Successful Ad Slogans Dissected

Nick Padmore at A List Apart has produced an extraordinarily nerdy and detailed breakdown of the various qualities of 115 of the most successful “copy shots” in advertising history—you know, those short phrases like “Where’s the beef?” (1984) or “Don’t leave home without it” (1974) or “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking” (1956) that you’ll carry with you to your grave, unless you develop some sort of “good” Alzheimer’s that only wipes out the commercial jingles part of your brain. (Somebody assign a stem cell researcher to that!)

Some of his findings:

  • only 50% of the top copy shots mention a brand
  • 17% of copy shots are “lexically deviant”—as Padmore puts it, “it’s a weird spelling almost 2wice in every ten whirds”
  • 84% of the copy shots contain some sort of rhetorical device, although Padmore thinks this is more than likely simply a reflection of how we naturally speak and write

He also comes up with a theory of how to produce a great copy shot, writing that “nobody else (as far as I know), has attempted to come up with a linguistically determined Greatest Copy Shot, so this is at least a start.”

All great copy shots should:

1. Be five words in length.
2. Not mention the brand name.
3. Be declarative.
4. Be grammatically complete.
5. Be otherwise standard.
6. Contain alliteration, metaphor, or rhyme.

So there you have it, marketers and admen/women who read the Consumerist: your recipe for success! Enjoy!

“Greatest Copy Shot Ever Written” [A List Apart]

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“Advertising Slogan Hall of Fame” [AdSlogans]