Pet Peeve: The Forbes.com Interstitial

Kvetching about the petty annoyances of modern life is a tradition at The Hired Pens. With that in mind, let’s shine the spotlight on the website of the global media brand Forbes. Suppose you’re starting a business and need to write a business plan. You Google “how to write a business plan” and review the […]

How to Handle Prospects Who Have No Respect for Your Work

After 15 years in business, Dan and I have gotten pretty good at screening for clients who don’t seem like a good fit. Sometimes it’s a personality or subject-matter mismatch, but more often it’s because they have an unrealistic idea of budget. When there’s a financial disconnect, we respectfully explain why we can’t write their […]

Dear Ford Motor Company: Please Stop Advertising Your ‘Ford Freedom Sales Event’

I’ve written before about the downside of my love for listening to Red Sox games on the radio: the dreaded overplayed ad. Every year, there’s an ad or two that emerges as an unavoidable irritation. The problem could be a failed attempt at humor, an overly enthusiastic spokesperson or an obnoxious jingle. Whatever the case, […]

Tackiness, Thy Name Is Peyton Manning

Urban Dictionary defines a corporate shill as “A person engaged in covert advertising. The shill attempts to spread buzz by personally endorsing the product in public forums with the pretense of sincerity, when in fact he is being paid for his services.” Well said, Urban Dictionary. Now is it possible to add a photo of […]

The Grumpy Old Copywriter: Let’s Cut Back on All This ‘Curated’ Nonsense

Back in the day — dare I say, the good old days — only two things were curated: museum exhibits and ham. Oh, how times have changed. One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting with my family around the dinner table, as Dad carved away and placed a generous serving of curated ham on […]

My Grudging Admiration for Geico’s Advertising

As a consumer who is also a marketer by profession, a brand’s advertising can sometimes inspire conflicting emotions in me. Case in point: Geico. In my day-to-day life, I’m assaulted by Geico’s advertising ad nauseam. “Fifteen minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance,” my TV, radio, phone and laptop remind me […]

How Graphic Designers Make Life Hell for Copywriters, and Vice Versa

The relationship between a copywriter and graphic designer can be a beautiful, harmonious thing — or it can be a disaster because each does things that drive the other one nuts. I’ll start with my perspective as a copywriter who has worked with dozens of designers over the past 20 years. Here’s one that kills […]

Kindle: The Love of Reading (Alone in Your Depressing Kitchen)

Look at this ad. Which reaction feels more like the one you’re having — be honest. Don’t think too hard. A.   Oh, look at that happy little girl reading! How cute! B.    Dear God, what is our world coming to? Here’s what I suspect: If you picked “A,” you’re 30 or younger. If you picked […]

A PowerPoint … About Why PowerPoints Are So Bad

This PowerPoint presentation really speaks for itself. And that is EXACTLY what you don’t want to do if you’re trying to engage with your audience in any meaningful way. The slideshow was directed at professors, but anyone can benefit. Well, anyone who uses PPT. My favorite tip: If your audience can understand everything they need […]

C’mon, Evil Phishing Guy, You’re Better Than This!

I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t blogged for about four months. I’d like to claim I have a good excuse, like I was writing wildly successful emails for the Obama campaign or fomenting revolution somewhere in South America (does anyone ever foment anything but revolution?). Sadly, those would be lies. I was just lazy. But […]