A brief copywriting lesson


Putting these ad-legend quotes together made a sort of quick guide to the act of stringing words together.

The headline

“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.”
David Ogilvy

“It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money…”
David Ogilvy

“He hasn’t a chance. Because if the headline is poor, the copy will not be read. And copy that is not read does not sell goods.”
John Caples

“On the other hand, if the headline is a good one, it is a relatively simple matter to write the copy.”
John Caples

“For, obviously, it is the headline that gets people into the copy; the copy doesn’t get them into the headline. In other words, the copywriter’s aim in life should be to try to make it harder for people to pass up his advertisement than to read it. And right in his headline he takes the first, and truly giant, step on the road to that goal.”
Vic Schwab

Being clear about you’re on about

“Advertising says to people, ‘Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it will do for you. Here’s how to get it.”
Leo Burnett


“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’ That will only confuse you. Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”
William Bernbach

Focusing on audience, understanding them and using their language

“A copywriter should have ‘an understanding of people, an insight into them, a sympathy toward them.”
George Gribbin

“I don’t know the rules of grammar. . . . If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.”
David Ogilvy

Words and pictures relationships

“The secret of all effective advertising is not the creation of new and tricky words and pictures, but one of putting familiar words and pictures into new relationships.”
Leo Burnett

Write in an interesting and lively style

“Shakespeare wrote his sonnets within a strict discipline, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, rhyming in three quatrains and a couplet. Were his sonnets dull? Mozart wrote his sonatas within an equally rigid discipline – exposition, development, and recapitulation. Were they dull?”
David Ogilvy

Enjoy what you do

“A writer should be joyous, an optimist… Anything that implies rejection of life is wrong for a writer.”
George Gribbin


“No, I don’t think a 68-year-old copywriter… can write with the kids.. But he may be a better surgeon.”
Rosser Reeves