What is advertising?
Is it something to be regarded as a work of beauty or art? Is it clever
slogans or amusing prose? Is it workmanship to be judged for an
award or recognition?
It’s none of the above.
Advertising is salesmanship multiplied.
And advertising copy, or copywriting, is salesmanship in print.
The purpose of a copywriter’s job is to sell. Period.
The selling is accomplished by persuasion with the written word,
much like a television commercial sells (if done properly) by
persuading with visuals and audio.
As Claude Hopkins wrote in his timeless classic, Scientific Advertising:
“To properly understand advertising or to learn even its rudiments one must
start with the right conception. Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles
are the principles of salesmanship. Successes and failures in both lines are
due to like causes. Thus every advertising question should be answered by
the salesman's standards.
“Let us emphasize that point. The only purpose of advertising is to make
sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.
“It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people. It
is not primarily to aid your other salesmen. Treat it as a salesman. Force it
to justify itself. Compare it with other salesmen. Figure its cost and result.
Accept no excuses which good salesmen do not make. Then you will not go
“The difference is only in degree. Advertising is multiplied salesmanship. It
may appeal to thousands while the salesman talks to one. It involves a
corresponding cost. Some people spend $10 per word on an average
advertisement. Therefore every ad should be a super-salesman.
“A salesman's mistake may cost little. An advertiser’s mistake may cost a
thousand times that much. Be more cautious, more exacting, therefore. A
mediocre salesman may affect a small part of your trade. Mediocre
advertising affects all of your trade.”
These points are as true today as they were when they were written
nearly one hundred years ago!
So the goal then becomes: how can we make our advertising as
effective as possible.
The answer is to test. Test again. And then test some more.