WILT (What I Learnt Today) #1

I’m starting a new series of blog posts with snippets of info/knowledgeI find enlightening and inspiring.

Starting today with a snippet I found in James Altucher’s email updates:


The One Score That Can Improve Your Writing With A Single Click  By: James Altucher(read on his site)

The F-K score.

The Flesch-Kincaid score determines what grade level you are writing. If your score is 10, you are writing at a 10th grade reading level. If your score is 12, you are writing at a 12th grade level. And so on.

The F-K score is calculated by words per sentence (lower is better), syllables per word (lower is better), and a few other factors.

Good sales writers aim for as low a level as possible. Anything greater than 8 is considered bad sales writing. People get fired over it.

The F-K score of “Old Man and the Sea” is 4. The year after that book was published, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize.

“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad,considered one of the best books ever, was written at a 6th grade level.

“Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky was written at a 7th grade level.

[COPYWRITING] – Writing Recruitment advertisements

BACKGROUND: In 1997, MRF Recruitment advertising  was handled by a different agency. The other agency’s creatives were traditional. The Marketing Manager of MRF wanted something different, powerful. We could win the  MRF Recruitment account if we could present something better.




CLIENT: MRF Tyres Ltd (Chennai)

AGENCY: Goldwire Chennai


BRIEF: Quarter page recruitment advertisement with powerful, motivating copy…

MEDIA: Leading dailies – The Hindu

YEAR: 1997


ART: Sumesh Peringeth

COPY: Umesh Ponnusamy


Abraham Alapatt gave good briefs and this time too gave a lot of inputs about warriors, battles, wars etc.


I decided to use a lot of metaphors about battles, wars, warriors – inspired by Abraham Alapatt’s – the account director’s brief. Using a previously published advertisement for the information, I coated it and crafted the metaphors into it.


Reportedly, the first advertisement went into print and was supposed to have got in 14,000 responses in the first week…it was noticed by a lot of people including my batch mates in the industry. The Marketing Manager at that time, Mr. Philip Eapen was supposed to have commended the advertisement.

The first one below:

MRF Recruitment Advertisement, 1997

MRF Recruitment Advertisement 1, 1997


Headline: MRF is on the lookout for warriors!

Subhead: India’s only Rs. 2,000 crore tyre giant – the undisputed market leader in all the major tyre segments is on the lookout for high-calibre SALES SUPERVISORS / REPRESENTATIVES

Bodycopy: for its dynamic army of sales personnel, to conquer new sales territories and to further expand its well-established extensive countrywide marketing and sales network. The battlefield is an opportunity filled environment with enormous possibilities for growth and conquests. A highly rewarding career awaits the MRF warrior who is an achievement-oriented professional with excellent communication and inter-personal skills and who can conquer stiff sales targets and win through aggressive selling.

Other essential warrior qualities are a willingness to be on the move with no location constraints and a knowledge of Hindi and any other local language. The warrior should be in his twenties, tough, dedicated, smart and a graduate with a determination to succeed and with 2 years experience in combat, selling highly competitive products.

The ammunition provided will be the most powerful in the market and the spoils of the battle will be among the best in the industry.

Sign Off: Write to the Director, Human Resources, MRF Limited, 124, Greams Road, Chennai 600 006.



They asked us to craft one more….this time I used a hunter-jungle metaphor for the second advertisement.

CLIENT: MRF Tyres Ltd (Chennai)

AGENCY: Goldwire Chennai


BRIEF: Quarter page recruitment advertisement with powerful, motivating copy, following-up on the style of the previous one.

MEDIA: Leading dailies – The Hindu

YEAR: 1997


ART: Sandesh Talpade

COPY: Umesh Ponnusamy


MRF Recruitment Advertisement No. 2, 1997



Headline: MRF is looking for Hunters!

Subhead: Senior / Middle Managers

Bodycopy: Are you tough, gutsy and determined as Jim Corbett who hunted man-eating tigers in Kumaon? Or as David Livingstone who charted unexplored territory in Africa?

Because today, as you know, the market out there is a jungle. And survival-of-the-fittest is the law.

MRF, the Rs.2000 crore tyre giant reigns supreme in the Indian tyre market jungle and is an undisputed market leader in all the major tyre segments.

MRF stands at the threshold of an exciting new era of globalisation with the widest product range including tyres that have been the unanimous choice for first fitment on the latest world-class cars in India.

To work in this highly rewarding environment of potent dynamism and exciting challenges, you should have a hunting instinct to aggressively innovate methods to corner your prey while bettering your own achievements. Also, as a market hunter, you should have 5 – 10 years experience in leading marketing expeditions with a penchant for travel without location constraints and in selling consumer products and durables.

Your traps and arms are the most powerful brands in the market. And your ability to scent new hunting ground and conquer them will bag you prize catches that are the best in the industry.

Sign Off: Shoot your resume to:  The Director, Human Resources, MRF Limited, 124, Greams Road, Chennai 600 006.

[COPYWRITING] – Researching and writing a brochure/booklet

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BACKGROUND: In 1996, MRF celebrated its Golden Jubilee (50th year). They needed a booklet / brochure to be distributed to their shareholders and partners and corporate customers showcasing the achievements of their 50 year journey. We, being their lead BTL agency were keen to win this prestigious project and the Copy Head was asked to come up with hard hitting copy that MRF would approve.

I was still a junior writer then and was busy with the day to day MRF btl jobs that had to be rushed out. I was aware though that the booklet copy was still not approved and that MRF wanted something more which the agency couldn’t pinpoint.

Our Copy Head and another senior writer (both from journalistic backgrounds) were baffled. They had written neat copy in journalistic tones about the achievements of MRF…about a page. Can’t do much else with a brief that was almost non-existent.

CLIENT: MRF Tyres LTd (Chennai)

AGENCY: Goldwire Chennai


BRIEF: A brochure/booklet celebrating 50 years of MRF. That was all that the verbal brief said…nothing written down, no extra information. It was upto me to interpret  and write –  the client and agency themselves were not sure what they wanted (as usual :-)).

MEDIA: Brochure / Booklet

YEAR: 1996

ART: Sandesh Talpade

COPY: Umesh Ponnusamy


Facts and figures are a copywriter’s best friend. If you are wondering about that quote, I made that up now. It could also have been a quote by anyone of those copywriting legends. Because I remember reading something similar in some of those famous books on advertising…Ogilvy on Advertising, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor (this book was one that Aubrey always asked young recruits to read…the other one being The Hidden Persuaders ) etc.

The perfect brief will have a lot of facts and figures. This will automatically write the copy for you. Facts and figures are what authenticates your copy and create a sincere and persuasive advertisement…which is what you as an advertising professional have to achieve.

Facts and figures were what the previously written copy for the MRF 50 year Booklet lacked. Though it did contain some facts, it was all a repeat of the same old corporate spiel from the countless MRF brochures that had come before it. I realised this as I took a cursory glance at what had been written before. My copy head and the senior writer were at a loss for words since they had exhausted all their approaches, each being rejected.

One of the traits of a good copywriter it is said, is a love for information and an ability to curate and archive information that you can retrieve at the required time for work that needs it.  This or something similar was what I had read in a book called “The Creative Connection“, a recommended text when I was doing my Visual Communication degree at Loyola, Chennai.

True to that above trait, when I had joined Goldwire, I found a lot of scattered MRF brochures and annual reports strewn around the creative department. Nobody had the time or inclination to sort them or get them organised in a shelf.  The first thing I did was to get the whole bunch organised. I got the office assistant to get me some plastic covers and I sorted out the different brochures and annual reports by client name or industry and had them neatly shelved.

I reverted to this information repository, to find out if I could glean some new information on MRF. I struck gold in the old MRF annual reports that I had taken the pains to preserve and archive.

These annual reports dated back to the 70s and each annual report had some interesting information about what MRF had achieved in that year.

I opened up my writing pad…

(Digression: In 1996 though we had a few computers in the creative department and though Goldwire being the most wired advertising agency in the whole of India at that time – another story for another post – not every copywriter had a computer yet, but we eventually did get one for each one of us after a few months)

…and started jotting down these nuggets of information. I was doing this the whole afternoon. Late evening, the account manager checked on me to see the progress, I showed him the notes. He asked me to stay back and complete the draft the same day itself. Goldwire was an accounts driven agency, I think most btl agencies are.

After extracting whatever I could find from the annual reports, I repeated the process with other brochures and also borrowed some information from the copy written by my seniors.

I started compiling, writing, editing and crafting the copy into a computer I think around 8pm and didn’t stop until 2am. I took printouts and left a copy on the Account chief’s desk and made my way home.

The starting quotation in the Introduction was something that I recalled from numerous quotations that I had read. This quote had struck me as being very powerful and symbolised the spirit of entrepreneurship, what the beginning of MRF was all about.

The next day, I was called by the CEO (Aubrey). He wanted to know from where I had gathered all this information. I told him. I think they were surprised and maybe didn’t even remember that these annual reports existed.

MRF approved the first draft without much changes and filled in the gaps by providing us with annual reports from the 50s and 60s and suggested a few more inclusions. All in all I didn’t have to rewrite and I didn’t think of revising the drafts, as I was again sucked into the whirlwind of daily activities at the agency.

Aubrey later lambasted the Copy Head for not improving the quality of what I had written as I think there were a few crafting errors. My first draft got printed as is!


1)  Facts and figures are a Copywriter’s best friend.

2) Fancy words and literary soliloquies (hope you get what I mean-get the dictionary if you don’t :)) won’t get your copy anywhere.

3) The amount of respect and love you show towards information (in this case my preservation of old annual reports and brochures), the same is what you get back.

[COPYWRITING] – Strawberry Stripes Sale – My 2nd published ad


CLIENT: Strawberry Stripes, Chennai, India

PRODUCT / SERVICE: Kids Nightwear

BRIEF: To communicate that the popular Strawberry Stripes Kids Nightwear Sale is back again !

MEDIA: Print- Newspaper (The Hindu) 10 x 3

YEAR: 1994-1995

AGENCY: Purple Patch – Minoo Jha, Chennai, India


Comments : My first advertisement to be released of which I could get a copy. The first ad of mine to be ever released was HILL COUNTRY RESORTS – it was a full page ad that was released in Dubai…I couldn’t get a copy…working in a copy services firm had its limitations…sometimes, you couldn’t get art pulls and the like for your portfolio.

Inspiration : Once given the brief which said that I had to communicate that the Strawberry Children’s Nightwear sale is on and that the last year’s sale was a success…the starting of Pink Floyd’s “Blue Skies” from the Wall struck me… a child’s voice is heard to say -“Look Mommy ! There’s a plane up there in the sky.” This seemed appropriate to me as mostly mothers would be interested in shopping for their kids. So my line was dramatic one and drew the attention of the right audience too. I just had to substitute my product in that line and add the word “Again” to give the product a familiarity. Minoo approved it at the first go. I even had a cute visual for the ad which was attached with the copy sheet and sent to the agency but was not taken.


Look Mummy ! It’s Strawberry Stripes Children’s Nightwear Sale Again !
(7th to 11th April – including Sunday).


Yes, folks, we are back with your favourite sale. Of our unique, comfy nightwear for your little angels aged 3-12.

Smart night suits for boys, dreamy night dresses and pyjama night dresses for girls. All tailored with the hallmarks of Strawberry Stripes – unfussy, cozy, comfy and reasonabley priced. Also don’t miss out on our special prices.

Better hurry, stocks are limited. And you have just 5 days to go.


Smart reasonably-priced clothes for kids 0-12.


[COPYWRITING] – Ideating and writing copy for a full page print advertisement – Hill Country Resorts – My 1st published print ad

CLIENT: Hill Country Resorts

PRODUCT / SERVICE: Time Share Resorts at Kodaikanal, India

BRIEF: To communicate that Hill Country is the only resort company to open its Time Share resort on time.

MEDIA: Print advertisement, Full page

YEAR: 1994-1995

AGENCY: Purple Patch, Minoo Jha

BACKGROUND: My very first published advertisement that I wrote copy for was a full page one published in Dubai.

Hill Country Resorts, Kodaikanal wanted to communicate that they were the first time share resorts in Kodai to open on time as promised. The brief triggered images of races and we decided to add “Olympic” in the headline as a hook.

Guided by Minoo, my first copywriting guru, she helped me craft the headline. I chunked the bodycopy under sub-headings – that came naturally to me as I wrote the bodycopy. Aparna, a colleague worked with me a bit on the bodycopy too..specially the ‘As You Like it’ subhead was her idea. Minoo too tweaked the copy a bit.

The only copy (art pull) I had of the ad was submitted for my final copywriting project in college.

Posting the copy below:

Headline :
If opening a holiday resort on time was like running the Olympics 100 metre dash final, we’d get the gold.

Bodycopy :
The excitement and tension in running the Olympic 100 metre dash final and the exhilaration when you win the gold…that’s what we feel at Hill Country Resorts, Kodaikanal. Because we are the first holiday resorts in India to open on time. That’s good news to our time-share investors. They can now avail of our time-share at the earliest and experience Hill Country- Kodai’s special privileges :

Two’s Company, Three a Crowd
We at Hill Country have ensured that you can enjoy your holiday without you and your neighbour stepping on each other’s toes. By providing lots of space between the cottages and all around them.

A Beautiful View is Worth a Thousand Words
A thousand words is what it would take to describe the view from your Hill Country cottage window. And it would surely take less to describe the shabby view which you get at our neighbouring competitor’s.

Home “Sweeter” Home
You’ll find Hill Country cottages cozily designed and comfortably furnished. And the architecture…transports you into a fairy tale world when compared to the box like concrete structures at other resorts.

No more “Q” please
At Hill Country-Kodai, you’ll also find our facilities more user-friendly. You won’t have to experience the ‘law of the jungle’ and the ‘survival of the fittest’ as in some of the other resorts.

As you like it
And finally, at Hill Country-Kodai, you’ll enjoy the privilege of exchanging your week at your convenience and without any fuss.

What are you waiting for ? Dash to Hill Country…