One of the most respected copywriters of the past 40 years, Gary Bencivenga, was part-owner of a New York advertising agency in the 1970s.
When the firm opened its doors for business it took out an ad, made a bold claim, and put its money where its mouth was:
Announcing an ad agency that guarantees to beat your best ad by at least 10%, or you pay us nothing.
You test us. If we don’t win, not only won’t you have to pay us anything, we will pay for whatever you spent to run the test. In other words, if you take out an ad in The Wall Street Journal and spend $10,000 on our half of the test — and our half loses — we’ll give you $10,000.
Why would a fledgling agency risk everything on its first throw of the dice? The owners had a secret weapon.
Everyone Took Their Best Shot
The weapon was The CRIT System, which was short for “critique.” In the CRIT system, writers distributed their copy to everyone working in the ad agency — the receptionist, the account executives, the art director — anyone who could be persuaded to read it.
“Everybody would rip the ads apart. ‘You’re not convincing me here.’ ‘I don’t believe this for a second.’ ‘This offer makes no sense,’ and so forth,” Bencivenga says.
All mistakes were noted: grammar, spelling, weak transitions, lack of subheads, or anything that caused the reader to stop wanting to read.
CRIT didn’t produce fast copy, because the process used more draft versions than usual. But CRIT did produce fantastic copy, Bencivenga says.
Your CRIT Crew
CRIT can be used for pieces of all sizes: landing pages, display ads, radio spots, even Twitter and LinkedIn bios.
It’s easy to set up your own CRIT system. Your goal is to convince up to 10 people to read your sales copy and tell you everything that’s wrong with it. Your CRIT crew could include:
• Your significant other
• Your kids
• Your next-door neighbor
• Friends on Facebook
• Former co-workers
Better yet, organize a group of solopreneurs who agree to critique each other’s copywriting.
If you want more than one round of edits, split your critics into first-draft and second-draft groups. Finally, don’t forget to read your copy aloud before declaring it ready for publication.