3. Pivotals not puns

Welcome to 5 minute masterclass no. 3. Pivotals not puns.


I have adopted the word Pivotals as a means of distinguishing them from puns.

They are words that exploit similar duality of meaning,  though, unlike puns, they are not necessarily jokey or used for their own sake – merely a ‘tricksy’ use of language – but are an effective means of leveraging multiple meanings on behalf of a subject (either directly or in relation to a product or brand).

At very least they can attract attention in the ingenuity of their use in reframing a familiar topic or phrase.

Moreover, unlike typical puns, they can be elegant, moving, entertaining and offer extra reward for engagement.


One of the most famous from the brilliant Saatchi’s in the early days.

1. Labour isn't working

There are in fact two pivotals, Labour, as in the name of a political party, and  the act of manual labour – and working as in the being employed in some way and the verb meaning to function correctly.  Using capitals has masked the fact that in upper and lowercase you would distinguish between use of Labour as a noun or verb by the use of upper or lower case L – effectively neutralising the grammar.


The pivotal is of course boys. Not real boys, of course, but we have little trouble following the personification of her perked up assets as one facet of the pivotal and the increase in male attention that will follow the employment of the wondrous bra as the second.


One from the excellent stable of Nike ads produced by the now sadly long-gone agency, Simon’s Palmer. The pivotal of course being the word tackle. Both in the sporting sense as well as engaging or confronting the men involved. A clever reframe of a Police public service style announcement warning the public about individuals they consider a threat.


Purposely treading a fine line of political correctness to grab our attention – simultaneously leveraging the humour of the reframe of the colloquial use of the phrase ‘picking up‘, women – typically relating to having made a successful conquest of the opposite sex; along with the literal meaning of having given women (rather than one) a lift in the cute little MPV.  There is also a pseudo-pivotal employed in the use of ‘five times‘ as this reframe takes what might usually be considered a generic term but is actually referring very specifically to the 5 women (as seen in the van) rather than the 1 that its only possible to fit comfortably into a Lambo’s passenger seat.

Midwife copy

One from my own portfolio. Delivered is the pivotal – referring to the midwife’s work as facilitator of baby welcomes to the world, as well as their arrival at said work facilitated by London Transport.


A final example from that great advertiser and brand Nike. This time the pivotal is the word inside – used in a line typical of packaging that refers to the inclusion of all the parts required to operate a given product, but here reframed to refers to what’s inside the athlete in terms of character, passion and drive.


I hope these examples make the point clear enough. This technique is not restricted to print advertising of course and can be found in various guises in every creative writing pursuit.

Spot the pivotal in this bad joke.  “My dog has no nose.”  “How does he smell?”  “Terrible.”

And to end a classic response from the classic show Family Fortunes.

Q: “Name an african bird with a long neck.  A: “Naomi Campbell.”

For those not from the UK, the pivotal bird is ‘politically incorrect’ slang for an attractive woman.  The British version of  ‘chick’. 

Thanks for reading.

If you would like help you with you brand communications please drop me a line at james@thebrandlodge.co.uk. 

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