Lessons & insight from copywriting legends

I came across a treasure recently at a fave spot – the Avenue Bookstore in Albert Park. It’s called “The Copy Book. How some of the best advertising writers in the world write their advertising.”

Whilst there’s little room for “traditional” advertising in a blog about zero budget marketing the insights of good copy writing translate to other mediums.

Around 50 legends share some of their insight on writing, and some of their best ads. (Even if you’re not interested in the craft of copywriting, it’s a great book.) I thought I’d share some of the gems from these admen, who’ve all had 30+ years in the game. These are edited extracts, their actual inclusions are much longer.

Oh, and if you only take away one thing, David Abbott’s point 5 is the one to adhere to.

David Abbott

I’ve never been much of a theoriser about copywriting, but here are five things that I think are more of less true:

1. Put yourself in your work. Use your life to animate your copy. If something moves you, chances are, it will touch someone else, too.

2. Think visually. Ask someone to describe a spiral staircase and they’ll use their hands as well as words. Sometimes the best copy is no copy.

3. If you believe that facts persuade (as I do), you’d better learn how to write a list so that it doesn’t read like a list.

4. Confession is good for the soul and for copy, too. Bill Bernbach used to say “a small admission gains a large acceptance”. I still think he was right.

5. Don’t be boring.

Tony Brignull

My own copy improved when it occurred to me that we relate to a company as we do a person. Unless we’re investors, we don’t ask how many employees a company has, what its financial fearing is, where it exports. We as; is it honest, reliable, modest, amusing, trustworthuy. If ti is, that company may eventually become our friend. I have come to think that helping companies turn into friends is the greatest thing we advertising people can do for our clients.

Sean Doyle

– Don’t think, just do, and thoughts will definitely happen along the way.

– Always be collecting

– Wake up early

– Beware of the committee

– Less isn’t always more

– Pick a side

– Avoid brainstorms (if you want to)

Paul Fishlock

– We are not in the entertainment business, we’re in the influence business

– Copywriting is more science than you may think

– Creative prizes are false God

– We influence some of the least important decisions in people’s lives

– Beware (becoming) management

Steve Harrison

It was probably my grounding in direct mail that taught me my obligations to the reader, I was usually entering their homes uninvited and because of that I always felt that my first responsibility was to them – and not the client. I wasn’t there to foist a product or service on the prospect. I twas my job to show how the think I was writing about could solve the reader’s problems.

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