How to write car ads: the funniest you’ll ever see – guaranteed

The following text and illustrations appeared recently on the UK version of EBay, advertising a fairly old small European Ford Focus. It is quite the most hilarious and brilliant piece of secondhand car ad writing I’ve ever read … the text doesn’t necessarily make you gag to buy the car, but it sure makes you gag laughing.

The vendor, a certain Pistolfeet Porter, has already become a cult comedy writing figure in the UK and quite deservedly so, although for the moment he is still doing his thing and selling the odd car. Hysterical or what?

Ford Focus 1.8 Zetec Ghia Mint Green (Possibly works underwater but this is unconfirmed)

If Trebor (UK brand of mint candy) made car paint then I imagine it would look something like the colour of this car, it’s a pale minty green. I will include some green Trebor mints in the sale so that you can compare for yourself. Please specify if you would prefer Extra Strong mints instead, they are white (unlike the colour of this car) but I personally prefer them even if I do hold them partially responsible for the decay in one of my teeth.

I took this car in part exchange along with some cash for another car I was selling. I didn’t really want it but I wanted the car I had less and since I am a valeter by trade I saw potential in this. The engine is sound as can be, the gearbox is a dream, it steers like it’s on rails and all of the features and electricals work as designed. It’s the Ghia model (what does Ghia even mean?) so has a bunch of extras such as heated front windscreen, air con, electrically adjustable front seats and an upgraded dash.

Inside it’s quite lovely, dark and mysterious but shiny and clean. I would feel quite happy to host a business conference inside it. Refreshments could be served through one of the electrically operated windows. Drinks could be placed in 1 of the 2 available cup holders. If your business meeting was for more than 2 people then some of the participants may have to hold their drinks, they might whinge a bit because of this but just remind them that in some parts of the world they haven’t even invented drinks yet.

Nothing nasty to report about the inside of the car, no rips or scuffs, it!s very tidy actually. I have been driving this minty little number around for a few days now and I was surprised how nice it is to drive and have opted to drive this rather than my Mondeo. OMG I am such a liar, I just remembered that the passenger side door handle is a bit scruffy, that’s all though.

It’s a Ford Focus from 2001 which is exactly 1 year after 2000 when the world didn’t end and VCRs continued to work. I didn’t do much that New Years eve, not because I was afraid an airplane would fall out of the sky and land on me, I just fancied a quiet night in with my girlfriend of that time, I say girlfriend, she was nearly 40 but a proper sporty little thing, bit ugly but perky where it counted. I myself am no beauty box so us both being a bit ugly I never had and insecurities that she would run off with my best friend lol. But she did about a year later! He left his wife, went a bit mad, got sectioned then released, turned out to be an alcoholic and now has pancreatitis, all is well that ends well.

The alloys on this MINT GREEN (it’s not blue or black or red or any other colour, deal with the fact that its mint green to avoid disappointment. If you thought maybe it was silver but the sunshine in the photos made it look a bit green you were wrong) are in genuinely good condition. I gave them a quick tickle with an alloy cleaning brush but they need a better clean than that but since I am quite busy trying to get in to the girl next doors knickers I can’t be bothered. The plastics are all nice and black, the tyres are all insanely named cheap brands but have good tread on them. I valeted the car so it’s looking good and smells divine – you might want to lick it but I recommend against this since some of the cleaning products I use are bad for tongues.

The windows are unbroken glass, have no chips and critically are transparent unlike bricks which are not often used as a window making material, they are tinted at the back so if you take that lass from the chippy up the hills you can do what you like in the back and won’t be seen. Unless someone looks through the windscreen and then the games up and the pillar box is down.

It’s done 107K miles which is much further than I can run and I wouldn’t even attempt to run that far not even for comic relief or children in need unless there was a cash incentive then I would consider it and work out some way to cheat. It would be an elaborate cheat including most likely a helicopter and several disguises, somewhere I have a dress up banana suit which I have only used once so I would probably try to get some more use out of it since I think it cost me about £60 a few years back.

The exterior of the car is generally in pretty good condition, there is some surface rust under the rear wheel arches (not that bad) and its had a small ding on the rear which has been tarted up a bit and doesn’t look that bad. There are a couple of places (arches, rear bumper) that have been resprayed in places probably due to surface rust in the past. I say resprayed, it actually looks like it’s been done by a drunken blind clown at night hanging upside down from a moving giraffe. Honestly, Ghandi could have done a better job slapping paint on with his flip flops. Estimated cost to have this resprayed by someone that isn’t mentally incapacitated is about £150-200 but who knows, maybe you aren’t the picky type and just want a motor that runs well, is comfy and proper posh on the inside.

It’s got MOT and Tax until July and I really can’t see any reason why it won’t fly through its next MOT (apart from the fact that cars don’t fly, be cool if they did)

Aside from the couple of dodgy resprayed bits this is a very decent car that runs beautifully but is green.

Any inspection, test drive, pretend flight is more than welcome. If you don’t want to drive it you can just sit in the driver’s seat and I can make engines noises but there will be an additional fee for this. I can also make airplane noises my Airbus A380 is very impressive, helicopters are harder but I can try if that is your thing.

You can see from the pictures that overall this is a bang tidy motor and you have my word it drives well. If this doesn’t sell I really couldn’t care less, I will keep driving it around not pulling birds. I don’t need to sell it but if you want it you can buy it.

Don’t forget its Fathers’ Day soon! What do you buy the dad who has everything? Well if he has a crazy a$$ large desk you could buy him a full scale replica Ford Focus 1.8 Zetec  Ghia paperweight. If you know someone like Doc Brown for the back to the future trilogy maybe they could make you a remote control like the one he had for the DeLorean DMC-12 which would be way awesome!

Update, Tuesday: I just pretended to get off with myself in the back seats, I had someone confirm that they could see me. This unfortunately means the windows are only lightly tinted and it isn’t privacy glass. Also worth mentioning that this car runs on petrol which can be bought at ‘petrol stations’, if you are unfamiliar with these then ask someone for directions to a place that sells over priced cold sausage rolls.

I can confirm that the petrol low light works, it just came on.

Also I just took delivery of a docking station for my laptop, the box it came in is surplus to requirements as I have plenty of other empty boxes. I will include this box in the sale at no extra cost. Finally for today, I think a pound coin fell out of my Bermuda shorts and has lodged itself somewhere under the driver’s seat, if I don’t find it before the car sells you can have this too. Don’t be disappointed if it’s only 50p though, it sounded like a pound but could have been a 50.

Question is: should our Pistolfeet continue working in his automotive business, or should he say to hell with that and write comedy instead? I’d go for the latter… what do you think?

Check him out on his site here and on Facebook here.

Now, let’s get you writing into overdrive:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

How to use classified ads to sell your stuff – emotively

Despite our ever-increasing dependence on the internet, classified ads in newspapers are still a popular place for buying and selling anything from garden manure to entire homes. And even online, the style of classified ad text that works in print can be transposed very effectively to eBay, its clones and numerous other sales sites.

So how can we make our product – whatever it is – stand out from the crowd? Here are some emotive thoughts you might find helpful.

I know, I have castigated British estate agents (real estate brokers) before about their terrible ad copy and this article isn’t going to make things any better. Sorry guys, but most of you just don’t get it.

As you know, property ads are probably amongst the most badly written examples of advertising copy in the world, and therefore – once again – are the best example we can choose to illustrate a more effective way of writing words that actually sell.

Most estate agents / real estate brokers write their own descriptive copy and in North America at least, it does tend to be accurate without the awful grammatical goofs you see in British ad text (oh, yes, that old “comprises of” banana skin again…)

However, in the interests of cramming as many properties into the allocated space as possible whether in a printed publication or online, even the North American real estate wallahs tend to suffer from a bad case of abbreviationitis and choke descriptive sections of their ad copy to within an inch of their lives.

So how do we get around these issues?

For starters, if you are a private individual rather than a business, you are not restricted to cramming an entire house’s inventory into 50 words, or a car’s vital statistics into a couple of lines. Provided you are willing to pay for the space you’re free to use some creativity, provided, of course, that your factual information is accurate.

And although the space involved will cost you whether online or offline, the benefits it affords you are probably worth it. Anyway, you’re only selling your own item – not those of umpty-dump others. So let’s get a bit creative…

A real-life example of how that works

A while back a friend of mine wanted to sell his old cottage in a lovely location some 30 miles outside London, England, and because a) he wanted to sell it direct and b) he trusted me to write his sales copy for him, he booked an ad in the key quality UK Sunday newspaper. Here’s how an estate (real estate) agent had suggested writing the text…

“Three bedroomed Georgian cottage located at XXX Green. Accommodation comprised of two reception rooms, modern bathroom, fitted kitchen. Oil-fired central heating. Covered car parking. Established garden. London 30 miles. £XXX,000 freehold.”

Boring! And about as emotive as a dead fish.

Anyway, although that ad copy tells you all the necessary features, (as well as including the inevitable “comprised of” banana skin) it doesn’t give you a hint – not even one word – that suggests the character of the place. If it were an old three-bedroomed house in a row with 50 others that look identical, there wouldn’t be much personality to pull out of it. But in this case, the cottage was unique.

Here’s what I wrote (and it was all true)…

“An original rose-covered cottage overlooking XXX Green where (well-known Victorian novelist) lived, just 30 miles from London via the (XX) motorway. Warm, rich Georgian brickwork encloses exposed oak beams … sitting and dining rooms … three bedrooms … bathroom … big, country kitchen … carport. Large cottage garden with roses, orchard and lawns. Oil-fired central heating plus two open fireplaces. Offers over £XXX,000 – phone 01234 567 890.”

Ah, you can see yourself there now, can’t you? Curled up by a crackling fireplace with a cup of cocoa and a muddy, smelly spaniel at your feet?

And the phone never stopped ringing all day. By dinner time on the Sunday more than a dozen house hunters had viewed the cottage; the owner had had four offers all well over the asking price and had accepted the best one.

The moral of this story is that although a classified ad needs to be factual i.e. full of boring features, you can throw in the odd benefit even if the space is very limited. An emotive adjective here and there will do, and won’t interfere with the ad’s accuracy – especially important because in some cases the ad copy can be considered as part of the legal specification.

You CAN think benefits into property and other classified ads

Let’s take another example, this time for a used car:

VW GOLF 1.9 GLS FOR SALE:  20XX, 80,000 miles. Red. Bodywork in need of some attention. Engine and other mechanics in good running order. Five new tyres. Offers over £XXXX.”

GOOD HOME WANTED FOR LOVABLE BRIGHT RED VW GOLF 1.9 GLS:  20XX, old family friend for 80,000 miles sadly must be sold. Bodywork needs some attention, but she runs really well and all tyres are new. Offers over £XXXX.

Which car would intrigue you more?

How to sell more of your stuff – and you, too:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

How to write effective job ads

Nearly all of us have a relationship with recruitment advertising at some point in our careers, either as recruiters, candidates, or as third-party creators of the ads.

I have written hundreds if not thousands of recruitment ads over the years and there is one thing that stands out about them, to me, more than anything else. That is, quite simply, they have to be a finely tuned balancing act.

Why?

Because in the majority of cases they are trying to achieve two things at the same time which, in advertising terms, is usually difficult and rarely successful.

Tricky balancing act

In the first place, the apparent purpose of a recruitment advertisement is to attract the right kind of candidates for a position. Sounds very straightforward, doesn’t it? However it isn’t always that simple.

For a major corporate organization to come down to basic recruit level and talk his or her types of benefits will often be seen, by the powers-that-be in the organization, as contrary to the guidelines of their corporate image. Clear, direct writing is not normally what “corporate speak” is all about.

The other side of the balancing act – what the corporate executives will argue – is that despite an advertisement being intended to recruit staff, if it appears in the “company colours” in whatever media it must reflect the corporate/brand values of the organization. Fair enough. But in practice that doesn’t always work, and leads to the wrong tone of voice – the safe, corporate, brand-led voice – being used to address candidates whose immediate priorities and interests are different.

So, does that mean it’s time to forget the corporate image and just drive our efforts towards speaking directly to our potential candidates?

Can you keep the corporate politics out?

Ideally yes, but usually not. And there are several other, political issues than can get in the way of clear recruitment advertising.

For example, as one expert says, “…the problems with ads written by recruitment consultancies are that they are written in such an ambiguous way … top ten firm, blue chip, market leader … to stop the competition from finding out who the job is with. That means they lose any personality that the job may have.”

This takes us back to the dilemma of companies advertising for staff, wanting to make sure their ads reflect their corporate values, image, and everything else that a passing customer or competitor might find of interest.

Staff vacancies can reflect a multitude of issues … from the signaling of success via expansion and growth to an indication of failure via the hemorrhaging of confidence in the organization. And all these corporate skeletons in the closet tend to get forced down on to the shoulders of the poor old recruitment advertisement.

A recruitment expert’s advice

Let’s now hear from a good friend of mine – an expert international recruitment consultant – who tells us how recruitment ads should be composed if they’re going to attract the right candidates:

1. The advert should be more about the reader and less about the employer. Too many ads say too much about a company and its own opinion of itself and not enough about why the reader should care. Think about what job seekers care about and focus on what is important to them

2. Many of the best recruitment advertising concepts have accompanying visuals. People scan before they read. If you don’t attract their interest when they’re scanning, you probably won’t attract their interest at all. Good use of white space and bullet points (if it’s on the web) helps achieve this.

3. The second-best word in a recruitment advert is the word “you.” The best word is the reader’s name. Sadly, this is not possible in recruitment advertising (but is in headhunting).

4. Good adverts attract, intrigue and persuade. Attract with the visual or the design, intrigue with the headline or the concept, and persuade with the copy. If the advert does not attract, it’s ignored. If the advert does not intrigue, it’s glanced at and then ignored. If the advert doesn’t persuade, it is noticed, read and then ignored.

5. The ad copy should be compelling, intelligent, and honest. You can’t bore someone into sending you their CV. You can cheat someone into a sending you their CV by lying to them, of course, but that is the starting point of high staff turnover and/or lots of rejected job offers.

6. It takes about 1 minute to pick up the phone and check whether or not the candidate who is calling you, can do the job. So put a phone number in the advert. Don’t be lazy. Let the good people find out more.

7. Be specific. If the advert isn’t specific about the responsibilities, the requirements or the benefits, the better candidates won’t respond.

8. Include the remuneration package. Be brave!

Interesting stuff. But how do you actually walk the line between creating ads that target the best possible candidates, as our expert suggests, and satisfying your employers / co-directors / shareholders that you are putting across the right image and corporate identity for your organization?

How to handle the corporate issues AND make the ad effective

 

If you can, ideally, use the corporate image purely as a visual framework for the recruitment ad, including relevant logos and taglines, but keep the rest of the copy focused entirely on the reader (your potential candidate.)

If you’re obliged to include more than that in terms of “corporate speak,” try to section that off visually from the main text – and keep that main text focused on the reader.

In the text addressed directly to the reader, use language and tone of voice that s/he will identify with – not pompous corporate posturing or meaningless business clichés.

Don’t patronize the reader with nonsense like “are you talented enough to work for us?” (yes, you still see sentences like that in recruitment ads and they’re embarrassing..) but at the same time, don’t overdo the attractions. As our expert says, be honest and specific – that saves a lot of time in the long run.

Keep your text tight and concise, but don’t be mean with space. Provide as much information as you can, but leave out less important details.

If there are any essential criteria for the job being advertised, make these crystal-clear in your text.

Make it clear how you want candidates to get in touch with you and then ensure the contact information is well displayed.

Write effective job ads and much more besides:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

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