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

There is a certain level of peculiarity that comes with being a copywriter that goes beyond simply being a writer or working in marketing. Of course, I’m completely biased but it feels like a strange set of skills that I’ve stolen from history and that I’m disguising under new tech. Do you ever get that feeling about your job? I can imagine visual artists, doctors and yoga teachers might feel similar or at least understand what I’m getting at.

Advertising copywriting has existed since Babylonian times and the first printed material is said to have come into the world in 1477, promoting the sale of a prayer book.

The history of copywriting dates back to when the first printed papers were distributed on the street. The actual word “copywriting” means the act of writing words to sell products. The copywriter is the person who does this, often found in ad agencies or at home as a freelancer.

The job of a copywriter began by creating ads on a large poster made of paper with a feather dipped ink (how deliciously antiquated and time consuming). These posters were fixed to walls and poles in the bigger cities of Europe. Centuries ago there were no printing processes to make duplicates, so each page was painstakingly handcrafted. Creating such ads was more of an art and it sounds incredibly meditative to me.

Eventually, they evolved to printed pamphlets and brochures and became much smaller in size as printing in its new evolution was a complicated and lengthy process, so the smaller the item, the faster it was.

Once mass printing processes were perfected, around 1605, newspapers could be mass produced and hawked on street corners. The first English paper was produced in 1664, called the Oxford Gazette (now known as the London Gazette). It was when the larger format newspapers were published that advertisements began to appear on one full page or several ads were dispersed throughout the pages. What a glorious time that must have been for copywriters as there wasn’t quite the saturated market, you could have more effect on people and their purchasing or social decisions.

Jones the Writer

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