A Brief History of Copywriting


Both an art and a science, copywriting is the evolving, cumulative knowledge around how to most effectively use language to compel audiences to act on what they see. If design, with its colours, logos, fonts and images, is the sexy good looks that make you lust for a brand, then copy is not only the intellect and integrity, but also the sophistication, wit and charm that make you fall in love and commit.

The history of copywriting is a smoke-filled-half-empty-bottle-lots-of-crumpled-paper tale of strategic/creative minds painstakingly familiarizing themselves with the features and benefits of a products and services in intimate detail. Then, by targeting the audience and isolating intellectual and emotional angles, copywriters use what they’ve learned to get prospects’ attention and convince them to become customers.

Let’s look a famous ad by David Ogilvy – largely considered to be the father of modern advertising – to shed some light on the copywriting process.

Here is a breakdown of that legendary ad.


At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.


What makes Rolls-Royce the best car in the world? “There is really no magic about it – it is merely patient attention to detail,” says an eminent Rolls-Royce engineer.

Some of the 13 Features Noted in The Rolls Royce Ad

  • “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise comes from the electric clock” reports the Technical Editor of THE MOTOR. Three mufflers tune out sound frequencies – acoustically.
  • The car has power-steering, power brakes and automatic gear-shift. It is very easy to drive and to park, No chauffeur required.
  • The finished car spends a week in the final test-shop, being fine-tuned. Here it is subjected to 98 separate ordeals. For example, the engineers use a stethoscope to listen for axle-whine.
  • The Rolls-Royce radiator has never changed, except that when Sir Henry Royce died in 1933 the monogram RR was changed from red to black.
  • By moving a switch on the steering column, you can adjust the shock-absorbers to suit road conditions.
  • A picnic table, veneered in French walnut, slides out from under the dash. Two more swing out behind the front seats.
  • You can get such optional extras as an Espresso coffee-making machine, a dictating machine, a bed, hot and cold water for washing, an electric razor or a telephone.”

Notice how all the questions that might arise in a prospect’s mind are anticipated and addressed. This it the challenge the copywriter takes on: getting inside the head of the prospect in order to not only say what they need to hear, but to also say it in a way that makes them ACT on what they have learned.

I am fond of saying that good advertising (good copywriting) makes a sound – it sounds like a ringing phone!

Copywriting isn’t as much about actually writing as it is about knowing the product and knowing the audience for that product so you can isolate exactly what to write to make them take action.

Starting with a great headline that gets their attention, is memorable, creates a positive connection and pushes an emotional button – the copy must answer their questions, eliminate their reservations and pull them through to a great call to action.

It works. But amazingly, many business do not understand how important all this is. And because of the Internet and web/social media marketing, it is even more important today than it has ever been.


Traditional copywriting is evolving into what is now called Content Marketing or Content Engineering: the highly strategic practice of increasing efficiency and ROI in the sales process by demonstrating thought leadership, creating buzz and inciting a stampede of highly qualified inbound leads using whitepapers, e-books, e-newsletters and social media messaging.

I can show you how it works and why you should be doing it.

If you call today – for a limited time only – you will also receive a limited edition set of knifes so sharp…

Just kidding…

… sort of.