When is copywriting...lying?

41 replies
Copywriting is tricky. Because like there's this book called "all marketers are liars". That title is true, at least to some degree.

Because you're trying essentially exaggerate your product or service in order to sell it. But I find that that exaggeration can so easy kinda go way over the top.

So I have this great idea. But the copywriting went a bit haywire with it. So I think it would sell, but I feel too guilty to try it as I know some of it is a bit too over the top.

But what do we do? Like how do we strike a healthy balance? Or should we just suck it up and say whatever you need to to sell something? Cuz I mean at the end of the day, the bottom line is we need to eat right.

Like even after you create some sales letter, you don't even know if it's gonna sell at all. So how can we make it conservative, when we're just trying to test it? Should we go all out and swing for the fenses to try and give it the best chance to sell? And then maybe later if and when it's selling work on fixing it and sanding down the rough edges?

what do you think?
#copywritinglying
  • Profile picture of the author princetotem
    Ultimately I think the writer has to determine what he/she is okay with. Can you fall asleep easily at night or does it really bother you?

    If your sales copy is full of lies, the majority of people will be able to see through it. Not to mention, you're only damaging the company/brand and products reliability. No opportunities to up sell, once you've sold your faulty batch, you'll need to find buyers elsewhere.

    In order to market something properly, the product or service needs to not suck. Online reviewers will expose you or word of mouth will. Depends on what you think is worth it for a quick buck I guess.
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Originally Posted by princetotem View Post

      Ultimately I think the writer has to determine what he/she is okay with. Can you fall asleep easily at night or does it really bother you?

      If your sales copy is full of lies, the majority of people will be able to see through it. Not to mention, you're only damaging the company/brand and products reliability. No opportunities to up sell, once you've sold your faulty batch, you'll need to find buyers elsewhere.

      In order to market something properly, the product or service needs to not suck. Online reviewers will expose you or word of mouth will. Depends on what you think is worth it for a quick buck I guess.
      Some of the biggest names in IM, have crossed the line, and in spite of how well they slept at night...

      the line is pretty clear. Ask the gurus who have had their homes and cars sold at auction and went bankrupt because they said things which were not only lies, but harmful ones at that.

      If the FTC, FDA or even the USPS catches your less than truthful copy, you'll have time to think about it.

      As for advertising, they (the ones with power) tolerate a certain amount of fluff or puffery or even some hyperbole (hype)... and it is often a judgement call, theirs, not yours.

      Fortunes have been made with the tall tales and walking a fine line between fact and fiction and downright lies...

      BUT, there are many ethical marketers who don't need to stretch the truth, they have products and services which people want and gladly pay for.

      So, to the OP...if what you are offering requires that much help in getting people to buy it, please consider a different product, eh?

      GordonJ
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    Originally Posted by theoperator View Post

    Copywriting is tricky. Because like there's this book called "all marketers are liars". That title is true, at least to some degree.

    Because you're trying essentially exaggerate your product or service in order to sell it. But I find that that exaggeration can so easy kinda go way over the top.

    So I have this great idea. But the copywriting went a bit haywire with it. So I think it would sell, but I feel too guilty to try it as I know some of it is a bit too over the top.

    But what do we do? Like how do we strike a healthy balance? Or should we just suck it up and say whatever you need to to sell something? Cuz I mean at the end of the day, the bottom line is we need to eat right.

    Like even after you create some sales letter, you don't even know if it's gonna sell at all. So how can we make it conservative, when we're just trying to test it? Should we go all out and swing for the fenses to try and give it the best chance to sell? And then maybe later if and when it's selling work on fixing it and sanding down the rough edges?

    what do you think?
    What you write is true, or it ain't... simple as that.

    Well, not really.

    What if your copy presents ALL the benefits of a product but none of the drawbacks (which most copy does),,, is that lying?

    Something to think about.

    Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author DougHughes
    If you have to lie to sell the product it may not be worth selling.
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    I write copy. Learn More.>>

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  • Profile picture of the author dburk
    Hi theoperator,

    Stop reading and listening to scammers and thieves, lying is all they know how to do. Instead look at what the most successful online marketers do.

    Amazon is unquestionable the top website for online sales, do you think that the sales copy on Amazon products are mostly lies?

    Neither do I.

    Amazon is the top dog in this arena for a reason, their sales copy for the most part is accurate, and informative. If anyone has a problem with the products they are given a refund. There is no incentive for hyperbole, and people trust Amazon to delivery exactly what was advertised in their sales copy.

    You don't have to lie, nor exaggerate, to sell products. You do need to be clear, specific, and explain the genuine value of your offer. You also need to have a competitive price and a trustworthy website brand image. The latter is not achieved through hyperbolic sales copy.
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  • I guess we are talkin' about the point at which literary massage becomes more about the masseuse than the knotsa sinew seekin' relief.
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  • Copywriting comes down to story telling.

    You have a headline and sub headline.

    Features and benefits. Summary paragraph for drawing in further attention.

    Bullet points (what you will get/or what you want)

    Guarantees - Call to actions - Post scripts

    You're never really lying if you are still telling some form of truth.

    It happens in this industry, nothing can be done about it and you should be able to gauge how appropriate a product is to your needs by the sales letter alone.

    Yes, all marketers do lie.
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Originally Posted by TheTattooedMarketer View Post


      You're never really lying if you are still telling some form of truth.


      Yes, all marketers do lie.
      I need one of those buttons to call for help, fell down LMAO...and can't get up.

      Some FORM of truth. I had to create a meme for this, attached thumbnail.

      Thanks TattooedRyan, made my day. But, I am a marketer, therefore...

      GordonJ
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  • Profile picture of the author George Schwab
    Cannot remember to ever exaggerate anything. Maybe put some drama inside the story.
    For clarity. Or put a slight twist on a so-called 'fact'. There is however always the
    undisputed dominance of truth.

    Would a story have any appearance of credibility otherwise?

    Of course not.

    Here a clever case of credibility transfer in the form of blame shifting:

    "Nab it here before this offer vanishes like ethics in Washington, D.C..."
    another Ben Settle classic
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  • Profile picture of the author Catherine Bueno
    Hi there,

    Well, that's something that leaves me questioning..... Am I a liar? Are all marketers liars? Maybe. Perhaps. Yes.

    However, I just think that what's important is we make our products great and market it well. In addition, we are not necessarily liars. We seek opinions and experiences from other people, who have personally experience what we try and feel to experience. Thus, WE ARE NOT NECESSARILY LIARS, WE ARE ACTORS AND ACTRESSES.

    It's funny but hey, at least we don't destroy other products' reputation, right?
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  • Interestin' debate so far.

    TRUTH:

    The primary component of Donald Trump's hair is the protein KERATIN.

    COPY:

    America's Golden Opportunity To Blend Power With Pizzazz.

    LIES:

    Smoking Donald Trump's hair will transform you into a sex vampire.
    Signature

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    • Profile picture of the author Bill Jeffels
      If the product you are writing copy for is really that great and it will do what it claims there is no reason to embellish the truth or lie anyway. If the product is subpar you should be asking yourself should I be even be writing copy for this product?

      Some of the bigtime marketers get away with it for years. They'll make millions then get fined a few thousand. Make many more millions and get fined a few thousand and play that game for years while making untrue,false and out and out lies about there products. But some of them it catches up with them...Man promising effortless weight loss sentenced to 20 years in prison


      Bill

      .
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    • Profile picture of the author DABK
      Me at my next Sexaholics Anonymous: "My name is DABK. I am a sex vampire."


      On a serious note now, you don't know it's a lie, you never smoked it and you know no one who did.

      On a semi-serious note: Is "You can save up to $695 a lie" if only 1 in 3 billion actually saves $695 and everyone else save $100? In other words, there's technical truth and practical truth. Shall we indulge in a discussion of them? Because I've seen marketers who are technical-truthers and I hate 'em.

      Another variation: If I promise you I will send you by mail one proven, ancient, amazingly efficient technique for not getting sea-sick and in the mail you get a post card that says: Proven, ancient, amazingly efficient way to not get sea sick: don't get on boats, unless they're on dry land?

      Short version: you don't need lies to deceive. Let's indulge in a conversation of that.

      Then, let's penalize me 50 push-ups for indulging in using the word indulge so much.

      Originally Posted by Princess Balestra View Post

      Interestin' debate so far.

      TRUTH:

      The primary component of Donald Trump's hair is the protein KERATIN.

      COPY:

      America's Golden Opportunity To Blend Power With Pizzazz.

      LIES:

      Smoking Donald Trump's hair will transform you into a sex vampire.
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      • Profile picture of the author jairson99
        Copywriting becomes lying when u promise things in your sale letter that you do not really teach in your actual product. Thats the only way i can see it as lying.
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        • Profile picture of the author HandsomeGenius
          Originally Posted by jairson99 View Post

          Copywriting becomes lying when u promise things in your sale letter that you do not really teach in your actual product. Thats the only way i can see it as lying.
          Some big names in IM have gotten in trouble for setting very unrealistic expectations with regard to results.

          It isn't that they don't teach what they say they will.

          It's that you'd need all the luck in the world to make as much money as they say you could.
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      • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
        Originally Posted by DABK View Post


        Short version: you don't need lies to deceive. Let's indulge in a conversation of that.
        Why?

        How does a conversation on deception without lies advance the knowledge of copywriting for those here for edification and sharing purposes? Now maybe it does. But between lying and Batshit Craziness Bat Signals...

        can we maybe, perhaps have a conversation on writing copy and related items?

        I guess what is hard for ME to understand, is, you guys are WRITERS, and some of this stuff is hard to read.

        Some of the best copy out there, is, and always has been, often simple

        This is the product
        There are the people.
        Make sure they hear you
        when you yell from the steeple.

        Yell the right thing, to the right people at the right time...and you have copy that works.

        GordonJ
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      • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
        Originally Posted by DABK View Post

        On a semi-serious note: Is "You can save up to $695 a lie" if only 1 in 3 billion actually saves $695 and everyone else save $100? In other words, there's technical truth and practical truth. Shall we indulge in a discussion of them?
        I know in retail we're bound by some pretty serious regulations.

        If one of my merchants wants to offer a group of 10 products for sale, one is 50% off and the rest are 20%, we actually CANNOT say "up to 50% off" because there's not ENOUGH items at 50% off to support the claim.

        Though I know IM is certainly a bit less scrupulous.

        Some of us pay attention to these things though
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris-
    I recommend doing what works, rather than what your emotional-reactions tell you to do, or to not do.

    There are huge areas of society today, where blatant lies are accepted as facts by nearly everyone, and where obvious truths are denied and ignored.

    There are also areas where plain honesty obviously works best, for example, when promoting physical-products on Amazon, a really informative product-report, based on real user-reviews, and product facts, will outperform most hype (and is much easier to create). It is unfortunate that Amazon now won't let you do that, but still, my point is somewhat valid

    What will work for an internet-marketing product will be different from what will work for selling a physical-product which has real user-reviews. Hype still certainly works in some areas, but not in others.

    Why not just do what works??? . . . most people are really controlled by their emotional-reactions to things, and so just cannot do what actually works. The tools to take control of such areas of your life are too far off-topic for a forum like this, but I'll just say that it's not impossible, with currently available free information.

    Chris
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  • Cynics could say -

    "The pitch Is always better than the product"

    (just ask your beloved one).

    So… how about...

    The pitch sells boatloads of product and when the good people receive it - lo and behold - they are astonished to discover that the product is even better than the pitch.

    Makes getting the second…third…fourth...(etc) sale a lot easier.


    Steve
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    • Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      "The pitch Is always better than the product"


      Steve
      I figure desire gotta outconsoom evidence.

      It is ungracious, fulla ingratitood, but we all gotta spiral on as bornstuff fluxed into change beyond ourselves.

      Production is mere event, but pitch has cast on the future, wherein lies product of insubstantiated intent.

      Thing is, speculation can never be a lie because it may never be a truth.

      So I guess spinnin' is a hug too close up to keep.

      Gotta turn stuff out or be ossified, I guess.

      Find settlement in the unfoldin' restlessness.
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  • Profile picture of the author George Schwab
    To come back to the original question:

    When is copywriting...lying?

    The only time i react badly opening a few emails is
    when someone insists to steal my time with lines like this:


    NEW SOLO AD TO 86 MILLION DOUBLE OPPT IN EMAILS $7.99

    How to Make $3859 By TONIGHT!!!

    RE: CONTACT 5,500,000 BUYERS EVERY DAY


    hey, we all got impressed by wishful thinking at one time
    and i suppose these guys never stop because it works
    on 14 year olds?

    perhaps
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  • Profile picture of the author SamNuku
    Me personally there is no line. That you tell the truth irrespective.

    If you want to overhype things just to sell it thats on your conscience. I choose not to have that in my life.

    Thats why even with businesses i've been involved with over my life i've never over sold them. Cos i'd rather know i've done the right thing then make money. Thats just me.

    If you feel your product is the best solution for this particular person. Then you do what you do to convince them its for them. Cos at times they may not see it straight up.

    But if it ISN'T then you either need to get another prospect or a different product plain & simple.
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    Papa John's Pizza got into a lawsuit with Pizza Hut once for advertising they had better ingredients when in reality all the major pizza chains are using canned ingredients from a factory.

    Papa John's eventually won the appeal based on the slogan (better ingredients) being their own opinion and shouldn't be taken as a literal fact.
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    • Hellor Yukon,

      Originally Posted by yukon View Post

      Papa John's Pizza got into a lawsuit with Pizza Hut once for advertising they had better ingredients when in reality all the major pizza chains are using canned ingredients from a factory.

      Papa John's eventually won the appeal based on the slogan (better ingredients) being their own opinion and shouldn't be taken as a literal fact.
      Reminds me of Hopkins' Schlitz ad: Our Bottles Are Washed With Live Steam

      Back then all companies washed their bottles with live steam. But Schlitz was the first to state it, to the public, in their advertising.

      Chinchilla
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  • Profile picture of the author james flynn
    Originally Posted by theoperator View Post

    Copywriting is tricky. Because like there's this book called "all marketers are liars". That title is true, at least to some degree.

    Because you're trying essentially exaggerate your product or service in order to sell it. But I find that that exaggeration can so easy kinda go way over the top.

    So I have this great idea. But the copywriting went a bit haywire with it. So I think it would sell, but I feel too guilty to try it as I know some of it is a bit too over the top.

    But what do we do? Like how do we strike a healthy balance? Or should we just suck it up and say whatever you need to to sell something? Cuz I mean at the end of the day, the bottom line is we need to eat right.

    Like even after you create some sales letter, you don't even know if it's gonna sell at all. So how can we make it conservative, when we're just trying to test it? Should we go all out and swing for the fenses to try and give it the best chance to sell? And then maybe later if and when it's selling work on fixing it and sanding down the rough edges?

    what do you think?
    I love that excerpt published in Reader's Digest some years ago about the way the famous copywriter John Caples used to start up his opening sales letter. He listed five points:

    1. They are telegraphic

    2. They are fact packed

    3. Are specific

    4. Uses fewer adjectives

    5. Arouses attention.

    Cheers-James
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  • Profile picture of the author Sapphire Louise
    What do you think? Well... tell the truth. The Brutal truth.
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  • Profile picture of the author George Schwab
    Nobody can take The Brutal truth.

    We all have a selective perception of reality.

    You don't? Tell us more.
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  • Profile picture of the author jeremytimko
    If a writer must resort to 'creativity' when stating the claims of a product or service, the ad is probably not going to test all that well.

    I believe the creativity and power of a product/service lies in the market one is trying to sell to and/or in the product itself, not in the writer/marketer.
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    • Profile picture of the author DABK
      Zima sold a lot of bottles when it first launched. Then people drank the stuff in the bottles and Zima stopped selling.

      Just saying, beautiful lies can test well... sustainability is the issue.

      Originally Posted by jeremytimko View Post

      If a writer must resort to 'creativity' when stating the claims of a product or service, the ad is probably not going to test all that well.

      I believe the creativity and power of a product/service lies in the market one is trying to sell to and/or in the product itself, not in the writer/marketer.
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      • Profile picture of the author jeremytimko
        Originally Posted by DABK View Post

        Zima sold a lot of bottles when it first launched. Then people drank the stuff in the bottles and Zima stopped selling.

        Just saying, beautiful lies can test well... sustainability is the issue.
        It's a good point...similar to the old 'Estee Lauder-sepia' thing where ugly/different stands out. Obviously the comparisons end right there.

        I think I have a picture from high school holding one of those stupid bottles.

        Ahh, the 90's.
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  • Profile picture of the author kk075
    In my humble opinion, copywriting is never lying. It is presenting the facts from a unique viewpoint...which the vast majority may or may not share.

    For instance, I can honestly say that sausage and mushroom pizza is better than any other combination on the planet. To me, that's a full truth while you may disagree 100%. That doesn't make me a liar though, because I'm representing my personal opinion.

    Now, let's get back to copywriting.

    You are hired to represent the client's unique viewpoint, and chances are pretty darn good that you're not going to wholeheartedly agree with it. For instance, does GEICO really save everyone 15% or more on car insurance? Nope; they were about 20% higher than USAA for me. That's why the commercial says, "15 minutes COULD save you 15% or more..." There's no promise there at all, even though the vast majority perceive it that way.

    So this is really a topic about perception.

    Now, if you're one of those sleazy marketers claiming that you're $97 eBook will naturally cure cancer, then yes...you're a liar. Because not even the author believes that. But for everyone else that's representing an actual viewpoint that's based on some facet of perception, it is not a lie...even if it seems that way to you personally.
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    • Profile picture of the author DABK
      Say, I'm a mortgage broker and my copy says I can get you a mortgage at 4% interest rate when the best I can do (anyone in the country can do is $9%). Is that a new perspective or an immense lie?

      If it's a new perspective, come over, I can get you the best mortgage you ever had. Not to mention that I can sell you a coffee-maker that prints 20 $100, real, American bills every time you make a cup of coffee. Yup, I've developed a system for converting used coffee beans into paper and ink, and not just any paper and ink but the kind the US Treasury uses. All you need to invest is $99.99 to own your own, money-printing coffee maker. Order 2 by Wednesday, and the 2nd one's 50% off.

      Just imagine all the things you could do if you could print hundreds and hundreds of bills that even the US treasury can't tell apart from the ones it prints itself!

      Hurry, there are only 17 left and once they're gone, they're gone forever! I ain't making more of them no matter what. Ever.



      Cross my little, truth-telling heart!

      Originally Posted by kk075 View Post

      In my humble opinion, copywriting is never lying. It is presenting the facts from a unique viewpoint...which the vast majority may or may not share.

      For instance, I can honestly say that sausage and mushroom pizza is better than any other combination on the planet. To me, that's a full truth while you may disagree 100%. That doesn't make me a liar though, because I'm representing my personal opinion.

      Now, let's get back to copywriting.

      You are hired to represent the client's unique viewpoint, and chances are pretty darn good that you're not going to wholeheartedly agree with it. For instance, does GEICO really save everyone 15% or more on car insurance? Nope; they were about 20% higher than USAA for me. That's why the commercial says, "15 minutes COULD save you 15% or more..." There's no promise there at all, even though the vast majority perceive it that way.

      So this is really a topic about perception.

      Now, if you're one of those sleazy marketers claiming that you're $97 eBook will naturally cure cancer, then yes...you're a liar. Because not even the author believes that. But for everyone else that's representing an actual viewpoint that's based on some facet of perception, it is not a lie...even if it seems that way to you personally.
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      • Profile picture of the author kk075
        Originally Posted by DABK View Post

        Say, I'm a mortgage broker and my copy says I can get you a mortgage at 4% interest rate when the best I can do (anyone in the country can do is $9%). Is that a new perspective or an immense lie?

        If it's a new perspective, come over, I can get you the best mortgage you ever had. Not to mention that I can sell you a coffee-maker that prints 20 $100, real, American bills every time you make a cup of coffee. Yup, I've developed a system for converting used coffee beans into paper and ink, and not just any paper and ink but the kind the US Treasury uses. All you need to invest is $99.99 to own your own, money-printing coffee maker. Order 2 by Wednesday, and the 2nd one's 50% off.

        Just imagine all the things you could do if you could print hundreds and hundreds of bills that even the US treasury can't tell apart from the ones it prints itself!

        Hurry, there are only 17 left and once they're gone, they're gone forever! I ain't making more of them no matter what. Ever.



        Cross my little, truth-telling heart!
        Like I said with the $97 "Cure Cancer" eBook example, if you're starting with an outright lie then it's definitely a lie. How often would the writer actually know though?

        As you just pointed out, if I was hired to write a campaign for 4% interest rates, chances are pretty good that I personally wouldn't know that the client was full of cow droppings. How would I? It's not like we ask clients for scientific proof before we accept their deposit.

        But if someone was dumb enough to build a campaign around something they definitely couldn't deliver, then they honestly deserve what's coming to them. And if the writer knows that it's an outright scam, then all I can say is that I hope there's a special place in hell for them to keep warm at night.
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        • Profile picture of the author George Schwab
          Originally Posted by kk075 View Post

          And if the writer knows that it's an outright scam, then all I can say is that I hope there's a special place in hell for them to keep warm at night.
          Yah, because: supporting scams is like supporting willful lies, and liars like it hot,
          but will not find any rest at night.

          someone said:

          "Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but,
          in the end, there it is"
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  • Profile picture of the author theoperator
    Animals use all kinds of tricks to survive (keep from being eaten) and or catch pray.
    Big brother uses every trick they can think of to steal your money
    Big corp use every trick they can think of to get you to buy things and become some kind of debt slave

    So everyone and anyone out there you can possibly look at is using some method or strategy to survive, but yet as copywriters we're not suppose to push the envelope. And doing so will cause the end of all humanity as we know it. Like there's such a huge disconnect. I mean what, we're not allowed to eat? Like come on. Nobody's gonna buy something that isn't looking as if it's the best invention since sliced bread. That it's gonna utterly change their whole life and entire future once they buy it. Like who's gonna buy something that's just sounding average. And I'm not saying lie. Not at all. But I'm saying it tends to feel like we get treated extremely unfairly for trying to eat. Like if that if that's the case I'll just starve to death and get it the frack over with! No, I just think we're not outside our boundries to try and put our best foot forward as long as it's within reason. I mean we gotta eat too right.
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  • Profile picture of the author theoperator
    But here's the thing, by default as an internet marketer, under the description in the National Career Types Directory you'll read "con artist". That's what you're branded as. You're a schemer or con artist...why? Only because you've broken free from the nazi control grid and figured out a way to make money on auto pilot, even off gird. tptb hate anyone who can break from from the slave catagory. That's my take.
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  • Profile picture of the author richieledge
    There's a thing called perception. If something is perceived to be an amazing deal and fair by a prospect then they will swear blind there is nothing wrong but...

    A professional writer will look at the same copy and see it for what it might be. Just a way to get you to buy the service/product.

    At the end of the day, we are all salesmen in one degree or another, where we are selling our self as a respectable freelancer on Upwork, an awesome boyfriend/girlfriend who will provide for you or weather we are going to a job interview.

    Enjoy.
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  • Profile picture of the author desireedavid
    I think playing for truth is the way to go. It is okay to oversell, if the product or service is really good. However, if it isn't as good as I think it is, then I just lay down all its features and try to make it sound good. It's still true and no other features were added except the ones that are actually in it. Then let your readers decide...
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    “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein
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  • Profile picture of the author Digitallabz
    I don't consider copywriting as lying it is more about branding. Our jobs as marketers is not to lie but help differentiate and call attention to our product through creativity, entertainment, or providing more knowledge about the solution. Consumers are more cynical about hyped copywriting.
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  • Profile picture of the author Winnipegtech
    When is copywriting...lying? I think when you are selling products and services it is illegal to lie. "Federal Trade Commission enforces these truth-in-advertising laws, and it applies the same standards no matter where an ad appears – in newspapers and magazines, ONLINE." Under the law, deception by implication is illegal, too.

    Ads that look like news article needs to be labeled as sponsored content/advertorial. Even network marketers who often share the 'highlights' of their business opportunities such as being able to pay off credit card debts, student loans, are required to add even on their online posts that "this opportunity does not guarantee any income or level of success, and income depends on the person's own efforts, diligence, and skill.

    I think most of the copywriting lying stuff is done in the political arena. There is no one shutting down sites that write about exaggerations and lies. Misleading people with hyped up news seems to be legal when it's political.
    So be a political campaign copywriter when you don't have problems with lying.
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