Commercial copywriting needs to sell to the reader. Obviously, copy needs to make a product sound attractive, useful and necessary. It has to shout value from the rooftop, expressing an item's benefits and worth; constructing an argument even the most thrifty consumer would be a fool to ignore.
Of course, exaggeration plays a big part in this.
YOU MUST BUY THIS! IT WILL MAKE YOU MORE ATTRACTIVE/WEALTHY/KNOWLEDGEABLE [delete as appropriate]!
Realistically, your product will not cut unemployment, solve world peace or fix the frequent appearance of the Fail Whale. But, as an SEO copywriter, it's your job to make the reader think it will.
Still, how far should you take your pursuit of a sale?
I've been giving some thought to honesty in copywriting this weekend. David Mitchell penned a fantastic blog on the virtues of honesty in advertising, while fellow Manchester SEOer Katrina highlighted a side-splitting eBay entry posted by a relative. The blurb, for a perfume, follows:
"A timeless fragrance with a heady, sunkissed feel, wrapped in the exotic lushness of faraway lands. An elixir for the senses, imagined like a voyage outside time and space. Colours profuse, nature bewilders and sensuality reigns.
A fragrance that embodies the true essence of the designer himself - sexy, feminine and uplifting.
A unique blend of accords create an intoxicating scent like no other with incandescent top notes, a mysterious heart and sultry dry-down. The bottle plays on the contrast between urban and exotic realms, fusing vintage with modern designs.
Unfortunately it smells like cat piss on my skin."
Obviously, commercial copywriting shouldn't tell downright porkies. Someone is going to call you on it and an appearance on Watchdog will soon beckon.
But, nor should it be so brutally honest as to deter customers. After all, you want some sales for your client.
It's time to tread the thin line between enthusiasm and lies and, as a copywriter, you need to be blinkered about your product. Fail to recognise its flaws, exaggerate its qualities and promote it as the invention of the 21st century. Learn to love your product and reflect this affection through your copy.
Basically, pretend you're the type of person who queues outsides the Apple store on launch day.