Eugene Schwartz, the master copywriter, spoke to a group of copywriters at Rodale, the publishing company.
It's defunct now but back then Rodale sold millions of health and wellness books every year using direct mail ads.
Back then, the best copywriters in America worked for Rodale.
The creative model was typical:
2 top copywriters wrote an ad for the same book. The ad with the better conversion rate won and became the “control.”
It was an all-or-nothing, hyper-competitive, Glengarry-Glen-Ross-esque environment.
And I imagine the writers had big egos.
So I think Schwartz was asked to bring the group back down to Earth.
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“OK...” said Schwartz.
What came next is a quote I have taped to my screen (so that the sentiment is always top of mind):
“I will take the best copywriter in this room, who is sloppy and careless, and match him against a good copy cub.
And 2 out of 3 times, the sloppiness of the great person will be beaten by the carefulness of the other person.
Because the power of the ad is always in the product itself.
It is NOT in the copywriter…
The copywriter simply finds it and expresses it.”
I make sure to read (or at least see) this quote every time I write for a reason.
It reminds me that...
Copywriting is 20% writing and 80% research.
Diligent, careful research.
And that, to me, is comforting.
I’m at ease knowing that the facts are there before I am. And that my work is only to find those facts (i.e., product research; market research) and put them together (i.e., writing; creativity; ideas).
In that sense, I’m really not a copywriter. I’m a researcher.
I don’t write as much as I assemble.
That’s the job.
Careful copywriters do their research.
Sloppy copywriters don’t.