So you’re nine. So what? That’s no excuse for ineffective signage.

Dear Emma/Madison/Hannah/Olivia,

Wow! You found a kitten. That must have been fun and surprising, but also a little sad. Where is that kitty’s mommy? I’ll bet you wondered … and then wondered if you could be the mommy. Could you?!!!! Could you?!!!!!

But, no. Your mom/dad/grandma/nanny is allergic. So, the answer is no. No, Emma/Madison/Hannah/Olivia, the answer is not going to change no matter how many times you ask. Even if you give them that look. They mean it.

So you reluctantly made this sign. And you photocopied it. A lot of times. I know because I live in your neighborhood and keep walking by it.

It makes me sad that this kitty is lost and that you can’t keep it. But you know what makes me sadder, Emma/Madison/Hannah/Olivia? No one in your family had the copywriting wherewithal to help you create effective signage.

First, let’s talk about the image.

The right image does add impact; you’re right on that. And you clearly have some creative talent, but I can’t tell from this picture what kind of cat it is. Does it have stripes or spots? What color are its eyes? Does it have a collar? Is it very furry or is it one of those yucky hairless cats? These would be helpful details.

Now, moving onto the copy.

Emma/Madison/Hannah/Olivia, I’m afraid I’m going to have to come down on you pretty hard here. I appreciate that your message is concise and includes a strong call to action. However, there are some critical pieces of missing information that, as a potential kitten rescuer, I need to make a decision:

  • Where was the kitten spotted? Saying “this neighborhood” is too broad for your intended audience. Offering an intersection or even “near Hi-Rise bakery” would be helpful. Being specific = being a responsible copywriter.
  • What does this kitten look like? I highly recommend adding descriptive detail to your message. For example, if I don’t know what the kitten looks like, I might wrongly assume every kitten I see is the lost kitten.
  • When did you find it? It would be helpful to have a date. That way if my kitten disappeared Saturday, July 3, and matched the description (which should be on the sign), I would know to call you.

In closing, I hope your parents change their minds (did you already suggest they get allergy medication?) or at least let you get a non-allergenic pet to love. You have certainly proved you are a responsible child, even if your copywriting skills leave a bit to be desired.


Anna Goldsmith

Concerned Huron Village Resident, Copywriter

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7 replies
  1. B. Moss says:

    This is way overdone. Step back and listen to yourself, Anna. Are you aware how you sound?

  2. CopywriterJess says:

    Ha! Love it!

    (B. Moss, I took this as a slightly tongue-in-cheek post. I think she sounds funny – and has some good points.)

    Glad I found this blog. Good stuff.

  3. Anna Goldsmith says:

    Indeed, Copywriter Jess, you are correct: It was meant to be tongue and cheek. But yeah, if you don’t catch that I probably do sound like a big jerk coming down so hard on a third grader … not that that little punk doesn’t deserve it.

  4. Britt Carlson Emerton says:

    This was just what I needed to break up the tedium of analyzing brain images this afternoon. Thanks for the diversion!

  5. Michael Blumfield says:

    As much as I support ridiculing bad copy, I actually think the original copy serves its purpose better than all the proposed revisions. Here’s why: Suppose it wasn’t a kitten that was lost but a wad of cash. Would you want the poster to say, “Found: $50. Two 20s, a 5, and 5 ones. Recovered 3:10 p.m., August 3, at corner of Main and Maple.” About 40 people would call you up right away and explain how the money was theirs, detailing their walk down Main and how they happened to drop the cash. 

    Now imagine that the kitty-finder doesn’t want to just give the kitten to anyone who comes by. Suppose she’s worried that a mean copywriter would claim it’s her kitten, just because she’s looking for something to throw against the wall whenever she’s got writer’s block. Would Emma/Madison/Hannah/Olivia hand over the kitty to said copywriter? Wouldn’t she want some sort of proof that indeed, the snarling copywriter, who’s saying, “Gimme the damned kitty, kid!” is the owner? Maybe the copywriter could … supply the details herself as to what her kitty looks like, where she lost it and when? 

    The need for specificity on the poster’s part only makes sense if dozens of people — all of whom are totally trustworthy — lost kittens in that neighborhood recently and E/M/H/O doesn’t want to have to wade through all the callers who think it might be their kitten. Not a likely scenario. More likely, at most two or three people lost a kitten in the neighborhood. Handling their calls is not much of a burden.

    All of this goes to the larger point: If your strategy is off, your copy will be off, too, no matter how detailed and specific you make it.

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  1. […] ’08 and worked on some terrific projects, but I knew I’d found a real home when I read this post from Anna tearing into a nine-year-old girl for her shamefully inadequate “Missing Cat” […]

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