Timeless Copywriting Principles from Real Mad Men

Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)

Who can say what content creation will look like in ten years?

In the face of changes in an industry with a thrilling yet hazy future, it’s comforting to know that copywriting principles haven’t changed. Sample these timeless truths from some great Mad Men-era copywriters:

On brevity: “There is no such thing as long copy. There is only too-long copy. And that can be two words if they are not the right two words.” — Jim Durfee, Durfee & Solow

On originality: “I write down in the margins all the clichés and purple bits that clutter my head. I find that only by writing them down do I exorcise them. If I simply try to forget them they keep coming back like spots on a teenage chin.” — David Abbott, DDB London, French Gold Abbott

On connection: “My own copy improved when it occurred to me that we relate to a company as we do to a person… We ask, is it honest, reliable, modest, amusing, trustworthy. If it is, that company may eventually become our friend.” — Tony Brignull, Collett Dickenson Pearce

On power: “A strong idea, simply presented, is far more effective than a weak idea strongly presented.” – Jim Durfee, Durfee & Solow

On the future of copy: “Copywriters are still in the business of big ideas. And writing is still thinking. But the final result may no longer contain any words at all.” — Marty Cooke, Cooke&Co

While the medium may change, the underlying message is timeless. Great copywriting will always be succinct, original, sincere, and powerful.

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Jean Tang

A champion of high-end content, Jean is a living tribute to copywriting for humans. In 2012, at a TEDx talk, she declared her now widely viewed “War Against Bland.” The visionary founder of MarketSmiths, Jean leads her growing team to captivate, inspire, and motivate readers. She has helped thousands of global clients generate revenue from words (up to 12,000% ROI), and transformed the writing of hundreds of seminar attendees at the SXSW Interactive Festival (2014 and 2015), SXSW V2V (2014), the Small Business Summit (2014, NYC), and other venues.

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