars: The Force Awakens – “Escape From Starkiller Base”.
The story idea is that you’re either a member of The Resistance or the First Order. You are trapped on the doomed Starkiller Base and have to escape before it blows up. The game play involves an interactive board game setup enhance by mini-touch screens and connected mobile devices. There was even a VR component to it as well.
The whole concept was to create a popular HASBRO brand-based game, and write the compelling copy for it, to campaign for a Games Writer position. They needed creative game ideas that encompassed their brands, and I gave them one!
It’s too bad that the work that went into this concept didn’t go anywhere. Oh well, I still think it would have made a best selling 21st Century game!
See for yourself.
Advertorials, the cross between an advertisement and an editorial, can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes from the fun that they are to write. You can literally tell any story you want in any fantastical way that you want, and still market and promote your product or service. The curse is when readers get deep into the advertorial and realize that they are not reading news but a thinly-veiled advertisement. It can be very annoying.
The key to not alienating your readers from the product or service that the advertorial is trying to promote is to simply be up front with them: this is an advertorial but you’re going to want to read it anyway. Why? Because it will tell a great story regardless.
That’s they way I wrote the following two advertorials.
Note — These documents are formatted in traditional formal short-story/journalism pre-publication formats. They were never intended to be dressed up as marketing collateral, only to be submitted (magazine-style) to the prospective employers.
SAM ADAMS OCTOBERFEST: THE NECTAR OF THE GODS
At one time, my favorite beer was Sam Adams Octoberfest. If you’re a craft brew drinker who could resist the malty and toffee flavor of this fine seasonal beverage?
And around that time my wife and I were getting married.
So being the ever exuberant writer that I am, I decided to write a series of Sam Adam Beer Chronicles that were both episodic and interconnected to each other (much like my science fiction novels). The first one I wrote was Sam Adams Octoberfest: The Nectar of the Gods. I won’t spoil the plot here; you can read it in its entirety by clicking on the image to the left.
Writing it was great fun; however, what was even more fun was handing a copy of the story to Jim Koch himself! For those who don’t know who Jim Koch is, he is the man who founded and presides over the Boston Beer Company, and is quite the folk hero around these parts!
He said he was thrilled to read it, which I hope he did but knowing how insanely busy he is, I’m sure he never got around to it. Regardless, giving the story to him was a personal victory for me!
HOW I GOT LUCKY ON CHRISTMAS GTECH: THE COMPANY BEHIND THE MAGIC
Next up is a little advertorial that I wrote for GTECH (again as part of my campaign to secure a writing position with them).
This one was about a true story of my wife Sue (as in Susan Howland of Creativedge who I keep mentioning all throughout this portfolio!) and a trip we made to a Connecticut casino of Christmas Day Night. Since GTECH (and presumably IGT now) makes casino gaming machines, I thought that it would be a great idea to merge the two into an advertorial that I could use to present myself to the company.
Though it went nowhere, here is the story anyway, which illustrates my copywriting and advertising writing skills.
As I have mentioned before, a lot of times prospective employers want to know if you have the chops to write for them; therefore, they will give you (the writing candidate) an assignment. For NASUNI Corp. it was two product reviews that answered questions they proposed.
Here they are for your reading enjoyment!
Note — This was written in 2010, a lot has changed technology-wise since then. I am now the proud owner of a prematurely past-its-prime iPhone 7!
As we near the final entries into my Copywriting section of this online portfolio, I have decided to include the following story pitches that wrote for Thrillist Boston. If there’s one thing you can say about me, it is that I have no shortage of ideas. This should be a good benefit to any future employers who need writers that can constantly come up with new stories and story angles for their marketing efforts. I am that person!
Spec Copywriting Samples
Finally, I’d like to end off this section with some Spec Copywriting Samples. One agency that I reached out to required that I was familiar with all of the various copywriting styles.
Know, Like Trust
Problem, Pain, Promise
B2C Copywriting, Bonus/Incentive
Of course I am!
So here they are!
If I were Apple Inc. here’s what I’d say about the new iHoloPhone:
“Telegraph, Telephone, Cellphone, iPhone… Meet the 2020 iHoloPhone: everything before it: is like tying a string between two cups!”
If I were Tesla Motors here’s what I’d say about the new Hydrogen-powered Model H1X car:
“Now the most prevalent substance in the Universe powers your car…forever. The H1X utilizes the most advanced eco friendly hydrogen burning engine on the planet for a staggering 1000 miles per cubic meter of H1 gas. And the only emission is water vapor. This is the car that Mother Earth has been waiting for— so have you!”
If I were Del Frisco’s Grille opening up in Dedham Mass, here’s how I’d get “foodies” to come to my new location:
“New York has only one; Massachusetts now has three! Who knows steak better than New Englanders? Come in out of the cold, watch the Pats win in the next ‘snowbowl’ and dive into the best rib eye this side of the Charles!”
KNOW, LIKE, AND TRUST
If I were a fast-growing local financial services organization that wanted to sound like the big Wall Street boys, here’s how I would write my next ad:
“AIG, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, BOA, AMEX, and two of the Big Three automakers: what do they all have in common? Nothing with Dedham Financial Corp! We don’t take bailouts, handouts, or copouts! Our clients make the money first. That’s the DFC guarantee!”
PROBLEM, PAIN, AND PROMISE
If I were a health care provider organization such as Lahey Hospital here’s the message that I would to convey to patients considering changing medical services:
“Lahey Hospital: honest, caring, convenient, and comprehensive medicine. Everything you need to get well again.”
B2C COPYWRITING, BONUS/INCENTIVE
If I were Ben and Jerry’s moving into JP Licks’ territory here’s how I’d run my campaign:
“This Saturday at Ben and Jerry’s newest location in Dedham Mass there will be an ice cream blowout! All of your favorite flavors: New York Superfudge Chunk, Cherry Garcia, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and many more, plus some blasts from the past like Rainforest Crunch and Wavy Gravy, will be given away to the first 200 customers who come on down! Also there will be games, entertainment, and maybe even a clown or two! Don’t miss this Ice Cream Madness in May event!”
If I were a web-services company here’s how I would write my banner ad:
“Web hosting, web development, and ad words, all made easy with One Click Web!”
If I were resurrecting Satcon Technologies, here’s how I would spread the word:
“National security has always relied on strong stable energy resources. Now more than ever America needs to utilize and optimize its domestic sustainable power sources: solar, wind, and clean burning coal. Satcon offers its energy grid customers a vast array of new products designed to make power generation and transmission safe and secure for America’s future and beyond!”
If I were sending out a direct mail piece to tell local residents that a new small business (a jewelry store) was opening up in Dedham Square, here’s how I’d get their attention:
“Dedham Square has just become a little more sparkly! Caution! You may need sunglasses to see what’s inside!”
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