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My Biggest Lesson: A Game of Inches with Mike Betette

Hanson Dodge's senior copywriter Mike on his love for comedy writing and to never taking a word or moment for granted

My Biggest Lesson: A Game of Inches with Mike Betette

Hanson Dodge is a full-service independent advertising agency based in Milwaukee, WI with a rich history of digital excellence. Mike Betette is a senior copywriter at Hanson Dodge and is also a former comedy writer and performer.


Early in my life, I fell in love with comedy writing, then performing, and did both professionally for about 20 years. I wrote for Comedy Central, toured the world with The Second City, got to work with Craig Ferguson, Wayne Brady, and a lot of very funny behind-the-scenes people. Eventually I left it behind and headed to Milwaukee, where I found a new love, copywriting. 

Still, when I heard that Kevin McDonald, one of my favourite comedy performers from The Kids in the Hall, was coming to town to teach a comedy writing workshop, I jumped at the opportunity. It was everything I hoped it would be. Kevin talked about surprising and satisfying an audience, having a strong point of view, and how to protect a great premise. But during the three-day workshop he said one thing that truly resonated. It was something I had always felt, but that I was never able to truly articulate. “Comedy is a game of inches.”  Every single choice you make adds up. Or, as Kevin McDonald said, “Make every moment wonderful.” 

Writing for advertising over the past five years has enabled me to hone and demonstrate my craft, and on a larger scale. I was able to write for world-wide brands like Stanley drinkware, KEEN Utility Boots, VISIT Milwaukee, and other highly recognised companies and brands. I write headlines, subcopy, e-mails, campaigns, and the idea of making every inch count, making every moment wonderful, really resonated. It was a great reminder to not take one word, or one moment, for granted. 

Never in my career was this piece of advice more fully realised than during a recent experience I had with my VISIT Milwaukee client. VISIT Milwaukee was a main sponsor for Connect 2021, a conference for meeting and convention planners to be introduced to cities that could host their upcoming events. This was VISIT Milwaukee’s big moment, but we only had five minutes in an hour long show full of other city’s presentations to surprise and delight a convention hall full of tired planners. I thought about what Kevin McDonald said: How do we stand out? How do we fill every inch? Our answer was to leverage all that was distinctive and unique about Milwaukee. In this instance, DJ Shawna -- the official DJ of the 2021 NBA Championship Milwaukee Bucks (and one of only three female DJ’s in the NBA). She was high energy and had clout. She would hype up the crowd and present all our information, while an accompanying video played.  

Before VISIT Milwaukee’s presentation, Connect was doing a Breast Cancer Awareness video segment. At first it felt like a tough intro, then we realised it was a wonderful opportunity. After the segment, VISIT Milwaukee’s CEO Peggy Williams-Smith came out and donated $5,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Fund in the name of VISIT Milwaukee. So we had a heartfelt moment supporting a wonderful cause, followed by great music and DJ Shawna delivering a powerhouse performance.

But there’s always a few inches left. So we also gave a way a bunch of swag and armed everyone in the room with green glowsticks (the colour of the Bucks) to literally light up the room. 

Now, every time I’m asked to present before a client, or a client is asked to present, I remind myself to look for every possible way to make every moment wonderful. Let’s not leave anything on the table, let’s leave them remembering us. No detail is too small. Make use of every inch. 


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