March 1, 2017

Revive a cliché

Extend the metaphor to make a worn-out phrase new again

Call it a cliché makeover.

Revive a cliché

Securing your investment: A.G. Edwards reinvents the nest egg in this new ad campaign

Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, breathes new life into old, worn-out phrases in his 2006 letter to shareholders.

His secret: extending the original metaphor the cliché was based on. Here, he personifies Mother Nature as a real person:

“Our most important business, insurance, benefited from a large dose of luck: Mother Nature, bless her heart, went on vacation. After hammering us with hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 — storms that caused us to lose a bundle on super-cat insurance — she just vanished. Last year, the red ink from this activity turned black — very black.”

By extending the cliché “sleep easy at night” with “mattress,” Buffett gives this tired phrase new life. (Back story: Berkshire reinsured Equitas so its “names,” or underwriters, don’t have to worry about huge claims bankrupting the firm and themselves):

“Scott Moser, the CEO of Equitas, summarized the transaction neatly: ‘Names wanted to sleep easy at night, and we think we’ve just bought them the world’s best mattress.'”

A.G. Edwards also uses this technique in its “nest egg” ad series. The investment firm revives one of my least-favorite clichés by making it visual and extending it as far as it can go. One result: a Silver Anvil award.

Instead of eliminating your next cliché, see if you can take it further. By doing so, you might just resurrect it.

  • Play With Your Words

    Neurologists call it “the pleasure of the text,” the reward readers get from figuring out figurative language. (It can be quite a reward: If your wordplay is funny enough, your readers’ brains even deliver a little dose of dopamine. Nice!)

    That good feeling puts readers in an agreeable mood and may even open their minds to your message. In fact, one study found that ads using rhetorical techniques were 166% more likely to persuade readers and 229% more likely to be remembered than ads that did not.

    The good news is that wordplay doesn’t take talent. It doesn’t take creativity. Instead, it takes techniques, tricks and time.

    At New York creative writing workshopMaster the Art of the Storyteller — a two-day creative writing master class on Sept. 25-26 in New York — you’ll learn how to:

    • Go beyond twist of phrase: Learn to flip phrases; compress details; sub soundalikes; list, rhyme and twist — even coin new words.
    • Find online tools that do most of the work for you: Walk away with links to some of the best (free!) wordplay resources — as well as ideas for how to use them.
    • Polish your skills in our wordplay workout: Get “recipes” for creating 14 types of wordplay, from anagram to etymology to oxymoron. (And yes, that portmanteau does make your butt look smaller.)
    • Get inspired by some of the world’s most creative headlines.
    • Stop writing groaners: Learn techniques that let you come up with surprising lines — and leave the clichés to the hacks.

    Learn more about the Master Class.

    Register for Master the Art of Storytelling Workshop in New York.


    Browse all upcoming Master Classes.

    Would you like to hold an in-house Make Your Copy More Creative workshop? Contact Ann directly.

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