Secrets of Analyzing and Using Swipe Files

“Advertising design teaches you the fundamentals of building brands. Copywriting, integrated marketing, and graphic design are more focused on piece development.” — Brian Gillette

This week, we’re going to talk about your Swipe File. You’re probably familiar with the practice of collecting and studying winning promotions for the purpose of “modeling” various elements from them in your own work.

This process of “modeling” — writing your copy as you closely study the words, phrases, and structures of another winning promotion — is called “swiping.”

Okay, let’s release the 900-pound gorilla in the room right away: Of course, when I say “swiping,” I’m not referring to copying another promotion word-for-word. Beside it being highly unethical (and possibly illegal), it would be a detriment to you and your overall progress as a writer. Because the only way to get better at doing something is … of course … by doing it!

Nearly every copywriter will tell you to build up a Swipe File, and that’s fine, but the question remains, what do you then do with the promotions in your file? How do you effectively use the Swipe File?

Knowing what to do with your Swipe File makes all the difference in the world. You need an effective process. It’s the difference between having a worthless stack of promotions collecting dust on your desk, and turning those very same promotions into the ultimate learning and money-making tool.

The Primary Secret Behind the Swipe-File Process — And How to Profit From It

Copywriting legend, Gary Bencivenga, once said something to the effect of, ‘A promotion is really just the sum of its individual components.’ His point was the overall quality of a promotion is really just a by-product of the various elements that make it up — whether it’s your headline, lead,