What Mad Men Can Teach You About Online Writing

Mad Men is more than a brilliant show about the 1960’s advertising world. It’s chock-full of tidbits that can help you improve your online copy, drive more traffic to your website and make you more money.

Here are five quotes from the show that will change the way you look at your online writing:

“Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car” It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.”-Don Draper

Ask yourself: How does my product or service make people happy? For example, people don’t care typically about skin care ingredients. What they do care about is, “Will this product help me feel better about myself?” Accountants do more than push numbers around and send in our tax forms. They give us peace-of-mind knowing that we’re paying our taxes correctly, and we won’t get a nastygram from Uncle Sam. People go to personal trainers because they want to feel younger, better and stronger – not because they love to sweat 60 minutes a day.

Takeaway: Look at your current website copy. Are you selling a product, or are you selling the happiness your product brings?

“They have no sense of humor about their product.” – Pete Campbell about Secor Laxative.

You sit down to write for your Website, and it’s like you’re suddenly channeling your middle school composition teacher. Your writing doesn’t sound like “you” anymore. It sounds stilted, weird-sounding and boring. You aren’t happy with it, but what you can do? Doesn’t all online copywriting – especially SEO copywriting –  have to sound this way?

Takeaway: Inject some personality into your writing. You don’t have to tell a joke a minute, but you do have to tell your story in a way that will help folks click with your business. Write for your Website like you’re talking to someone who gave you a call or came into your office.  The more you can write like a real-life person rather than sounding like a corporate automaton, the easier it will be for folks to trust you.

“I hate to break it to you but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.” – Don Draper

Substitute “Google” for “The universe” and you have an excellent definition of SEO. The search engines don’t care if you’re a big brand, or a mom and pop business. What they “want” to see is – what is this site about? Is the site a trusted resource? Are there quality links pointing to the site? Is there any content, or is the site one big image with little pockets of duplicate product copy.

Takeaway: Don’t ignore your online writing campaign because you don’t “get” SEO copywriting or search engine marketing. I’ve seen many smaller businesses take on a big-brand search engine competitor and snag better search rankings. Yes, it takes effort. Yes, it takes work. Yes, it’s worth it.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be one of a hundred colors in a box.” – Peggy Olson

Are you giving your prospects too many choices? Some product pages are completely overwhelming, with 50 listed products (and every product flagged as a “featured product.”) Too many choices isn’t a good thing – it can actually overwhelm your prospect. In “Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive,” Robert Cialdini advises, “By saturating the market with a large number of unnecessary varieties of their products, they could well be inadvertently harming their sales and…diminishing their profits.”

Takeaway: Review your existing Web pages. If you’re listing every possible product variation on one page, reduce the choices and see if you make more sales. If your sales page lists everything you can possible think of about your product, consider if you can split the information into multiple pages.

“Just think about it. Deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will ‘jump up in your face.'”- Don Draper, on the writing process.

Have you ever sat in front of your computer feeling tortured because the words just won’t come out? You’re not alone. We’ve all been there. Online writing – whether you’ve been doing it for five minutes or five years – can be impossible if you’re not in the flow. Plus, if you force the process, you’ll probably hate the final product.

Takeaway: If you’re facing writer’s block, take as long a break as you can. Grab a cup of coffee. Play computer solitaire. Call a friend. The key is to get your mind thinking about something else. Your best ideas are often when you’re doing something totally unrelated to the online writing task at hand. By the time you do start writing, it will flow like a dream — and you’ll love every last word.

7 replies
  1. Kim Green says:


    I agree with Tess completely, one of your best and most “entertaining” articles!

    Just love Mad Men and can’t wait for the next season :)



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