Cute baby asleep with funny hat on

Copywriting tip 27: The overnight test

Newborn baby asleep - trimmed

Ah. The 1980s. That’s when I started as a copywriter.

In fact, to give you a chuckle, here’s me at my first job in London:

Jon and Ian at Monitor

(That’s me on the right, by the way.)

Back then, once I’d written my copy or created some concepts (with Ian, my art director – on the left, above), I wouldn’t present straight away.

Oh, no.

I’d leave it/them on my desk.

Go home for the night.

Come back in the morning, and look at them with fresh eyes.

What we called the ‘overnight test’.

It’s so important that you do. That you don’t fall in love with your own words and ideas.

I remember, in my first years in Australia, working on Hyundai.

(The previous agency had lost the account. They had a slogan of ‘Say hi to a ‘Hi’undai’. Unfortunately, in Korean, ‘Hi’ means bad. ‘Hy’ – pronounced ‘he’ – means good. So they were calling them bad cars, instead of good cars.)

I was working on the Excel. A small car with a surprisingly large interior.

My concept? A picture of the Tardis.

I proudly rushed off to show the client.

‘It’s a blue box,’ they said.

‘It’s the Tardis,’ I exclaimed.

‘The Tardis?’ They looked confused.

‘From Doctor Who,’ I added helpfully.

‘Doctor what?’

That concept went into my bottom drawer, never to see the light of day.

The point is that I hadn’t taken the time to think it through.

Would the audience understand it? Did it need explanation – then it wasn’t a good concept: for that brief.

These days, of course, we can’t always afford to leave it overnight.

The overnight test isn’t always possible.

But still give your ideas, your words, your writing some time.

Once written, go and do something else for an hour.

Even a 15 minute coffee break will help.

Clear your head. Take a fresh look. Does the copy and idea still stand up?

(This article, by the way, was written on a Monday. Published on a Tuesday. With dozens of reviews and ‘overnight’ tests in-between.)

No-one else is going to do this. It’s up to you, the author, to do it for them.

Now, there are lots of things about the 80s we don’t want. My hairstyles, for example. Clothes. Music.

But the overnight test?

An invaluable part of this copywriter’s quality control.


This tip is based on my 30 Tips in 40 Minutes webinar.

Feel free to download a version of the slides and watch a video of the one-hour webinar.

Image source: Pixabay


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Jon Maxim

Jon is a multi-award winning copywriter. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients – large and small – develop engaging concepts, content and copy. For 25 of those years, he’s been teaching people how to do it themselves. His courses on copywriting, ideation and presentation skills are highly sought-after and highly effective. Jon lives in Sydney, Australia: but is often found on a plane, heading to where he’s most needed.