On shitty copywriting

Mark Duffy has written the Copyranter blog for 11 years and is a freelancing copywriter with 25-plus years of experience. His hockey wrist shot is better than yours. 

It’s not hard, at all, to write a good ad. A great ad, yes, that’s hard. But you don’t even have to be a good writer to write good ads. (See: me.) You just have to have a good ear, a lot of visuals running around in your head and some common sense. That’s it.

Thus, badly written ads confound the fudge out of me. I understand that, during the “creative process,” clients often decide that they are better copywriters than the trained, successful copywriters they are paying and proceed to “tweak” headlines and copy with the result often being headdesk idiocy. But more often than not, it’s not the client’s fault.

(Insert segue here:) Speaking of idiocy, here are a few recent examples of idiotic copywriting.

Peugot: “Swimmer”

“When I drive the new 208, I feel … as if I were a swimmer … a swimmer with gills … who only needs to take one breath to go all the way to the lost city of Atlantis.”

You tell me, because I don’t have a fraction of a clue what’s she talking about. Unless: Is the 208 an amphibious car? Agency: BETC, São Paulo.

Abercrombie & Fitch teaser billboards

The visual here should be the new A&F CEO mooning us. Photos via Daily Billboard Blog.

After millennials — God bless their puritanical hearts — rejected A&F’s soft-porn advertising, the retailer teased their “retooling” this fall with these billboards in Los Angeles and Times Square.

This line reads like it came directly out of the mouth of a red-faced A&F marketing exec and was then dutifully written down by an agency account person and was then included in the agency presentation and then, of course, A&F approved it.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a billboard that makes a retailer sound so stupid. (OK, maybe one other time).

Mastercard: “The Sound of Priceless.®”


“OK, how can we lamprey our ‘Priceless’ campaign onto the ass of the Cubbies,” said some Mastercard suit. “The sound of priceless” — that’s quite the forced tie-in. And putting your trademark ® in the line makes it Lame Hall of Fame lame. Agency: McCann XBC, USA.

Armani Code Profumo

First off, Chris Pine must have Satan as an agent because he has the personality of a cardboard cutout. Which actually works perfectly in this bland, generic fragrance spot as it “explosively” builds the eroticism to the climatic Pine line: “Did you hear something?” Yeah, I think it was a big bag of money hitting the floor backstage, go pick it up, Chris.

Häagen-Dazs: “äah”


OK, the new tagline is fine, I don’t love it, but forget about it for now. Read the asinine copy on the NYC subway poster, right. Who wrote that bullshit “portrait” of a New Yorker? A third-grader from Indiana? Agency: JWT NYC.

Coors Banquet Beer: “Handshake”

“This beer … looks you in the eyes and shakes your hand.”

For about 10 years, actor Sam Elliott has been the voice of Coors. When I first heard that above line, I imagined Elliott in a sound booth somewhere wincing, and yelling, “STOP STOP,” and then going on an Orson Welles-like Findus frozen peas tirade about how bottles of beer are “FUCKING INANIMATE OBJECTS.”

But Elliott probably just kept his mouth shut and kept taking his millions.

Space Florida: “Vacationauts”


Lastly, this isn’t really shitty copy. But it is copy (and that visual) that should never have found its way into a Florida tourism ad, I think. Agency: Paradise Advertising.


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