The Most Important Words Ever Written On Copywriting?
If you’re looking to create breakthrough advertising copy, start with these words by Gene Schwartz, the real life Donald Draper. They are perhaps the most important ever written about copywriting:
“The power, the force, the overwhelming urge to own that makes advertising work, comes from the market itself, and not from the copy. Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exist in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already-existing desires onto a particular product. This is the copy writer’s task: not to create this mass desire—but to channel and direct it.“
“Actually, it would be impossible for any one advertiser to spend enough money to actually create this mass desire. He can only exploit it. And he dies when he tries to run against it.”
Or put another way, breakthrough advertising is like surfing.
Harness the Power
Even if you’ve never surfed before, you understand the fundamentals:
To catch a wave you need to be perfectly positioned and then make strong, decisive swimming strokes at the precise right moment. If done correctly, you harness the power of the wave. You can then stand up, make some moves, and ride as long as possible. Leave the wave and you sink.
And, though it’s ludicrously obvious, I’ll say it anyways: You can’t create your own wave big enough to surf on and, if your timing is wrong—or if you’re stupid enough to try going against the wave—you’ll get crushed.
It’s so simple. But for some reason when we try to create breakthrough advertising—that is, we replace the wave with mass consumer desire and our swimming strokes with our headlines—we too often neglect these basics and get smashed.
So if you don’t want your copywriting to sink, start surfing.
Nature Never Changes
Schwartz’s famous words make up the first paragraph of his classic book, “Breakthrough Advertising”, which was published over 50 years ago.
Just like surfing, a lot—including the style, the techniques, and the people—has changed since then. These are superficial changes though. The underlying fundamentals remain the same and won’t be changing anytime soon.
So if you want to create breakthrough advertising copy, it’s simple. Take Schwartz’s words to heart and harness the power that already exists.
Dig Deeper: Read “BreakthrougH Advertising”
Gene Schwartz’s “Breakthrough Advertising” is a sought-after classic that you will find in every marketer and advertiser’s bookshelf or boardroom. Unfortunately, you won’t find it as easily for yourself. It’s $1000 on Ebay, not sold in any bookstores, and rarely found in public libraries.
Even online versions are hard to come by. That said, if you can’t find a copy anywhere else send me an email (contact form below). I know a guy who might be able to help…
Want More Book Recommendations?
To see how Gene Schwartz’s book, Breakthrough Advertising, stacks up versus other books I recommend, and to find other books, podcasts, and blogs that will help you sell more, achieve more, and smile more, check out Shortcuts To Awesome’s Best Ofs table.