Frank Johnson, the legendary Time Inc. copywriter known for inventing the Johnson Box, a direct mail device used in email marketing to this day, wrote on a yellow legal pad, using a soft-lead Eberhard wingtip pencil.
"I was the world's slowest," he said. "I've been known to stare at blank paper for days before I wrote a word. I'd write 'Dear Subscriber,' then scratch that out and write "Dear Reader," then scratch that our and try 'Subscriber' again."
He should only be alive now. Now being hawked on NextWeb is a product called Email Skript that purportedly will “write all your email marketing copy for you, crafting effective sales text that engages customers without costing you hours of time.”
Does this mean our great copywriters will soon be out of work? The pitch makes that clear:
“Do you have a cliffhanger in your subject line? Is your preheader as engaging as your subject line? Did you include informative links or appropriate calls to action?”
A skilled copywriter knows what to do, it adds. But “with Email Skript, you don’t need a copywriter to craft smart, effective email text without slaving over copy for hours,” TheNextWeb promises.
Just think of it: If you believe it, this product can do everything.
“From product launch emails to affiliate marketing, from webinar announcements to re-engagement efforts, Email Skript crafts a solid piece of email marketing to help convert your customers.”
Yes, “It even lets you decide whether you want to unleash a brassy, aggressive sales attack or take a more restrained, softer stance in engaging with recipients. It’s all up to you.”
Frank Johnson’s famous discovery, copywriter Bill Jayme, said that readers have to be rewarded for their reading time.
That requires a person-to-person human connection, something that seems to be missing from this offering. It also takes craft and a certain creative flair. As Frank Johnson said, "You tell funny stories, you put in funny pictures, you do any g--d----d thing you can to keep them reading.” That's true even for some fast-paced triggered emails.
Granted, this tool seems designed for small businesses. But as wordsmiths of a sort, we can’t help but feel a wee bit threatened.
Whatever its other virtues, we hope that Email Skript eliminates some of our personal copyediting crochets, for example:
Use of vulgar street terms such as “a ……e” and “s..k.” The latter is increasingly seen in Internet headlines. Is this what you want your children reading?
Use of the word “reveal” as a noun. The word can be a noun when describing part of a window opening, according to the American Heritage College dictionary. Otherwise, it is a verb, and the proper word for new information or scoops is “revelation..”
Oh, you asked what the Johnson Box is? Bill Jayme said the purpose is to "summarize the letter (or message), just as 19th century English writers like Dickens would say at the top, 'Chapter 10, in which Mr. McGruder discovers Emily in a Compromising Position with the Director's Son.'"
Let’s see an app or software program beat that.