Friday, November 13, 2015
Charlie Stephan, Vice President / Creative Director

Creative-minded people like limitations. No, seriously, we do. We’re not all free-wheeling starving artists who doodle unicorns in the margins of our notebooks when we should be listening. Okay sometimes we do that, too. But most of us can’t completely stifle our left brain; we need order and boundaries to direct our thinking.

Which is why we love projects like this one from Runza: For each monthly promotion in the store, we’re tasked with writing little sayings to go on the letter board marquees outside their restaurants. It’s a seemingly minute detail, but then again, they’re giant words on a giant sign outside of one of the region’s most recognizable fast food names.

And it becomes an even more exciting challenge for a creative when you factor in the medium’s limitations:

  • Some stores have a 3-line marquee, some have a 4-line marquee. So we write for both.
  • Each line on a marquee can hold roughly 15 characters. So we’ve got a max of 45-60 characters per marquee. That’s less than half a tweet!
  • There are no commas in the standard set of letters. NO COMMAS. The copywriter’s silver bullet! How, I ask you, am I supposed to write something clever without my beloved comma crutch?
  • Like any project, a client must approve all the lines.
  • After that, each individual store manager gets to choose which line to use. If they don’t like any of the options you give them, they can write their own.

So the limitations are many. But we love the challenge, and the opportunity to have a little fun with the writing. So here are a few of the winners: headlines that fit on a marquee, didn’t require commas and were approved by several people. 

Rejects

As fun as those were, there are a few beloved lines that never ended up on a marquee (at least, not that we ever saw anyway), thanks to the much sounder, wiser judgment of our client. Here are a few of our favorites from the cutting room floor:

  • FRIES AND RINGS ARE LIKE HALL & OATES. GOOD ON THEIR OWN BUT BETTER TOGETHER. (Promoting “Frings”— Fries and Onion Rings in the same pouch)
  • WE’D LIE ABOUT OUR SWISS CHEESE BUT YOU’D SEE RIGHT THROUGH IT
  • MORE SPICE THAN 5 BRITISH CHICKS — THE NEW SPICY JACK BURGER.
  • IF OUR MUSHROOMS MAKE YOU HALLUCINATE YOU’RE ALREADY ON DRUGS (Promoting a Swiss Mushroom Burger)
  • HEARTY BACON & SMOKY BBQ SAUCE & HEY WATCH THE ROAD!
  • BORING MEAL? FUGEDDABOUTIT! ITALIAN MINI RUNZAS JUST $1.99
  • GIVE YOUR ROUTINE THE BOOT — ITALIAN MINI RUNZAS JUST $1.99
  • GIVE YOUR SMALL FRIES SOME SMALL FRIES — $1.79 KIDS MEALS
  • EAT CHILDREN! UH OH WE RAN OUT OF COMMAS. $1.79 KIDS MEALS
  • OKAY SMARTY GO TO A PARTY. AND BRING SOME MINI RUNZAS.

Lots of fun with not a lot of letters. And again, no commas. But hey, we love limitations around here.