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What Creativity Must Mean to a Copywriter

Bridge Lights

Christian Menn. Jenn Muller. Eugene Figg. John Roebling. Joseph Strauss. Santiago Calatrava Valls. Charles Alton Ellis.

Civil engineers who built beautiful bridges. That worked.

This is why I bring this up:

Great copywriting, in its way, is not unlike engineering. Engineering can lead to art, but when it does, the art must flower on top of dozens, even hundreds, of practical considerations.

No one will deny that the catenary curve of a bridge is a lovely and sweeping thing. However, the bridge is built for a purpose other than art; it must conform to engineering principles; and we know that it will stand.

A pure artist might design a much more wonderful and aesthetic bridge; but it might not withstand hurricane winds, or the pounding of thousands of heavy, eight-wheel trucks.

From pages 85-86 in Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves.

Albert Lasker. Mel Martin. Eugene Schwartz. Robert Collier. Victor Schwab. David Ogilvy. John Caples. Maxwell Sackheim. Bill Jayme.

Like Reeves, these were copywriters who wrote beautiful copy. That drove results.

This is the point. Advertising comes in two flavors: artistic and mechanical.

One obscures the message and is judged by its originality. It conforms to principles of art. The other clarifies the message and is judged by performance. It conforms to principles of copywriting.

One is a monument. The other is a tool. One is meant to attract attention at a distance. The other is meant to absorb traffic. To steer readers into action.

In other words, it is meant to work.

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