Since the 1920’s, movies have inspired us and elicited the most powerful emotions in the human gamut of experience. They have horrified us; made us weep; overjoyed us, and allowed us to escape from the humdrum of everyday life. Movies, like any other art form, are subjective to the viewer and can be interpreted in any number of ways. Writing is much the same way. The truth of the matter, though, is that both art forms are eerily similar in how they evoke emotion and thought in the audience. Copywriting needs to follow this same form, except rather than a fictional movie or the great novels of the past, it needs to inform and persuade.
Yet, inspiration and comparisons can be drawn from books that have been adapted for the film format. An increasingly popular way of bringing literature to a mass audience, the two most recent quality examples of this specialized fusion of styles is The Hobbit and The Hunger Games. Both of these adaptations hail from franchises that are beloved all over the world, bringing in millions of dollars in worldwide ticket sales and enjoying massive popularity. With the latest trailers for the third Hobbit movie, “The Battle of Five Armies,” and the next installment of The Hunger Games, “Mockingjay pt. 1,” generating millions upon millions of views on YouTube, it is clear that these holiday blockbusters are shooting for the big ones.
Trailers are an excellent form of marketing, especially in the age of Internet news and entertainment (check out the YouTube leaderboards to see more awesome trailers that are huge hits), but this article is going to go over about the specific inspirations our writers can claim from different quotes in the previous two films from both franchises and how they are relevant to copywriting.
The Hobbit and Copywriting
One of the earliest exchanges between Gandalf, the moral center of The Hobbit and The Lord of Rings, and Bilbo, the film’s protagonist, is not only one of the most hilarious but also one of the best things to remember about copywriting.
The Wisdom of Gandalf
-Bilbo: Good morning.
-Gandalf: What do you mean? Do you mean to wish me a good morning or do you mean it is a good morning whether I want it or not? Or perhaps you mean to say that you feel good on this particular morning. Or are you simply stating this is a morning to be good on?
-Bilbo: All of them at once, I suppose.
This exchange is really quite poignant. It should remind every writer out there that the real gift with the word is to say something familiar in an unfamiliar way. Text can mean more than one thing and this is something that should be kept in mind. Whether it is a detriment or a helpful asset is entirely up to the individual.
Gandalf continues to provide wise advice to our copywriters in the most memorable line of “An Unexpected Journey” when he is talking to Bilbo outside of the troll cave after he has been given Sting, his trademark blue-glowing sword.
Gandalf: […] true courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.
This line rings remarkably throughout the world of Middle-Earth and sets the foundation for the pivotal riddle game against Gollum later in the film as well as the ultimate victory over Sauron at the end of The Lord of the Rings. But it is also quite palpable to many writers, as well. Over time, a writer can become too comfortable with the same routine day in and day out until it gets to the point that their quality begins to degrade and they can no longer keep contracts. This line is good for the writer in that it reminds them to take the chance and do something different, to break the traditional mold and take the calculated risk. Don’t just hack off an idea just because it looks weird. Stirring the pot is essential to a successful writing career. So do it every so often. You just might enjoy it.
The Terror of Smaug
The second Hobbit film, in contrast to the first, is far more action-oriented. With character development finished, it is time to throw them into a dangerous situation and see how it turns out. In the case of “The Desolation of Smaug,” it is Bilbo’s first encounter with the eponymous dragon in the great treasure horde of Erebor. Their exchange is packed with clever lines that test Bilbo’s ingenuity against a monstrous threat. Pieces of their word game can be taken to heart by copywriters as well. Take this set of lines, for example.
Bilbo: I am he who walks unseen.
Smaug: Impressive titles. What else do you claim to be?
Bilbo: Luck-Wearer. Ring-Winner.
Smaug: Lovely titles…
Smaug: Barrels! Now that is interesting!
This exchange should remind any writer of the power of titles. They can make or break a piece before a reader can even get to the content. The more intriguing a title is the better off your piece will be. This is even more important in the formation of meta titles, which is how people will see what the article is about and decide if they want to click it or not. Never ever underestimate the power of the headline.
But headlines alone are not enough. The content beyond carries equally as much weight. Never is this made clearer than in this exchange, again between Bilbo and Smaug.
Smaug: Do you think flattery will keep you alive?
Bilbo: No, no.
Smaug: No, indeed!
While content needs to be eloquent and proper, it also needs to be correct. Making claims that are not true will not only destroy the relationship between writer/agency and the client, but it could potentially harm them as well as reader’s look over the page, see all sorts of promises attached to it, and then expect the website to deliver. Genuineness is essential in copywriting. This is why research is important. Users of the Internet are just as powerful as old Smaug is and many times scarier if mislead. Don’t tempt the dragon to destroy Lake Town. Businesses can be rebuilt. Your reputation cannot.
The Hunger Games
In a franchise as riddled with young adult angst and anti-establishment messages, The Hunger Games can generate just as much inspiration and give as much advice as The Hobbit. The character of Peeta, in particular, is a most interesting subject when you are looking at this film for copywriting tips. One of the most relevant exchanges between him and Katniss is at the end of the first film as they are going back to District 12, victorious and yet unsure about where to go after their traumatizing experience.
Peeta Mellark: Creative Extraordinaire
Peeta: So what happens when we get back?
Katniss: I don’t know. I guess we try to forget.
Peeta: I don’t wanna forget.
This is the essence of good copywriting. Content needs to do more than stick a couple of keywords into the text and keep the marketing organic to the point of subtlety. It must be interesting. It must be engaging. It must send a message any reader can understand and give them a reason to use the website’s services. Indeed, if the material isn’t intriguing enough that regular people wouldn’t want to click on it, then Google will not want to click on it, either. That is something which much always be avoided.
But more can be taken from The Hunger Games than just that little bit. Peeta has more to his inspiration chops than meets the eye. In “Catching Fire,” which accounts for the rise of the revolution against President Snow, Peeta is talking to Katniss about his motivations now that they have been called back to compete again. He tells her:
Peeta: I just don’t want to be another piece in their game, you know? […] if I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me.
This line is particularly important to copywriters as individuals. Just like Gandalf encourages us to maintain our own individuality, so does Peeta. It is important for working writers to ensure that they not only enjoy their work, that they not only turn in their work on time, but also have fun with their work. Copywriters should not be afraid to occasionally break the mold and be themselves. Writing is a wonderful way to express that even if it’s for advertising copy.
Mind the Berries, Writers
Katniss: It must be a fragile system if it can be brought down by a few berries.
That is absolutely the case. Except berries, in this case, would be drive and deadlines. The best copywriters all have a drive to continue producing quality work that expands their portfolio and gives them more visibility on the Internet. They have to want to work rather than need to work. The desire is paramount; those without it are likely to struggle. Always remember, as a copywriter, that the odds are not necessarily in your favor all the time. You must be flexible, you must be driven, and you must be able to have fun as well. By adhering to those rules, you can gain inspiration without needing to beat yourself up and produce quality content—the black arrow for the Internet audience.
Featured image credit: RazoomGames / iStock