From Mad Men to Madness - Copywriting in the 21st Century

From Mad Men to Madness – Copywriting in the 21st Century

At j9etc. we love watching Mad Men reruns as much as the next person – or maybe more, given our line of work. After devoting an embarrassingly large number of hours to the Mad Men boxset over the weekend I was reminded of an article published in the New Yorker almost twenty years ago, detailing the vibrant professional contribution of Shirley Polykoff. Polykoff is largely considered to be the inspiration for everybody's favourite copywriter -  Mad Men's Peggy Olson - and was responsible for some of the most successful and memorable advertising campaigns in history. 

Now, of course I didn't need to spend a vicarious weekend in 1960s New York to realise how much the world has changed over the last - almost 60 years - but as I was reading over the Polykoff's snappy headlines, which became forever enmeshed with the brands themselves, it struck me just how much advertising, especially copywriting, has changed.  

Although it would be completely naïve to reduce the incredible contribution of copywriters like Polykoff to snappy slogans alone – today's copywriter is without a doubt faced with challenges the Mad Men (and women) didn't dream of. With an increased number of companies and products, constant innovations, and more platforms on which to advertise, copywriters today need a much broader writing repertoire than our 20th Century counterparts.

Today, copywriters need to supplement the cornerstones of copywriting (creativity, high-impact tag-lines, and exceptional storytelling skills) with social media posting prowess and blogging finesse all at an increasingly fast rate (hence the madness!). Skip the madness and get ready to tackle any topic, on any platform with these five tips:

1. Research 

Do more of it! Now we're talking both industry specific, and general knowledge here. Of course, when writing about a specific product or company, you need to have a solid understanding of that product, company and where they sit in the market. But having a broad knowledge base (general knowledge, current affairs, and trends) that you can draw on will make your writing life a whole lot easier (yay!), and your writing a whole lot better (yay again!). Just remember the more you know, the more possibilities you have! 


2. Find your voice  

Every writer has their own style – it's a large part of what makes reading interesting! You're seeing things from somebody else's perspective and have a chance to consider things in a way you might not have thought of. The tricky part about copywriting is you're not writing solely from your own perspective. What you write is bigger than just you, it needs to be from the carefully crafted perspective of your (or your client's) brand personality. Simultaneously maintaining your voice and adopting a brand personality may seem incompatible but keeping this proposition in mind will make sure your writing stays true to you and the brand: 

If I was the "brand", what would want I want people to know about me (features, benefits, value) and how would I share it with them? Am I funny? Light-hearted? Serious? Concerned?


3. Make them feel something 

Copywriting is about more than just the brand personality – it's about the customer too. Copywriters need to create world beyond the product that customers connect with and want to be a part of:  

If I was the customer, what would I want to know about the brand and what would best capture my attention, encourage a connection and be of value to me? 


4. Work your headline 

According to David Ogilvy (aka the father of advertising), five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy – so you better make it good! Our top tips: 

  1. Write the body copy first and let that inform your headline (not the other way around!) 

  2. Keep it simple but specific 

  3. Make it interesting, urgent and of immediate and obvious value 


5. Don't oversell it 

We probably don't need to tell you, feeling 'sold to' doesn’t sit well with customers – the best voice in advertising is an authentic one. Use conversational language that speaks directly to the customer and avoid wishy-washy words like 'maybe', 'could', and 'hope' - if your not sure, how can the customer be? Effective copy should make your CTA (call to action) feel like a natural next step for customers – read over your work (a lot!), if you're not convinced by the end of it, customers probably won't be either! 

Make it simple, but significant
— Don Draper, Mad Men

While Mad Men made the world of advertising and copywriting incredibly enticing (although after the weekend, there might be a little bias here), copywriting isn't for everyone. It's challenging, frustrating, and often time consuming. The good news is, the j9etc, Marketing Concierge team includes a copywriting service – no matter the company, product, or platform, we love to write!  

BONUS! Aside from letting yourself off the writing hook, another great reason to outsource your copywriting essentially occurs by default. An independent copywriter is able to consider your product/promotion from the customer perspective. 


Don't think you'll have the time to perfect your copywriting skills? Contact the j9etc. Marketing Concierge today!