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For information useful to an advertising copywriter and, for that matter, to anyone in advertising here is a short list of books that I seem to pull out on a regular basis. In listing these books, Ive deliberately neglected the traditional bibliographical format because Im sure there are newer editions on booksellers shelves than on my own.
Many of these are unashamedly old books, and yes, I do read current business best-sellers. It strikes me time and again that new books on marketing, advertising, and sales usually consist of old ideas, regurgitated in the latest techno/psycho-babble. If that proves anything, its that our tools have evolved more-rapidly than our selves. No matter how much the tools of advertising change, the thinking that makes it successful remains essentially the same.
Harry Beckwith, Selling the Invisible: a field guide to modern marketing
Carl von Clausewitz, On War
Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising
John Lyons, Guts: advertising from the inside out
Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore: The Medium is the Massage: an inventory of effects
David Ogilvy, Ogilvy On Advertising
Al Ries & Jack Trout, Positioning: the battle for your mind
Kenneth Roman and Jane Maas, How To Advertise
Hank Seiden, Advertising Pure and Simple
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Advertising is a people business. Thats true whether youre working face-to-face as part of a copywriter/art director team, or writing an ad thatll be read, viewed, heard, or downloaded by millions. People are not persuaded en masse; they are persuaded (by the millions) one at a time.
Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends and Influence People
George S. Clason, The Richest Man in Babylon
Herb Cohen, You Can Negotiate Anything
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
Youll look a long time before you find a better, more-comprehensive collection of examples of powerful copywriting than any Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog from around 1900, when mail order was the Internet of the day, photo reproduction was expensive, and every sale hung on the copywriters skill. The language might be dated, but the copywriting is honed to a razors edge. That said, most advertising copywriting guidebooks boil down to the directives contained in these tightly written books.
Victor O. Schwab, How to Write A Good Advertisement
William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style
Every copywriter has good concept days and mediocre concept days. These books are what you need to turn a mediocre day into a good day.
Roger von Oech, A Whack on the Side of the Head
Roger von Oech, A Kick in the Seat of the Pants
Life In Advertising:
Heres some light reading for your next coffee break, each written by creative giants who were copywriters. The anecdotes contain valuable case studies.
Jerry Della Femina, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor
David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man
Luke Sullivan, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This
Advertising trade publications are interesting for the gossip or the classifieds, but otherwise relatively useless to the advertising copywriter. Most news weeklies are useful for their studies of popular culture, but are nothing youd archive. A subscription to Readers Digest, however, is essential to anyone in advertising. First and foremost, its a direct line to middle America, which wields the economic clout that drives most U.S. marketing efforts. Even if youre niche marketing, you need to be aware of where the baseline lies. Second, its a quick read that includes a wide range of subjects (including the vocabulary-enriching Word Power feature). Third, the front cover remains one of the best living examples of headline writing. Fourth, its small, so you can keep a years worth stacked on the toilet tank. Thats handy when its August and youre trying to get into the mood to write holiday ads.
One thing about being an advertising copywriter: you never know when youre going to need to learn something about, say, the habits of wildebeest. Despite the power of web search, its good to have some reference books at hand:
One last word.
Reading about advertising is fun. But creating advertising - exciting, effective advertising is even more fun. Thats why I like being an advertising copywriter.
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