George Lois has earned the right to look this way.

I study this generation of copywriters because they are still the most intelligent generation of thinkers 

If you’re a small business owner wondering where to start on your new website, or why the one you have sucks, take some advice from a guy they call ‘the original Mad Man’, Mr. George Lois.

When young art directors ask me to reveal my “formula” for creating advertising, I answer … start with the word! This advice, with a biblical reference, is carved in stone–my first commandment. Art directors, presumed by many to be illiterate, are expected to think visually–and most do. They sift through magazines to find visuals, however disjointed and inappropriate, to help them “get started.” Most art directors, unfortunately, do not sit and try to write the idea: They usually wait with their thumbs up their ass for a writer to furnish the words, which usually are not visually pregnant. By contrast, a handful of great art directors are authors of some of the finest headlines in advertising–or they work intimately with gifted writers as they conjure concepts together. Conversely, even when a writer works on his own, his words must lend themselves to visual excitement–because a big campaign idea can only be expressed in words that absolutely bristle with visual possibilities, leading to words and visual imagery working in perfect synergy.*

From ’10 Tips For Success From George Lois, The Original Mad Man’, an online article published by CoDesign and available here at the time of publication.

Y’all want a little side o’ words with that?

We’re done! Throw some content on the side and get this to table 5!

It happens all the time. Writers are asked to provide ‘content’ to fill a box that has been designed by a digital agency and approved by the client. The assumption is that the art director has nailed the concept without the advantage of knowing what the words will eventually say.

Great digital agencies don’t do this. They don’t treat the words as an after-thought, or something to be measured in character counts and sprinkled on at the last moment.  Great digital agencies know that an idea is the ultimate authority in the creative process. It should drive all decisions about design, copy and intent.

Where should a small business owner start? 

  1. Look for a company that will provide a complete team. This includes a local copywriter, willing to meet with you and get to know your business.
  2. Insist that the creative process that you’re paying for will result in a meaningful story that people can understand and appreciate so they will want to give you money. (It is a business site.)
  3. Ask your agency to explain how site development, design and content will work together to tell your story.
  4. Don’t try to write your own content. Professional writers have taken years to hone their craft and made most of their early mistakes on a big agency’s dime.
  5. Consider your time when it comes to developing your small business website. You’ll probably make more money by hiring a writer and sticking to what you do best.

 If your site is pretty but ineffective, contact me. If I can’t help you, I probably know someone who can.