March 8, 2013Stop talking about copywriting, you’re boring me

A guest post by Glenn Fisher of All Good Copy

My partner hates it…

And I can see her point.

I do tend to go on a bit about copywriting.

Morning, noon and night, there I am, chirping away with a new thought about this or a new angle for that.

At home. In the pub. On holiday.

It’s got so bad, last weekend she started building a time machine in the garden to travel back to the 1920s and murder Claude Hopkins before he can write Scientific Advertising.

OK. I’m obsessed.

But I expect you are too. (You’re reading this for a start.)

Good news is: I’ve got a bit of solution.

How to always talk about copywriting without seeming to

I say ‘a bit’ of a solution as it’s cheating really.

You see, I recently wrote a piece on my own website about how it’s essential to keep feeding your mind with raw material if you want to continue inventing new ideas.

In the piece I suggested some ‘raw material’ should be about copy; books like Scientific Advertising, existing sales letters, and other advertising material. You know the kind of stuff.

But I also suggested you should equally fill your mind with books and films – and anything else you can get your hands on – that is seemingly unrelated to copywriting.

Because here’s the trick…

When you’re a copywriter:

EVERYTHING is related to copywriting.

Though your other half might think you’re watching a heartfelt romantic drama (undoubtedly featuring Ryan Gosling), what you’re actually doing is digesting raw material, which you can later call on in your copywriting.

What’s that, aiming your new tissue product at 20-something women? Why not show footage of women crying in a cinema watching said Gosling film and struggling to wipe away tears as their inferior tissues fall apart. Then pan to one woman who seems calm and collected, sad but happy, dabbing away the tears with your new and improved tissue and the strapline: “Kleenose, it’s Notebook proof.”

A silly example. But you get my point.

There is nothing under the sun that cannot be used as fuel for copy.

So, it’s doesn’t matter if it’s your girlfriend, your husband, your friends or even just that random stranger (who for some reason is staying in your house)…

When they declare “Stop talking about copywriting, you’re boring me”

Just smile and ask what they’d like to do.

Of course, you could make some suggestions.

I mean, some things that aren’t seemingly related to copywriting ARE more related to copywriting than other things that aren’t so seemingly so.

(Was that even a real sentence?)

Anyway, I have five suggestions for you…

All cool things that you can quite happily read, watch or listen to without anyone suspecting that in reality you’re actually feeding your addiction to copywriting theory.

So when possible, suggest these…

Five particularly good covert copywriting aids

Actually, I’d go as far as to say that studying these five things can teach you a lot more about copywriting than many of the awful, vague and often downright incorrect manuals that are flogged in the name of good copy.

So, take note!

1. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Ah, Old Papa. The one non-copywriter who pops up in so many articles about copywriting you’d think he’d slept with Ogilvy himself. Strangely, Hemingway apparently tried his hand at copywriting and was pants. But the man knows brevity. Not a redundant word they say. And brevity my friend, is one skill you simply cannot do without. It’s so important, I’ll stop there.

2. Any Stand-Up Comedy by Bill Hicks

The man was a genius and if you’ve not heard of him, stop reading this and go find out more. Funny. Fanatic. But ultimately fragile, Hicks was a master of engagement. The way he was able to bring an audience into his world and get them on his side was incredible. But don’t tell him that. He hated advertising with a passion and would tell both you and me to kill ourselves.

3. Picasso: A Life by John Richardson

Currently standing at three massive volumes that make you look weird if you’re trying to read them on the tube, this biography of the great artist by a close friend of his is magnificent. Magnificent is a stupid word and you shouldn’t use it in your copy. But I’m a rogue and it seems apt here. And the real point is: reading about Picasso’s life will teach you all you need to know about staying original and ahead of your contemporaries.

4. The Wire (TV Series) by David Simon

I often say never a trust a man with two first names, but here I’ll make an exception. David Simon reportedly aimed this excellent show about drug dealers and cops at drug dealers and cops. In other words, he had his ideal audience in mind and aimed it at them. That made it authentic. And that authenticity is the reason people who aren’t drug dealers and cops love the show. There’s a lesson there and it’s not that you should aim all your copy at drug dealers and cops.

5. Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

Once upon a time you dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime, didn’t you? People call, say beware doll, you’re bound to fall, thought they were all kidding you. And Bob writes words that flow like birds, doesn’t he. And if you can’t hear the melody, it’s my bad copy, so I’d better stop. Anyway, listen to Bob Dylan more because he’s a master of making language flow and writing in a conversational way.

And there you go!

Five things you can enjoy with others without having to revert to a laborious lecture about conversion rates

Without boring-on about how brilliant that witty thing David Ogilvy said was…

And without having to waste two hours deciding if five steps is better than seven steps, though unanimously agreeing it should be an odd number of steps rather than a-zzzzzzz.

Sorry. Dozed off there.

A conclusion? Really?! Do I have to?

Right, OK. Something to do with a metaphor about a guitarist who just learns the chords but hasn’t got soul and a copywriter who just reads manuals but hasn’t got an edge. Something like that. You know. That kind of thing… copywriting… fresh ideas… Hendrix… that Ogilvy bloke again…

Look, we’ve spoken enough about copywriting…

It’s now time to go forth and fill your brain with other stuff.

Although, that said… the other stuff will ultimately inform your copywriting. And I guess that’s my point. Ta-da!

** Glenn Fisher Direct-Response Copywriter and the founder of, a website designed to help copywriters and marketers improve their copywriting skills. To get more advice from Glenn, visit

Share this article

This entry was posted on Friday, March 8th, 2013 at 1:14 pm and is filed under Blog, Copywriting, Guest Post. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One comment

  1. Good point. As you say – everything is related to copywriting. Every step I take (every move I make :-) ) I see copywriting… which is sometimes really annoying.

Leave a comment

Due to an unusually high volume of spam being left on this blog, please solve this problem before sending your comment .

Site by Spencer Lavery