A Copywriter’s Blog
Shirts! Ben Levy 24, February

I have no idea what is going on this week. 3 posts in a row? I’m just as surprised as you, trust me. Anywho- shirts!

I blabbered about FPO a few days ago
, so rest assured it will not be mentioned again. (After that last mention, I mean.)

Some of these have been in the store for a while, but I wanted to wait till I had a flagship shirt for the second round of designs. Behold the flagship:

Seriously, fuck it.

Next up, we have a little something for the coders. Inspired by the retarded amounts of XML and PHP I was looking at a few weeks ago:

If you get the joke here, tag was probably the last sport you ever played voluntarily. Nerd. Feel superior wearing a joke that only a fraction of the population will understand. You’ve earned it.

And now for something a little less cerebral:

For the sophisticated man who chooses never to dress like one. In fact, if you’re anything like me, the news that you even know what a polo shirt is will come as quite a shock.

And finally, a little sumpin for the ladies:

Ladies- save your breath. Men- when the ladies yell at you, just tell them you were reading the directions.

And there it is. The second round of BrokenJPG shirts. (Insert wild applause here).

I would also like to point out that, in honor of the economy being even lower than my HOTorNOT rating, all these shirts can be yours for under $15. The tag shirt is under thirteen! It’s practically free!

If you like ‘em, buy ‘em. If you don’t, buy ‘em. And then give them as gifts to people you don’t like. Whatever works. As always guys, thanks for your support.

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I consider us “blog buddies” Ben Levy 23, February

Today I spoke to a friend whose voice I haven’t heard for 3 years. It’s not because we lost touch, never met, or they had their tongue removed for selling state secrets (yet).

It’s because since the last time I saw this person, our entire relationship has been based upon email and IM.

It’s bizarre. I consider them a pretty close friend. We talk several times a week. We’re constantly threatening to go into business together on creative side-projects which neither of us have the time for. It’s just, y’know, they’re an IM friend. The same way I have facebook friends and phone friends.

It makes perfect sense that two people will naturally gravitate towards the communication that best suits their relationship. For example, this person and I never have anything particularly important to say to each other, and our conversations are chiefly horrible contests where we see which of us can “cross the line” first. These days said line is somewhere past the horizon. It can take weeks before it’s crossed by either party. It’s the sort of thing that requires more immediacy than txt or email, while still benefiting from the IM pause that gives you more time to think between statements than a phone call. Hence, instant messaging friend.

My point is that technology is wonderful and weird. I was really looking forward to the day when we could finally meet face to face. My plan was to put on a shocked expression and say “What? YOU’RE [name]? Holy shit, I’ve been talking to the wrong person for three years!”. I’m a decent actor, I bet I could pull it off.

But they read my blog. So, hey, there goes that joke.

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Tin foil proves people are stupid Ben Levy 22, February

Not you. You’re a person. And persons, by and large, are reasonably intelligent. It’s the multiples. The multitudes. The masses. They’re idiots.

Writing words is a significant portion of my job. And a significant portion of that significant portion involves writing instructional copy for websites. That is, words that explain what a user is supposed to do on the site.

It’s amazing what people don’t understand. You create intuitive navigation, label it with single-syllable-simplicity, and pair it with a graphic so obvious that an illiterate foreigner raised by wolves will understand it. And someone will still fail to recognize that the button in the upper left corner of the site with a picture of a house and the word “Home” is going to take them back to the homepage.

And people wonder why creatives drink so much.

But I recently discovered something that put it all in perspective. Something that made me realize that it’s not me. It’s them. And that something is tin foil. Specifically the box of tin foil sitting on my kitchen counter, and the instructions printed on it.

Did you catch that last part? The part about the instructions. On the box. Of tin foil.

Tin foil. I’m assuming you’re all familiar with this stuff. It’s like wrapping paper for food. There are only two sides to it. I mean, printing anything other than the name of the brand on the box would pretty much prove with scientific authority that people are morons. Hey, will you look at that:


Do you know what this means, gentle reader? Do you understand the significance? This means that the poor employees of Reynolds Wrap Inc got so many calls on their “Idiocy Hotline” (customer service call center) asking which side of a two-sided object to use that they were forced to print instructions right on the box. It means people literally could not figure out tin foil. Here’s a hint guys: even if you somehow don’t get it on the first try, you can always just flip it over and try again. It’s a wonder my pants don’t come with a screen printed message on the inside of the leg saying “If you can read this, we’re inside out”.


Ok, well this makes perfect sense. By opening the box, we have created a lid. A tab, if you will. A Stay Closed Tab (registered, no less). But what’s that hidden in the shadow of the Stay Close Tab (R)? It’s another line of type that reads “Insert Lid Here”.

Evidently, calling this gross mutation of a hanging chad a tab was not clear enough. Neither was the strategically placed perforation beneath it. Clearly, so many people failed to grasp that the tab is meant to be inserted into the slot, that Reynold’s felt the need to label both parts and include a helpful arrow to guide the way. If it weren’t prohibitively expensive, I have no doubt they would have included a small speaker that would activate upon opening the box. This would merrily inform people of the great functionality involved in the Stay Closed Tab and it’s perforated counterpart, and only shut the hell up once they successfully joined the two in cardboard intercourse.


Oh come on now. Isn’t our desire to avoid jabbing ourselves on sharp objects an instinctual one? Do we really need to warn people about this? If we do, do they deserve the warning? Aren’t we just spitting in Darwin’s face here? I want you to look me honestly in the blog and tell me that you wouldn’t feel just a little satisfaction with knowing that anyone stupid enough to slit their wrist on a package of tin foil had been taken care of by natural selection. Anyone dumb enough to do it deserves to follow the dodo.

In short, I no longer chafe at the need for redundant navigation and eternally-insufficient instructional copy. Tin foil has taught me a valuable lesson about the level of intelligence I can expect from people. I am, after all, writing on the web. And if these slack-jawed mouth breathers can’t manage to navigate their way through a cardboard box and the wrapping of a sandwich, I can’t reasonably expect them to figure out a website.

Ninja Teachings Ben Levy 17, February

I’m a teacher. (cue laugh track)

I’m done with school now, but I make it a point to go through life as a student, constantly looking for opportunities to learn from those better than myself (ie: just about everyone). Which meant that when the Ad School contacted me asking if I’d like to teach, it was a little weird. If I was still dedicating myself to learning, how could I possibly be ready to educate others?

I asked my CD (who also taught there) what he thought. He told me “It’ll force you to know your shit cold. There’s no way you can teach unless you do.” Which is interesting, because about sixteen years ago, Storm Shadow told me the same thing:


Now my reasons for showing that are two-fold. First, GI Joe ninja comic. That is just about the maximum amount of awesome I can take. Secondly, while the whole “Ninja Force” concept may have turned Storm Shadow into a tool, he and my creative director had a great point.

I’ve learned a lot by teaching others. There have been plenty of “ah-ha” moments for me, where I realize the reason why some things work and others don’t in the process of explaining them to the class. Instinctive techniques get replaced by conscious understanding.

I’m constantly energized after class, excited by the raw concepting that goes on when there’s no budget, no brief, no pressure to land the client. I always go into work the next day with my mind a little more open, a little less constrained.

Teaching for me is one part performance, and two parts education. This is partly because I’m under this horrible misconception that I’m funny, and standing at the front of the class makes me feel like I’m on stage at the improv. But also, I want my students to understand that this job is fun, damnit. One of my favorite moments teaching so far was when a student raised their hand and asked “Is this what it’s like at an agency? Are people really tossing around ideas in a group like this and laughing all day?”.

It is if they’re doing it right.

So even though I’m teaching, I’m still learning. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t pretend to. I’m sure I’ll get even better at this teaching thing if I keep doing it. For now, I parrot the lessons I learned at school: Write how you talk. No puns. Strategy first, everything else second. That’s not me talking, that’s the advertising greats I learned from. Well, it is me talking, but the words come from people a hell of a lot smarter than me. Like Storm Shadow.

The crappy jokes, those are all mine. Hopefully they’re just ignoring those.

For Placement Only Ben Levy 15, February

Long-time readers of my blog (or those who check the store) are probably familiar with this shirt:


It was one of the first shirts I put up for sale, and my best-seller by far. And so I wasn’t really surprised when someone told me they saw this on


I’m not saying veer ripped me off. Really. I’m not. For one thing, I’d be a little (read: very) surprised if they even knew this blog existed. For another, they’ve got more than enough genius ideas on their own site, they don’t need to rip off my shit.

The internet is a big place. There’s more than enough room for two FPO shirts. Especially since mine is the original, has the better design, and is cheaper. (Suck it veer, the economy’s on my side!)

That being said, if you’re in the market for a shirt with FPO printed on it, you should get it here. Cause, I mean, you’re already on this site, right? Why go all the way to another site when I just keep shoving the link in your face?

A Holiday for Us All Ben Levy 13, February

I was originally going to post about how vehemently I despise Valentine’s Day. How despite the fact that I’ve been dating, engaged, or married to the same woman for the last 8 years, I still remember a winged baby’s mocking laughter from my “single” days. But then I realized I was looking at this all wrong.


All holidays are exclusive to some degree. Halloween clearly targets the younger crowd (half the houses I trick-or-treat at won’t even give me candy anymore). Christmas leaves the Jews with nothing to do but eat Chinese food and watch movies. Everyone loves St Patty’s- unless you’re a recovering alcoholic.

But Valentine’s Day, now there’s a holiday in which all have an equal share:

Singles are miserable because they’re single.

Dating guys are pissed because they’re forced to exchange their February paycheck for a gift whose price soars higher in direct relation to the amount of red paint on it.

Dating girls are doomed to disappointment because, no matter how hard they try not to, they will always secretly hope that their man will have something planned for them beyond their wildest dreams. (They will not)

Even the “genuine” guys are bitter this day. Because the most honest, heartfelt gift will still come across as a mere sacrifice to Cupid, as opposed to a spontaneous gesture of love.

So I rescind my bitter view of St Valentine, and his aforementioned day. Instead, I doff my cap and spend my money in recognition of this most impressive achievement: a holiday that all people can truly share. Indeed, Febuary 14th fulfills it’s intention far beyond his (and Hallmark’s) wildest dreams.

It’s an occasion for us all to get screwed.

This is the wrong post Ben Levy 9, February

It’s not the one I was going to put here. There are a whole list of topics I want to write about, but this isn’t one of them.

I won’t tell you about them, because it seems the surest way to keep from writing about something is for me to promise I’ll write about it here. (I really will talk about teaching one day. Maybe next post? Maybe? Place your bets in the comments.)

I feel like I have the “that could be a funny post” thought at least three times a day. There’s one that I think of every time I get out of the shower (it’s towel related). This is the only time I’ve thought of it when I’m actually in front of the computer though. And I’m still not writing about it.

All day things I could write about run through my head, but as soon as an empty text field presents itself it all goes out the window. Sometimes I can’t think of how to start. Sometimes I think the topic is too serious. But mostly I just plain forget the 37 things I was just thinking about. I’m beginning to wonder if the admin panel in Wordpress has one of those flashy lights from Men in Black.

The funny thing is, I know how to solve these problems. I do it every day at work. But I refuse to keep a notepad around to jot down ideas for my blog. This is not supposed to be a professional endeavor. If it were, I think I would manage better topics than the fact that I can never remember what topics I want to write about.

In summary- I wanted to write something here, but I didn’t really feel like writing anything I could remember wanting to write about, and I forgot the rest.

I’ll write the right post.

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I have nothing to say Ben Levy 8, February

Except that I have seen the future, and it’s this:

Rest of the article at wired. (Just in case you failed to notice the “this video from wired” branding they embed in their player code. Yeesh.)

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