Tag Archives: swipe file


Sio’s copywriting swipe file #4: Apartment Therapy

Typically, 404 pages fill me with rage and leave me fiddling furiously with the URL until I figure out where some over-worked marketing assistant has forgotten to put a hyphen or backslash. But a nice error message like this one tends to soothe me a tad:

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This one isn’t as much about the copy as it is about the overall concept. It comes courtesy of Apartment Therapy, a ridiculously popular home interiors blog I read sometimes, and the ‘we missed a spot’ idea is cute given the theme. But I really like the consolation links they’ve provided, offering suggestions for finding other lost things, like missing pets and a silent phone. It’s funny, it helps revive old posts (one of them contains a few affiliate links so the extra clicks won’t hurt) and it makes you think they really do feel pretty crap about sending you on a wild goose chase.

Why every brand doesn’t bother crafting a bespoke 404 page I’ll never know. This article gives an interesting little summary of the anatomy of a 404 page, along with some super clever pages like this one from, of course, Virgin Holidays.

And of course if you’re curious, you can go hunting for Bloodybigspider’s 404 page. See you there!

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Sio’s copywriting swipe file #3: Irvin funfairs

Oh hi, readers! Please come and take a stroll with me through my copywriting swipe file on this lovely spring day. Don’t worry if you’re up to your ears in your Wednesday workload, because this is the shortest bit of copy in my folder and we’ll be finished in, oh let’s say four minutes.

A few years ago, the nice people of Irvin Leisure Funfairs (perhaps George Irvin himself!) followed me on Twitter, for reasons I can only imagine. Well, I’m glad they did because their bio became the first entry in my swipe file:

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Isn’t it nice? Their opening line really got my attention: ‘London’s best family funfair with five generations of experience’. Way to squeeze your location, target audience and USP into nine words! I think it’s pretty impressive to be able to say you’ve been running funfairs for five generations; I checked their website and the Irvins have actually been in the ‘travelling amusement’ industry since the mid-1800s, so you probably won’t find many families still in the game who have more expertise than these guys. I also love that family angle, as it suggests this isn’t just a business, it’s something they really care about. Can’t you just picture them sitting in their back garden with G&Ts talking tin can alleys and tea cup rides?

If it were up to me, I’d be more specific about Irvin Leisure’s 19th-century beginnings in that bio – something like London’s best family funfair with five generations and 165 years of experience – because you can’t buy heritage like that. I mean, this is just adorable: ‘After a life of travel and adventure he returned to his native county and married a local girl, then opened a dancing booth at travelling fairs, in which he played the fiddle.’ If I’m looking for a family funfair in London, I’m definitely going to opt for the one that started as a fiddler in a Victorian dancing booth. So the moral of the story is SHOUT about your USP and heritage if you’ve got them, not just in long-form web copy but anywhere you can. Your Twitter bio might be the first thing prospects read about you, so tell them why they should keep reading.

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Sio’s copywriting swipe file #2

Good Tuesday to you, friends. Welcome to the very, very belated second edition of my one-woman blog series, where I grab something nice out of my copywriting swipe file and show you how wonderful it is.

Today: Thai restaurant Bol.an in Bangkok.

Steve and I went to Thailand for New Year, and it was very nice apart from Steve’s allergic reaction after accidentally eating nuts and being confined to bed for basically the whole day. That wasn’t Bo.lan’s fault, though; in fact, we didn’t even go to Bo.lan so it would be very unfair to blame them. The nut thing is irrelevant actually, I was just setting the scene.

Bo.lan is a restaurant that I thought about booking for dinner before we flew to Thailand. In the end, for whatever reason, I didn’t, but I came across this online flyer for a food and beer pairing event there and I pretty much fell in love. It’s not at all in keeping with the restaurant’s overall tone of voice (not judging by the website copy anyway) so I assume it was written by Beervana, the beer people.

Now, I’m not saying this sort of ‘fuck you’ attitude is always the right approach to copywriting. Actually, it’s almost never, ever the right approach if you want to sell stuff and have people like you. But in this case, it is good. So. damn. good.

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Doesn’t it make you really, really want to go to this event? I imagine Marilyn Manson would be manning the cloakroom, Metallica showing you to your table and Ozzy Osbourne directing your attention to the specials board, which would just say ‘you’ll eat what you’re fucking given’. Plus everything would be so spicy you couldn’t even touch it with your tongue, and all the beer would have dead beetles floating on the top.

I WANT TO GO NOW and I don’t even like beer. Or beetles.

This is a classic example of ‘don’t be rude to your customers unless you know they love it’, sort of like Kathryn in Cruel Intentions and Rizzo in Grease.

PS: I was originally listening to some soothing rain sounds while writing this but obviously had to switch over to Black Sabbath because that’s what the devil holding the chilli and the pint would want.

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Sio’s copy swipe file #1: Move your frame

When I worked as a journalist, we had a weekly ‘conference’ on Monday mornings. We were all assigned a few magazines or newspapers each, and over the weekend (when I was desperately trying to do anything BUT think about my day job), we had to read through them and cut out anything that might inspire a feature or interview for our own publication.

We’d have chats like, ‘Everyone’s really into Cougar Town right now – can we get an interview with the main guy – Josh Hopkins?’ (If you haven’t heard of Josh, look him up – he’s a catch. I’m pleased to say that this particular interview was assigned to me and I got to hang out in a hotel room with him for 20 minutes.)

Similarly, when I went freelance I discovered that folks in the copywriting biz often kept ‘swipe files’, where they’d swipe stuff they liked in order to use as inspiration later.

I thought I’d let you lovely people take a peek inside my swipe file – a fairly boring red four-ring binder – and show you some of the awesome copy I keep on my desk for reference.

 So, let me present exhibit one: London gym Move Your Frame. 

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Move Your Frame is my favourite gym; I go all the time.

Ok, I’ve been twice. Fine, I walked past once and thought about signing… ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, I’ve never been near it because I hate gyms. I DON’T GO TO THE GYM, ever. I much prefer to work out to an exercise DVD once a month in my pyjamas while eating a Wispa and wondering why I’ve put on 2lbs since Friday.

But if I did go the gym, I’d most definitely be lacing up my snazzy pink Nikes and hot tailing it over to Move Your Frame in Shoreditch. I mean, who wouldn’t want to sign up for classes called Rocket Yoga, Jane Fonda Tribute, Quickie Butts and Rihanna Vs Beyonce?

The website copy (and I presume it extends to all their comms) is super bold, female focused and in your face – a tone that sits nicely alongside photos of women’s arses in ’80s hotpants.

Though I’m very much not a gym bunny, Frame’s copy really speaks to me because they’re predominantly talking to busy, working women who want to look hot but don’t really have the time. This is particularly excellent:

Whether it’s toning, strength or de-stressing you’re after, Frame’s quickies will achieve an ROI even your boss would be happy with.

Those 30 minute ‘quickies’, by the way, are aimed at gals who can’t slip out for a long lunch whenever they fancy but still need to get their fitness fix, and the overall tone and approach is bang on for that audience. We multitasking, professional ladies are too busy being brilliant to have time for subtlety and reading between the lines – cut to the chase! Tell us what ya got! So Move Your Frame’s direct, economical headlines and calls to action, like ‘Be our friend, we’re awesome’ and ‘Want in?’ make me, for one, very happy.

Back to the swipe file, here’s the particular bit of copy I liked enough to print it out and slip it into a plastic pouch. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best name for an aerobics class ever:



So, you used to play with Barbie when you were little, but thought nothing of her incredible physique and too-good-to-be-true flexibility? Well, now you’re old enough to appreciate these things, why not try to rediscover some of the flexibility that you had as a kid? Whether you want to do the splits or just become more supple and manage to touch your toes, this class is suitable for everyone. Focusing on: shoulders, spine, hamstrings, hip flexors, splits, straddle, butt and even your feet.