Does Technology Make You a Better Copywriter?


Its true. I am a closet Luddite. Borne of the frustration of technology either NOT working or NOT doing what I want it to do! How often that happens to me is a source of constant mirth for those who know me and on the receiving end of my rants about in-complete emails dis-appearing into the ether and websites inextricably ‘losing’ my patiently typed registration info etc etc etc..

I have a romantic vision of the past as an un-complicated utopia of an electric typewriter; fax machine and a proper telephone on my desk.  Like I said, un-complicated.  But is it really as simple as that? How much do we take Google for granted as a research tool? Probably way too much I think. You can find out pretty much anything now without leaving your desk/chair/laptop. Which is brilliant, obviously, but is it enhancing our ability and willingness to think for ourselves or curtailing/negating it? 

This point has been made before and in more depth, but I am of the opinion we are surrendering too much. We have it made in a lot of ways, certainly technology wise, but we aren’t thinking for ourselves because of it. Here is where I get a bit ageist I guess, but our children are not thinking for themselves all the time they have Google. The answers are too readily available surely? Put it this way, I would rather know how to read, write and do basic arithmetic than be a dab hand at negotiating Facebook or Twitter.

But I digress, technology. Has it made us better copywriters? What would Albert Lasker, Claude Hopkins, Gene Schwartz et al have made of the Internet, emails, and social networking sites? I was out on my morning walk when this occurred to me. If these copywriting geniuses had been around today, would they have been significantly better copywriters? Or would we be any worse for being born in the 19th century?

I know what I think, and those gentlemen would probably go mad and insist I be locked up for dismissing the benefits it has brought us. But wait – I know they would be no better than they were in their day, but I think we probably would be better. Why? Because technology is a tool to help us do our work, (much) faster research, almost instantaneous communication (sometimes) and global networking opportunities. But it is no substitute for human contact. No substitute for knowing what makes your Client tick. Technology has changed our world beyond recognition perhaps for those gentlemen I mentioned earlier (if they were here today) but basic human needs and psychology are the same, and always will be as long we are a surviving race.

And its that intuition, that ability to know your client, and what turns him on, or keeps him awake at 3am in the morning, or scares him, that, along with a certain knowledge of how to write an ad, makes you a half decent copywriter. That’s why I don’t think technology makes a jot of difference to whether you can sell or not. It’s the human touch, your ability to react and liaise with people, to listen, to understand what they need and want. Writing ads and copy isn’t about whether you can write in beautiful prose – sure you need to be able to string a sentence together – but it’s primarily your ability to sell and convey that in writing.

As John E Kennedy famously said, although Claude Hopkins often gets the credit….

 “Advertising is Salesmanship in Print”

So you see, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re using the latest super duper laptop or a lovely IBM Selectric typewriter…now, gotta go and see what this fax is all about…

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