The interesting evolution of copywriting. It’s older than you think!

The beginning of freelancing

John Emory Powers, first professional copywriter

It has been suggested that the first person to work as an official independent copywriter was John Emory Powers (thanks dude). He lived from 1837 to 1919 and was the first person to have this job fulltime and instead of working for a newspaper, he worked for the popular department stores of Lord & Taylor and Wanamaker’s. These stores recognised the importance of creating excellent ads that would stand out in newspapers and magazines. He created six ads a week. I’d like that kind of work load!

He is deemed the ‘father of modern creative advertising’ by creating one of the most controversial ads of the era, in his signature straight talking style, that ended up selling out stock in a number of hours. Truth telling was his gimmick and it seemed to work!

‘Suddenly, everything I’d seen in direct mail and all the ads I’d seen made sense. Give people a reason why they should buy a product,’ Clayton Makepeace.

The value of copywriting

‘The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time,’ Thomas Jefferson.

One of the most prominent and influential copywriters of the past century was Robert Collier, who started the direct mail phenomenon in the thirties, utilising emotional connecting and psychological techniques. He later became a bestselling and famous new age and self development author.

It wasn’t really until recently that training and education became formalised for copywriting, perhaps with exception of on the job training and mentoring.

​Copywriting doesn’t last long

‘Ads, like butterflies, have short lives.’

​With real time feedback and digital analytics, copywriters and content marketers have instantaneous feedback and can tell whether the copy is working more than ever and campaign cycles are much quicker. So now we have to be faster and more accurate and create something that gets results within a 24–48 hour cycle. No pressure!

Copywriting today

Despite the medium and shelf life of copywriting changing, there are still some rock solid facets of copywriting that haven’t changed over its lifetime. They are:

  • the need for impeccable storytelling
  • using emotional persuasion
  • brevity
  • uniqueness
  • audience focussed
  • and basically everything I write about here.

The Australian copywriter’s focus has undeniably shifted considerably from print to the internet (it has had to!) over the past decade but one thing is unchanging in my self interested eyes… copywriting will continue to be one of the best ways to promote businesses, organisations, services and products and is truly an artform that every marketing strategy can reap benefits from.

If you like what I’ve written and want to see more, don’t forget to drop me a line at www.jonesthewriter.com

Copywriter + Author + Business Owner + Redhead + Waffle Lover.

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