January 25, 2012

A Solid Foundation

Letters of Note has an entertaining letter by one of the greats in modern advertising, David Ogilvy. He writes about his 12-step copywriting process:
2. I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.

3. I am helpless without research material—and the more "motivational" the better.

4. I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.
There is the myth of the inspired genius for whom beautiful and harmonious writing just descends as if from the heavens (the Romantic poets are largely responsible for it. See, for example, Kubla Khan).

This myth, though weakened, still lingers. Which is why I pulled the section above; for this writer, at least, great copy starts with research and analysis. It's not the whole story, by any stretch, but a solid foundation helps.

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