A Copywriter’s look at Wikipedia’s advert

Donate to wikipedia Recently while checking something on Wikipedia, I was shocked when this pop-up…popped up. I like Wikipedia. I like it a lot and I use it a lot, and if you don’t read any further in this article you should follow this link and donate to Wikipedia now.

Still with me? Good, I’ll get on to why I like Wiki so much later, for now I want to take a look at their pop-up and breakdown their copywriting technique.

I’ve broken it into individual sentences to make it easier to analyse. It’s a great example of what copywriters do and how they use words and language to guide you down a certain path.  

Here goes:

We’ll get right to it: Today we ask you to help Wikipedia. Right from the start we’re presented with honesty. But the part I really liked here was the ‘today’, this not only gives the ad a sense of urgency, but also implies that Wikipedia has helped you on other days, so today, it’s your turn.

To protect our independence, we’ll never run ads. Next we get an appeal to something we all appreciate, no ads. In the normal course of “surfing the net” (as we used to say), we get hit with so many ads that Wikipedia is a welcome ad-free break. So when we do see one, it stands out and reminds us of what it would be like if Wiki weren’t an independent service.

We survive on donations averaging about £10. So now we’ve swallowed the line, here’s the hook. Other people pay £10, sometimes more! That sounds like a lot and this is the point where we start thinking “I’m not going to pay that much, I’m guilty, but I can live with my guilt”.

Only a tiny portion of our readers give. This one kicks us while we’re down The hook has caught and the line has just snapped tight. You are one of many who use this service, probably on a regular basis, for free. Feel bad yet? You should. But don’t worry, your chance to make amends is coming.

Now is the time we ask. If everyone reading this right now gave just £2, our fund raising would be done in an hour. That’s right! It really is that easy to atone for your actions. For such a nominal amount as £2 Wikipedia is offering you the chance to clear your conscious, pay for what you’ve been using, and help them to carry on providing it.

That’s right, the price of a cup of coffee is all we need. Just in case you needed it, they put that into context for you. How many cups of coffee do you buy a day? Well for just one of those, you could help this service that you have been using for free.

If Wikipedia is useful to you please take one moment to keep it online and ad-free. Now that you’re hooked and landed, it’s time to spell out what you need to do. Only now, it’s “take a moment”, having already established that the donation amount is minimal, we talk about it as an instant in time not an amount of money anymore.

We’re a small non-profit with costs of a top website: servers, staff and programs. We serve millions of readers, but we run on a fraction of what top sites spend. Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or public park where we can all go to learn. If they hadn’t got to me already then that last part certainly did. I love Wikipedia, and for more than the basic reason that, as a copywriter, I rely it on almost daily as a starting point for research. So to paint Wiki as today’s equivalent of the public library snagged that bookworm hook deep inside me. I’ve always loved public libraries, the idea that anyone can access books for free is one of the milestone of civilisation for me. And I must confess to an Orwellian sense of doublethink at the idea of libraries becoming public internet points rather than places where books are collected and can be enjoyed free of charge by even the poorest sections of society. But knowledge should be appreciated for itself not for the format it’s in.

This pop up was great, it walked you down a path to doing the right thing. First, it highlighted why you appreciate Wikipedia and made you think for a moment what it would be like if it weren’t there. Then by overshooting the mark and saying how much some people donate, it made you feel a bit guilty, and finally it offered you an easy way out and a chance to feel good about having helped a service which you rely on regularly.

It’s not a new strategy but Wiki pulled it off perfectly. It worked on me and I hope it works on you as well. Wikipedia is a great service which we should be thankful for and repay them when we can. You can donate to Wikipedia here. Test

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