Lessons from Legends: What Grover and David Ogilvy Taught Me About Great Copywriting

March 10, 2011  |   Posted by :   |   Copywriting,Young Copywriter Series   |   Comments Off on Lessons from Legends: What Grover and David Ogilvy Taught Me About Great Copywriting»

Moderator’s Note: I’m proud to present the first in a series of Young Copywriter guest posts. Our first is from Shelby Blanchard Stogner, who specializes in giving a voice to growth-minded companies. She can be reached via the contact form on her website at SBS Copywriting, or emailed directly at shelby@sbscopywriting.com

And now, here’s Shelby:

The last American WWI veteran, Frank Buckles, died February 27 at the age of 110. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around the changes he saw in a life that went from silent films to Avatar. As for myself, I was born the same year that Microsoft welcomed Windows into the world, and it remains to be seen which of us will be ushered out first. It might seem like it would be easy for me to say that I have nothing to learn from the past, considering how different the world has become even in my lifetime, but that would be a huge mistake.

Recently I was fortunate enough to meet Andy Bartling, a successful copywriter whose career spans essentially my entire life. He expressed surprise that I had heard of David Ogilvy, and asked a really thought-provoking question: “What can young writers learn from the founders of modern advertising?” In a word: everything.

It’s probably easiest for me to explain my perspective by sharing what I love about copywriting. There’s a kids’ book called Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum, in which Grover guides the reader through exhibits such as “The Things You See in the Sky Room”, “The Hall of Very, Very Heavy Things”, “The Carrot Room”, and the “All the Vegetables in the Whole Wide World Except for Carrots Room”. Eventually, Grover steps through a door marked “Everything Else” – which leads to the outside world. Copywriting is “Everything Else”. It’s an opportunity to learn things about which you might otherwise never have thought to wonder.

Already in my short career I have been asked to write about environmental graphic design, remedies for gout, commercial automation systems, bathroom sanitation services, and professional lawn care. Some of those topics might strike you as boring, some fascinating, but in every case there is someone who is passionate about solving a problem, and someone desperately in need of a solution.

Good copywriting is about creating a story that helps these people find one another. The founders of modern advertising and copywriting – David Ogilvy among them – are worth paying attention to for the same reason we still swoon over the tragic romance of Romeo and Juliet and giggle over the potty humor in The Miller’s Tale.

When it comes to human emotion, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


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