13 Good Ideas from 13 Dead Copywriters

13 Good Ideas from 13 Dead Copywriters

Reader Comments (66)

  1. — … I made an incredible discovery recently about women copywriters during the 75 years prior to 1950. And I’ll be sharing that little surprise with you, too, in a future post. —

    I’m looking forward to it! 🙂

  2. Super article… can’t wait to hear what else you’re planning to share. May I add one? The late Howard Luck Gossage was funny, smart, and wonderfully grumpy. He wrote: “The real truth is… no one reads an ad. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” It’s expensive on Amazon, but I highly recommend picking up a collection of his thoughts and essays called The Book of Gossage.

    • And the other real truth is… no one likes typos in comments. If you’d be willing to change my “and ad” to “an ad,” I would be most grateful.

      • Tim,

        Howard Gossage’s ads are awesome.

        Chill out about the comments — as the great Gary Halbert once said, what you say is more important than how you say it. Don’t forget the hamburger stand. 🙂

        Nothing wrong with being human.


    • On the subject of Gossage, I highly recommend this book — Changing the World is the Only Work For a Grown Man, by Steve Harrison (AdWorld Press). Part biography, part eulogy, it’s a more than fitting tribute to this most charismatic of ground-breaking admen.

  3. Interesting article, Demian. Though I could tell it was one of yours from the headline, which reminds me of one of Mark Twain’s quotes:

    “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your
    editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

    After awhile “very” and its substitute lose their effectiveness because they are essentially meaningless words, serving no real purpose other than to obscure all your wonderful thoughts. Anyway, if you need two adjectives you’ve probably got the wrong noun. Just saying.

  4. Please include the 14th damn good idea: “Don’t forget to ask for the order!” If you tell readers exactly what you want them to do, it substantially increases the chance they’ll do it! Hey, does this make me the 14th greatest dead copywriter? Oh, wait…

  5. Since I am “all about history” and the roots and origins of success, I loved, loved, loved this post.

    I have been a avid reader of Copyblogger since 2009. It just keeps getting better and more relevant!

    Thank you for that.

  6. Damn! You had me by the eye balls at the headline.

    Great info. Well composed. I’m still here thinking, and will re-read this often. What was old is new again. Thanks a million.

  7. I love this post – with all the advanced technology it’s a comfort to know that as a writer my profession is old and new at the same time.

  8. Ubiquitous…Transubstantiate….

    Did you purposefully break the common modern web writing rule to NEVER use $100 (big) words?

    I like it, but wonder how many in this audience actually know what they mean…

    Lots of great stuff here, Chief. I loved your suble bullet “how to understand the never-changing human psyche.” I did a double take as I thought you said “ever-changing human psyche” for a sec. Of course you didn’t. 🙂

    This is swipe file bound.

    • Occasionally you bend those rules to make sure people are paying attention. Interestingly enough, it was Jayme who broke this rule, not wanting to insult people’s intelligence. Thanks for the kind words.

  9. The greatest about this post is it demonstrates great storytelling combined with how-to and a clear demonstration that the author knows his stuff (pulling out all the important points of so many books).

    For me that is the most authoritative kind of text I can read.


  10. Wonderful article – a veritable 101! I also appreciated your illustrating your theme through language – history, heresy, transubstantiation… Real value-added if you understand the references, and yet the message is clear even if you don’t. And answering objections before they’re made – very well done! An example of best practices in and of itself. Saving and sharing this one repeatedly. Looking forward to the rest.

  11. The smart learn from their own experience, the happy also learn from the experience of others.

    You make easy to be happy :-]

    Thanks for a great post, oops, series.

  12. What an amazing list! Granted some things in the marketplace have changed, but the most important thing hasn’t changed at the core: Human Beings! The emotional drivers that trigger someone to reach into their pocket have been the same for a long time, and they will continue to be for even longer into the future. Thank you for the reminder!

  13. Hey Demian,

    Nicely done! I love the hook at the end. I now HAVE to read the next few posts you write to find out about this discovery relating to women!

    You’re devious Demian! But it worked.

    Please don’t keep me waiting too long!


  14. This is a fantastic sales seminar rather than a simple blog post. Thank you for all of this tremendous information. I’ve heard of some of these men but thank you for the videos and links to research further. I look forward to the future surprises you have in store.

  15. “See, we are often seduced by data, social media, and the intrigues of Google … mistaking tools for tactics and science for strategy.”

    Which is why in this “never-changing” world, I’m glad to have bet on words and storycraft. Both have served me well no matter my official job title.

    I, too, knew that this was “one of yours,” Demian, before I clicked through my email to Copyblogger. “Another DAMN post by Farnworth,” I was thinking. 🙂

    Reading your introduction, I thought I could guess one of the entries given our shared Southern(most) Illinois heritage. But nope, I was wrong.

    You see my first memories of cruising bluff-lands come from riding shotgun in my Grandpa’s powder-blue Impala listening to the few stations the antennae could pull into the AM dial. My grandpa was the son of a preacher, the descendant of a long line of farmers, as well as a charming old-school salesman. He was also obviously of mixed racial ancestry which was illegal at that time in our history.

    So how did he survive…no, thrive in those conditions?

    “And now for the rest of the story…”

    Needless to say, my politics are more than slightly to the left of radio personality & copywriter, Paul Harvey’s, but I appreciate his skills, results, and longevity.

    The fact that my grandfather could mimic Harvey’s tone and ways made it much easier for folks to turn a color-blind eye.

    My childhood lesson was that you don’t have to agree with everything about a person in order to appreciate their God-given talents.

    I LOVE these longer pieces! They feel so luxurious. Great series. Can’t wait for more.

    • Great comment, and thank you for introducing me to your grandfather. Sounds like a man I would’ve loved to meet. Did you read my productivity article on my grandfather?

      And thanks, it’s good to hear you like these longer posts. I love to hear what people think (good or bad).

      • Ha! Me, too, Demain. I always say, “Be careful what you ask me, because I will most likely tell you.”

        I appreciate both high and low brow. I think they have much to gain from rubbing elbows with each other.

        And yes, even from my Honolulu home, I grow nostalgic for “Little Egypt.”

        Yep, again. I loved the post about your grandfather. The Upper Mississippi Delta has a terrific storytelling tradition.

        Few of us have the time to read these longer pieces on a daily basis., but as an occasional treat they are a joy to savor.

  16. Always love getting history lessons while reading practical advice. Can you please stop including outbound links so I don’t need to even momentarily consider leaving the article?

  17. I left a comment earlier and it’s not here for some reason 🙁 Maybe I got distracted and didn’t publish it. So, I had to say again how much I loved this post! It was like a sales seminar not just a blog…so much tremendous info. I just read the Ogilvy piece and took notes. There is so much here I could be busy for hours reading and watching how to sell. Thank you, Demian!!

  18. Wow, excellent post. It awakened some lessons learned in college, where I chose art direction over copywriting, thus breezed through one copy course. I kept glancing over to my bookshelf where “Ogilvy on Advertising” has rested for the last decade. It’s calling me. I think I am high on words, the science of selling and the art of the well crafted verbiage. I think I could live for days, maybe weeks, on the resources linked in this post. Sweet.

  19. Less is always MORE.
    Thank you for such an acerbic article.
    Early to bed. Early to rise. Work like hell and advertise.
    (prob Ogilvy!) back in ’59!

  20. Demian, wow! What an awesome post this is. Well-researched, fact-packed and very informative for all bloggers, writers and copywriters today. Although the world has changed greatly today, still, these ideas have a punch in them. A lot of them still makes a lot of sense and they just can’t be ignored. While I’m still figuring out how to put to practice what I’ve just read, I also can’t help feel astounded by these great copywriters and how they came up with such solid ideas back then.

  21. I love your advices and articles. I read copyblogger for very long time…
    Even though I am more writer than copywriter, I don’t like copywriting very much and I am not good at it… So my current challenge, to write about doors (more precisly about the “pocket” you shuffle door into…) is, well, overhelming :)) Gonna read everything you ever wrote, maybe it help! 🙂

  22. Talk about a headline that grabs attention…
    One thing I noticed is that most of these individuals lived long and probably happy lives doing what they love. Something to definitely think about.

  23. Yes, sometimes, the “dead dudes” are those that stays alive long enough to outlive all others who are living, one aspect i love here is the “article title”! Talk bout having a grabbing headlines, everyone wants to know what it is about!

    Thanks Demian Farnworth.

  24. Great article, Demian

    I often feel with direct marketing gaining prominence again, it is imperative that we marketer go back and read the Oglivys and Laskers.

  25. wow i love the bit about “anticipation copy” Its a concept that is new to me.. i know. i might have to get out more.
    But its going to be my research for the next week/month..
    perfect that..or at least a good approximation.. and i think it will help to boost my business

  26. I really liked the one on “Why you should care about advertising history”, because it will tell you about future of your advertising and business, and everyone should consider this! Thanks for all the 13 nice ideas 🙂

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