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Copywriter’s WorkBench - Old Masters Series

Published by: David Garfinkel on 01-03-2022

Today’s show is part of our popular Old Masters series, and we’ve got some unusual info and ideas from a copywriter of old, John Starr Hewitt. This comes from a book we’re pulled from before, from 1925, called “Masters of Advertising Copy.”

From everything I’ve seen in this book, Hewitt is the only contributor who gets down to cases when it comes to what it takes to become a master in copywriting. His ideas are decidedly different, even for today. He talks about the subtle skills a copywriter needs to develop, and the subtle changes that occur as you get better and better.

I agreed with most of what he said. I didn’t have an issue with any of it. Some of it was a little hard to understand and apply for copywriting today, but most of it translates very easily. And all of is interesting.

More than how to structure an ad or how to do your research, this chapter by Hewitt focuses on awareness. What you need to pay attention to both with your product and regarding the world at large. Since this is new information, the way he presents it, I think you’ll find it useful and maybe give you some new ideas.

So let’s talk about John Starr Hewitt and his chapter. I couldn’t find out much about him personally or career-wise, except it looks like he was from New Jersey.

His main idea is: What you see and what you feel is a major set of factors in your success as a copywriter. It's interesting that this was from 100 years ago, when only recently have authenticity and deep empathy become so important, maybe again or maybe for the first time, for copywriters.

Because he was writing almost 100 years ago, every copywriter Hewitt refers to is a “he.” I hope you can look past that and understand that for the sake of accuracy and not adding awkward extra language to the quotes, you can assume “he” means both “he” or “she” for today’s show.

OK, let’s get started. Hewitt begins by saying:

“The more one sees of the difficulties of copywriting, the deeper grows the conviction that really great copy depends even more on seeing and feeling than it does on writing.

“The man who sees and feels can hardly help writing sincerely. …

“To express fully a fine, deep feeling calls for a writing skill possessed in the highest degree by only a few in each generation.”

I agree. There will only be a few who are truly at the top of their game. But that doesn't mean it's game-over for everyone else.

Because in copywriting, you can make a really great living, even make millions, without being one of the few very, very best.

However, you still have to really home in on some key skills and get as good as you can at them.

And Hewitt sounds more than a little like John Carlton when he says:

"So it behooves the copywriters to grow up, get his work-bench in order, and learn to practice his art as a mature and conscious craftsman.”

Link to free download on GoogleBooks, Masters of Advertising Copy:

Keywords: old masters of copywriting

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