Why Use Swipe Files and Mashups

face created using vintage letterpress type“There are no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt.” Audre Lord, Am. poet

In the era of the WWW we are faced with a daily smorgasbord of mixed media and sliced and diced ideas, literally massive sources offering up all kinds of content and copy components.


Originally a “mash-up” was a term applied to a combination of web apps cleverly knitted together to form a new and fully functional application. Today we have mashup music, mashup videos, mash-up maps, etc. Some argue the term “mashup” started as a way to describe music remixes. Regardless, the term has been widely applied to almost any form. And exactly when it appeared in language is also up for debate. (The Virtual Linguist reports that despite the fact that the Oxford English Dictionary only recently added “mashup” to its pages, it nevertheless offers a linguistic reference for the term from 1859…)

Swipe Files

Copywriters’ swipe files, while they’ve gained a LOT of attention in recent years thanks to web copywriting and marketing of the same, are traditional advertising business tools. Swipe files are literally files of proven advertising “controls,” or ads that have performed well. Swipe files might be created and saved in online formats or as print and in almost any format you’d like. Swipe files are intended as inspiration, as go-to resources when copywriters are looking for a similar “hook” or to study how the best controls have been written and much more.

In the hands of the totally uncreative and lazy, mashups and swipe files are used to rip-off others’ successful works.  But when properly used they can help you invent fresh and totally maverick content and copy.

You can add almost anything you’d like to a swipe file: screenshots of webpages, text from news articles, your own list of effective headlines (cuz you’ll find scads of these floating around the web), magalogues, save the direct mail pieces you get in your mailbox at home, screenshots of landing pages that you think good or “speak to you,” and much more. This is a personal tool, so the sky’s the limit with “swipes.”

For ready-made swipe files you’ll discover many sources online that offer selections from their swipes, or copywriting gurus that use their swipe files as bonus gifts when you sign up for their courses. In other cases you can buy swipe files or subscribe to sites that feature directories of winning ads.

Good swipe file sources to start with:

Lawrence Bernstein’s InfoMarketing Blog

Clayton Makepeace

Why are swipe files and mash-ups so damn effective?

They put the power of the many at our fingertips. But to successfully use them we must acknowledge our own individual voice and contribution. Squish together as enthusiastically as when you were a kid molding mud with other organic “debris.”

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