Opportunity Missed

The cover story in the current Business Week contains a powerful photograph of a man in New York’s Times Square. I don’t know him or anything about his situation, and hope he finds a job soon. But I can’t help but lament the opportunity he may have missed.

Within that missed opportunity is a copywriting lesson for all advertisers.


In case the text is too small to read, here’s what the sign said:

Almost Homeless

Looking for Employment

Very Experienced Operations
Administration Manager

Desperately seeking full time
with insurance benefits
for self and family
Disabled wife on 15 medications

Request a copy of my resume!

Any kind of help would be greatly appreciated

That sign was seen by hundreds, if not thousands, of people walking by as he stood on the street. This week, it will be seen by hundreds of thousands of business people who read the magazine. Some of those people might be in a position to hire him.

If only the sign had given those hiring managers a reason to interview him, and a way to get in touch.

The man has something of value to sell — his time and labor. He’s the advertiser, his sign is his advertising medium, and hiring managers are his prospects. Unfortunately, the copy is all about him, and not about his prospects.

That same sign could have contained some basic information about his experience and skills. It could have talked about the value he could deliver, and the problems he could solve, for a potential employer. It could have contained a phone number or email address — that contact information would now be in the hands of every Business Week reader.

I don’t mean to make light of his situation — I feel awful for him and his family, and sincerely hope that as I write this post, he’s getting ready for his first day at a new job.

Copywriting guru Dan O’Day puts it this way: “Don’t tell me about your grass seed. Tell me about my lawn.”

Your odds of success will increase when you make the message about your prospect, not about you.


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