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Monday, 30 January 2012

Good Copywriting Books

Below you'll find a selection of sixteen books on copywriting and direct marketing writing that have proven useful to me over the years.  Some of them are standards for the advertising industry, others are more obscure. I'll be up front from the word go; most of these books were written by American authors and there is a fair amount of cheese to be found within the pages.  Copywriters targeting other audiences should be mindful that whereas basic human nature is pretty much the same wherever you go in the world, cultural differences are vast, even within the English speaking world.  American style advertising methods simply  can't be imported verbatim into the UK market, for instance, and expect not to be laughed at.

This being said, there is a lot that direct marketing writers can learn from the experience of the American market.  After all, they are the ones who bought to birth and shaped the modern culture of advertising within which we all live and move, like it or not.

I have selected these books from among the dozens of pulp marketing publications I've read as those which contain, genuinely useful writing advise and intersting psychological insights that will help you in your direct marketing.

Don't be put off by the age of some of these works.  The principles of direct marketing haven't changed too much since the seventies, even if the technologies and means of applying those principles have changed drastically.

I recommend all of the books below, but these are my favourites:

  1. On Writing by Stephen King:  An accessible and honest publication from the master of psychological thrillers.
  2. A Technique For producing Ideas, by James Young:  Towards a science of brainstorming...
  3. How To Write A Good Advertisement, by Victor Schwab:  Read this before spending a fortune on an online copywriting course!
  4. Writing for Emotional Impact, by Karl Iglesias :  As a professional fundraiser, this book has been of incalculable value.
  5. The Elements of Copywriting,, by Gary Blake and Robert Bly:  A comprehensive 101 of direct marketing method aimed at beginners.

The complete list of books found below are all currently available either new or second hand on Amazon.  I've included links on each of the images for people who wanted to find out more about the titles.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Creating Good HTML Emails

HTML emails are preferable to standard emails for many reasons, not least because they have more visual appeal than plain text; having the appearance of web pages. An HTML email is an overall better experience for the receiver and also allows you – the sender to track metrics like open rate and forwarding rate.   HTML emails are becoming a mainstay of marketing, and allow you to reach out more effectively to your clients and readers.

Using HTML makes an email more concise, attractive and readable, but if your HTML coding is not done well, your email will be messy, to say the least.   It will either not work properly or will be rejected by various email clients. This has the potential to backfire and give a very bad impression to email recipients you are hoping to impress!  You therefore need to focus on common areas of concern, such as coding, included images, message width and file size. Here are a few tips that will help you to code better HTML emails:

1. Do it Yourself:
In order to keep your HTML emails clean, always code it manually. HTML design programs, such as Microsoft FrontPage, are not set up for the creation of HTML emails. If you use this kind of software, you will get a different layout from what you expected, as redundant coding will be added. If you do choose to use an HTML editing program, make sure you double check it afterwards to remove unnecessary coding manually.

2. Use tables but avoid “over-nested” tables: 
Tables are the most useful way of generating layout for HTML emails, but be careful not to “over-nest” your tables.  Some email clients such as Lotus Notes and Netscape Messenger stop rendering emails altogether if they contain too many  nested tables or more.

3. Never use images to convey essential information: 
Don’t rely on images to convey essential information in your emails.  The simple reason for this is that most popular email clients  such as  Yahoo! Mail, Gmail,  and Hotmail turn off images by default. The user has to open the image by clicking on it. In the meantime your carefully coded email looks like nothing more than a mess of blank spaces and red crosses.

This can be partially remedied by assigning “Alt tags” to all your images, but in my opinion it doesn’t compensate for the bad impression caused by missing images in your HTML email.  Also, Hotmail, Ms Outlook 2007 and Apple Mail do not support Alt tags when the image is blocked, so you’re back to square one.

If you do need to use images, be sure to use gifs or jpegs. PNG image files are not supported by some of the major email clients.  It is best not to take the risk.

4. Host the images on your website instead:
Of course, you don’t actually have to embed images in your HTML email in order for your recipient to see them.  You could always host it on your website instead.  This will reduce the size of your email as well as avoiding image blocking.  Just make sure all paths point to the full URLof the image eg

5. Provide a link: 
Always provide an easily visible link to your website within your HTML emails, as well as clear links to other information you want your recipient to view.  This way, if for whatever reason your email does not display properly, then your recipient still has an easy means to access the information directly through your site.

6. Use video in email: 
HTML 5 opens up new opportunities to use video directly within HTML emails, although not all email clients support this yet.  If in doubt, leave it out.  You can always link through to a video hosted on your own site or a website like Youtube.  When using earlier versions of HTML or XHTML in HTML emails, bear in mind that javascript and the <object> tag will not work in emails.  You will instead have to emulate a video through use of animated gif files.

7. Email on the move: 
 Keep your HTML email mobile friendly.  More and more people access the web and check emails on iphones, Blackberries or other smartphones.  These accessories have smaller viewing ports than laptops and desktop PCs.  iPhone has a viewing area of 320px; most Blackberry models have an area of 360 px or less.    With this in mind keep the width of your HTML email below 600px, so that recipients viewing over their mobile device will not be impaired.

8. Test it!: 
Just as you would with a web page, test your HTML thoroughly using a variety of web browsers, email clients and screen resolutions.  You should consider viewing the email on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Apple Safari and Google Chrome. If possible you should also test using email accounts hosted at Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Windows Live, Outlook 2007, Outlook 2003, Mac Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird.

Web development and direct marketing services
Monday, 23 January 2012


With all this "end of world 2012" hype going on out there its good to know there is an elite security force that has been fighting your corner in deep space since 1979, making sure no nasty asteroids even get near our beloved blue/green motherland.

Now you can join them, again.  Yes, friends, you now have the chance to play online the mother of all Space Shoot-em-up computer games.  Before there was Space Invaders, there was Asteroids, an intergalactic hit for Atari in arcades and shopping precincts across the globe. Enjoy :-)

Controls:  Arrow keys to move; space bar to fire.  No graphics card required.

Arcade Games

Great UK Charities

As every new day goes passing by I get more and more entrenched in the Twenty First Century.  Who'd have thought? :-)

Today I set up my first "stack" on Delicious and wanted to use it to tell whoever is interested about some great charities at work.

Its not a great world out there for everyone right now and the men and women who give up time and money to support these causes are truly remarkable.

This is a very personal list, but these are all good causes and; importantly, they depend on public support in order to make a difference.

View "Great UK Charities here


Creative Whisky Company Website

Time to play catchup with regards to posting on this blog.  My apologies to anyone who's stumbled across this page and seen nothing but tumble weed!

It was a pleasure just before Christmas to be asked to design the new website for the Creative Whisky Company. Anyone who knows me will understand that this was a special project for me.  I am an unashamed malt-head or whisky drinker.  You can see my musings on the drink of the gods here, at

The Creative Whisky Company are an independent bottling company that have been going for around seven years.  Most whisky you buy in supermarkets or online is bottled directly by the distilleries themselves, or, more often, by the large international consortia that own them. Independent bottlers buy single casks of whisky of a particular vintage from a distillery - e.g. a cask of Glenfiddich whisky from 1991 -  and then add their own touch.    This often involves "finishing" or maturing the whisky for a few months in another cask previously used to store as type of sherry, port or even another style of whisky.  New casks made of different woods, such as European oak or American oak, are also used to great effect  This finishing process adds new levels of flavour and complexity to the final product.  The resulting whiskies are truly unique drinks and are one of a kind affairs, usually limited to under 400 bottles per run.

Below you'll see a few screen shots from the finished website. If you're interested in the Creative Whisky Company's range, feel free to have a look around.  A whole new world awaits you!

Creative Whisky Company | Home page

Creative Whisky Company | Whisky range

Creative Whisky Company | The motley crew

Creative Whisky Company | About page

About Me

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David J Wingfield
I am a thirtysomething year old Englishman from Kent currently living in exile in Nottinghamshire.  I'm something of an armchair traditionalist and enjoy the simple pleasures in life: the English countryside, home cooked food, real ale, malt whisky and time with the family.

I'm an obsessive writer, brewer, actor and history buff ; and usually have an opinion on most things.
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