Opinion: The time to rhyme

20th February, 2016

Everyone has their pet peeves, and being a copywriter in a Leeds-based marketing agency, mine is hearing or reading excessive rhyming in advertising.

Just hear me out.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been some famous examples of where a rhyme has worked brilliantly. For example, we all know that Beans Mean Heinz and A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play.

But the beauty of these rhymes relies on where they are placed: the strapline, the final sign-off message you are leaving your audience, the one piece of brand information you want them to remember to achieve brand response.

Using rhymes as a memory tool – a mnemonic – is an age-old tradition and proven method to help assist the recall of an insipid or heavy piece of information. So when selling a new brand of dishcloth (yawn) or insurance policy with a myriad of clauses (double-yawn and head-scratching) they should be a copywriter’s dream, right? Well, not necessarily.

As with all things in advertising, less is (usually) more. For it to truly make an impact, rhyming needs to be used sparingly. The worst offenders are the TV ads that use rhyming and song copy throughout their precious 30 seconds of airtime.

And I’ll tell you why – clarity of message. Brevity and simplicity always triumph – a reason why direct marketing is still so successful. If your message has to make the audience work for it to be understood, you’ve failed. If they have to sort through chaff to find the wheat, you’ve failed.

For me, excess rhyming is the chaff. For the audience listening, they get stuck in the rhyming rhythm so that none of the words have standout. For the copywriter, you’re wasting precious words on finding ones that rhyme, over ones that will have the most resonance and achieve customer engagement.

Take the relatively recent Hive Active Heating TV ad and you’ll hopefully see what I mean:

No. Bad copywriter. Sit on the naughty-step and think about what you’ve done. Actually, they probably did because their latest ad shows signs of improvement:

There are still issues, but at least the rhymes have some resonance because they actually relate to the product benefits, and not just noise the average audience is just going to block out.

This brings me to what inspired this blog in the first place – the new and absolutely genius St. John’s Ambulance baby CPR ad.

Being wall-to-wall rhyme and song, it should drive me potty. But it brilliantly and hilariously underpins everything laborious about painful rhymes, and manages to make its message memorable too. Kudos!

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