Can This Simple Card Game Help You Write Better Headlines?

Get unblocked with Wash-a-Pig

Need to flex your creative muscles? Here's a simple and fun card game that involves writing headlines for fictitious ad campaigns—and which might just help you when the real ad campaigns roll in. 

Wash-a-Pig, which is being funded on Kickstarter, comes with three sets of cards: WHAT, WHO and HOW cards. To play, each person draws one WHAT card, and either one WHO card or one HOW card. 

Then you follow the instructions and write a headline. 

For example: 

Players have between five and 15 minutes per prompt, which is "long enough to write some decent headlines but quick enough that it doesn't become work," according to the game rules. You can then just enjoy the results, or have a judge pick the best line. 

"There's no client. There's no deadline. Just let loose and have fun," the Kickstarter description says. "The act of writing quickly, playfully, and within constraints makes it easier to think creatively when a project deadline is looming." 

Wash-a-Pig is a personal project by Todd Turner, who moved to Outfront Media this year as senior art director following almost 15 years at Adams Outdoor Advertising (where his work included this cool project combining typography and OOH).

Turner says the game is good for copywriters, but perhaps even better for designers and art directors. He tells Muse: 

Years ago, I held a conference for my entire creative department. This amounted to 45 people from 13 different states. Very few of them had ever met each other. Very few had any copywriting training. Our first order of business was to divide up into smaller groups to play Wash-a-Pig. Instantly, everyone was in a collaborative and creative mind-set. We played four times over two days, and by far it was the most memorable part of the conference.

More than anything, it's helped my visually focused teams take a little extra time to work on their copywriting. They take the basic thing that needs to be said and apply some of the principles of Wash-a-Pig to making ads with equally interesting art and copy.

I often hear people say they're not creative. A team of account executives got "write a headlines for a sushi restaurant/using substitute swear words." Their headline "Still Flippin' Fresh" sticks with me. Once you give someone a goal and some limitations, they can write some wonderfully creative headlines.

In recent months, Turner has posted Wash-a-Pig card combinations on Instagram and asked people to submit headlines. Among his favorites: 

• Write a headline for an energy drink/speaking to gardeners: "Dig Deeper"
• Write a headline for a tropical resort/like a warning sign: *WARMING*
• Write a headline for a fishing boat/like a dating profile: "Let's Hook Up"
• Write a headline for a robotic lawnmower/using only two words: "No Sweat"

The name Wash-a-Pig comes from Luke Sullivan's book Hey Whipple, in which Sullivan says the following: 

I propose that creativity is exactly like washing a pig. Because it's messy. It has no rules. No clear beginning, middle or end. It's kind of a pain in the ass, and when you're done you're not sure if the pig is really clean or even why you were washing a pig in the first place. 

The Wash-a-Pig Kickstarter is already fully funded, but of course could always use more backers.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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