Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and … Copywriting? What Makes the U.S. Great Spells Opportunity for You

Have you ever gotten an advertising jingle stuck in your head?

I was watching a baseball game last week when this one came back to me without any trigger:

“We love baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet …”

It's a catchy little ditty that ran on TV from 1974-76.

Hundreds of millions of people saw it. And a lot of them ran out and bought a brand-new Chevrolet.

A 2005 Car and Driver article named it tied for best car commercial of all time. David Ogilvy called it his favorite commercial of all time, not just his top car spot.

The reason I bring up this ad is because it debuted at a time when the U.S. was in a pretty bad recession.

Kind of like we're in now.

In October of 1974, the average 30-year mortgage interest rate was 9.98%. Inflation was at 12.2%, and unemployment was at 7.2%.

And if you're old enough to remember, we were still dealing with a little oil embargo problem.

Remember gas lines?

Copywriter brings America hope and change

Yet in the midst of a recession, this Chevrolet ad inspired hope.

It all started with a copywriter named Jim Hartzell with Campbell Ewald in Detroit.

Hartzell understood his audience. He understood core emotions they were feeling at the time, like optimism, passion, and patriotism. And he tapped into them in a brilliant way.

Those were much simpler times, of course.

But the ad illustrates a few unique things that I believe make America great:

  1. Even in a recession, advertising drives consumer spending.
  2. The best ads evoke strong feelings.
  3. A good copywriter is usually at the heart of a good ad.
  4. We're a nation of optimists, over-comers, and patriots, and love to see the good guy win.

And no matter what's happening in the economy, that means one thing for you.

Opportunity.

If you can develop (or already possess) an optimistic and opportunistic attitude.

A tale of two coffee shops

For the past two years, my second office was a local neighborhood coffee shop.

I wrote some of my best copy while getting my daily caffeine fix.

Recently, I had to quit cold turkey.

You see, it had become a toxic environment. I couldn't think anymore, and my writing brain went dead.

The cause?

Doom and gloom conversation.

Look, I know there's a recession going on.

But these people seemed to revel in it! They loved trotting out the unemployment numbers. Even though they all had jobs themselves, you would have thought the world was coming to an end! All they could talk about was the depressing economic news.

Contrast that with my new second office (a chain coffee shop that starts with an "S").

What's the new crowd like?

Lots of one-on-one business meetings. Sharp dressers. People actually working on their laptops, not playing "Angry Birds". Entrepreneurs discussing business plans with each other. Salespeople meeting with clients.

I'm telling you, the place oozes success, and my writing vibe is back. Not only that, but my new hangout has already produced some business, which I'll share with you below.

I'm inspired once again!

Your $5 opportunity meeting

More than just being inspired, business has picked up for me.

Seeing all these movers and shakers at my new digs roused me out of my recession stupor.

Before, my brain was dulled and I was waiting for clients to come to me and tell me what they wanted (not a smart freelance move, trust me).

Here's what I did and some offbeat ways you can jump-start your business:

  • Rev up your "idea-generating" mode. Do you think Chevrolet told Jim Hartzell to write a clever jingle that people would still be humming 37 years later?! I'm not telling you to write a jingle for your clients (there are writers who specialize in that who usually work for big agencies). But then again, why not? I didn't write a jingle, but I did write a 3-minute YouTube video script, something I never would have thought of doing before. I've been getting inspired lately by TV ads, infomercials, radio ads, and internet "talking promos."
  • Watch for trends that are happening. A good way to do this is to scan the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today a couple of times a week (skip the doom and gloom, though). What do you look for? People and businesses that are on the move and succeeding, regardless of the economy. I discovered a new trend and verified it through some methods Nick Usborne talks about in Profitable Freelancing (and which he'll also be discussing in his upcoming webinar). It's breathing new life into my two-year-old business, and I'm creating a second website and some marketing materials now.
  • Write your own direct response piece to a specific niche. Have you ever done this? Or has it been a while? Based on this new area I discovered, I wrote a simple two-page direct response letter, incorporating a positive spin on this economy that we're in. Good old-fashioned #10 envelope, nothing fancy, but using all the copywriting techniques we've learned. The jury is still out on the results of this piece, but I do have a few prospects in the pipeline now.
  • Schedule a weekly meeting with a fellow on-the-ball businessperson. Since I'm already hanging out in my new space, at least once a week, I'm meeting someone to talk creative ideas and possibly rustle up copywriting business. I network with people locally through Toastmasters, a school organization, a local Social Media Breakfast group, and through contacts on Facebook and LinkedIn. I'm a big believer in seeing people face to face instead of just hiding behind my computer 24 hours a day. Over the past month, I've had great meetings with a first-time author (who may hire me to be his editor), a success coach (who gave me about $100 worth of professional advice for free), and a small business owner (who will soon be my client). I call these my $5 opportunity meetings because I'm parlaying a small investment of two coffees into prospects, clients, and glicken. Next up: a social media expert whom I may barter services with. To be clear, at every meeting, I'm giving as much as I'm receiving in the form of copywriting and marketing advice.

If you have an offbeat method you've used to jump-start your business or sustain it over the long haul, I'd love to hear about it. Tell me in the Comment section below.

You may be well on your way to the writer's life or just getting started.

Either way, consider these ideas to get things rolling.

And next time you have an opportunity to discuss a project with a client or prospect, ask yourself, "What would Jim Hartzell write?"

Tap into deep, core emotions of your audience. Evoke a spirit of optimism, passion, and opportunity in your copy.

You'll inspire not just your readers to action, but your clients as well.

Now get out there and do your part to get this country out of its recession! And for an all-American diversion next Tuesday, check out the All-Star game on TV.

Besides the game itself, you'll probably catch some good ads to swipe ideas from (and maybe even a jingle).

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: July 5, 2011

2 Responses to “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and ... Copywriting? What Makes the U.S. Great Spells Opportunity for You ”

  1. Hi Steve, thanks for bringing up the flip side to the doom and gloom! Your advice about looking at trends is so important. Another reference that I look at every month is Fast Company. It's a great magazine for business and and social concerns as well. My best...Sheila

    YourWriter-SheilaJuly 13, 2011 at 8:52 pm


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