Becoming a copywriter isn’t as easy as just waking up and deciding you want to write. While this is a great first step, it is a career path that takes a lot of dedication and hard work. Apart from practice (which is always a great way to improve your skills) and doing online courses, it is also a good idea to look at the best copywriters of all time, who continue to influence to this day.
There are several copywriters who have been so brilliant, talented and creative over time that they have had their names go down in history. After all, while technology has changed and advanced over the years and the language we use has evolved, our basic human understanding and instincts are not so different.
We still look to words to evoke an emotional response, whether that be persuasion, security, comfort or advice. Hence the general rules of copywriting and audience appeal still apply, and these can be mastered from some of the greats in the copywriting industry.
5 of the best copywriters of all time
Here are just a few of the top copywriters in the world who we can all learn a few lessons from to improve our work:
1. David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy has often been described as “The Father of Advertising” as is well known for his compelling advertising copy. In his career, he led highly successful campaigns with clients such as Rolls-Royce, Dove and Shell.
One of his famous quotes includes:
“Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.”
In this, he states that you cannot write copy that is successful unless you know exactly what the person reading needs, who you are writing for and how they think. To do this you need to do your research and understand your audience as thoroughly as possible. He also emphasised the importance of a good header and to always explain to the person exactly why they should buy.
2. Leo Burnett
Leo Burnett is another copywriter who is well known for his excellent ad copy. Prior to the 1950s, adverts were predominantly an image with a line of text beneath, during the 50s and 60s however, this began to change and the “Creative Revolution” began and Burnett was at the forefront of this.
“I have learned that you can’t have good advertising without a good client, that you can’t keep a good client without good advertising, and no client will ever buy better advertising than he understands or has an appetite for.”
Known for bringing personality and panache to brand’s copy, he was responsible for everything from Tony the Tiger to the Marlboro Man and countless more.
3. Claude Hopkins
One of the most influential copywriting books of all times is “Scientific Advertising” and was written by Claude Hopkins. One of the most notable points of these books is that a lot of the principals still stand today.
Hopkins is famously quoted as saying:
“No one orange grower or raisin grower could attempt to increase the consumption of these fruits. The cost might be a thousand times his share of the returns.”
In a nutshell: you can drain your resources trying to manufacture desire – the trick is to tap into the desire they already have.
He also reiterated you need to sell not the product you are selling, but what it can do for people and why it will fulfil their needs. By identifying customer pain points in your copy, you can enhance your appeal.
He also reiterated just how important headlines are:
“The purpose of the headline is to pick out people you can interest…What you have will interest certain people only and for certain reasons. You care only for these people. Then create a headline which will hail those people only.”
4. Drayton Bird
Drayton Bird is a copywriter that was much admired by David Ogilvy, with Ogilvy stating:
“Drayton Bird knows more about direct marketing than anyone else in the world.”
He believes in constant study and states it as giving you a great advantage in business and that you should never give up.
Drayton Bird’s book “Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing” is published in 17 languages and has been on the UK’s bestselling list for the subject every year since 1982.
Drayton has worked in fifty-five countries with many bestselling brands. He has helped sell products for everyone from American Express and Nestle to Peppa Pig, Audi and Visa.
5. Eugene Schwartz
Eugene Schwartz is regarded as one of the most famous copywriters in history. He has a number of achievements under his belt that display just how powerful his advertising copy is. In fact, a television advert he wrote is credited for selling a TV to 1 in 14 US TV owners.
A champion of cold hard facts over plaudits, he said:
“The surest way to know that something is failing as copy is to have someone come in and say, ‘God, that was great copy!’”
He believed that the way to measure the success of ad copy was not winning praise but how it translated into physical sales. He believed the aim of copy is to convince people to act, not to detract them from the product and draw attention to the words instead.
Other famous copywriters to note
While the above are five of the best copywriters in the world, there are also many more of note. The following are some that are good to research and find out more about:
Clayton Makepeace, Gary Halbert and Joe Coleman
These are just a few of the greatest copywriters of all time. Take inspiration from them, their work and their legacy to help improve your own copywriting skills.
If you are ever feeling downhearted about your copy, it is important to remember a quote from Schwartz:
“A very good copywriter is going to fail. If the guy doesn’t fail, he’s no good. He’s got to fail. It hurts. But it’s the only way to get the home runs the next time.”
Remember that being creative is not a simple yes and no process, there will be bumps in the road. Keep your head up, keep trying and don’t ever stop learning.
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Image credit: Ben Sweet