Filter by/
Region/  All
Type/  All
Sorted By/  Most Recent

The best copywriter who ever lived

By / / In Best practice /
Drayton Bird presents an example of persuasive writing from a man he describes as the best copywriter ever.
The best copywriter who ever lived

I have a confession – for well over a year I have been working spasmodically on a book about the best copywriter who ever lived…

…Claude Hopkins.

He wrote the book Scientific Advertising.

And that’s the book David Ogilvy said “changed the course of my life.”

Yet curiously the book showed none of his ads. His clients pleaded with him not to show any – and give away their secrets.

But here you go: I’m going to analyse one ad for you right now.

drayton bird advertising
If you don’t understand why that ad is brilliant and why it was brilliant 112 years ago when it ran I really can’t help you.

Where to begin

Before you review an advertisement, read it carefully.

Then ask yourself who it was aimed at before you try to analyse what’s good or bad about it.

Have you read the ad?

If so you know it would only appeal to people who:

1. Have advertising agencies

2. Aren’t 100% happy with them.

The line of argument is very simple.

To this day ad agencies ask you to sign a contract to work with them over a period of time. (We don’t – we rely on the results we get, but that’s another matter.)

So now you know Claude’s readers feel stuck with an agency that may not be up to scratch.

If you’re that person wouldn’t you want your agency fighting for your business?

Notice how Claude says “As hard as he fights to get it.”

There is a clear message there.

The unhappy think “These people were very keen to get my business, but are they working as hard to keep it? Are they smug and idle?”

Notice these layout choices

Most ads today are designed by ignoramuses who don’t know what makes reading easy.

Sans serif face in upper and lower case is the easiest to read. That’s because the words have more shape, and we read by recognising the shape of a word, not the individual letters.

Little lines every few paragraphs make it easy for you to absorb the argument in little gulps.

Notice how the idea of not making their agencies “sleep easy” and “keep to the mark” will strike a chord when you want to be the boss,

Who wouldn’t like to make their agency prove it can do a decent job?

Putting you in charge.

Just read the entire ad for God’s sake.

It’s a lesson in the art of persuasion

Ask yourself about every single paragraph: his argument builds line by line – all brief and easy to take in.

Look how he refers to “smooth-tongued salesman”

Look how he suggests other agencies are wasting their clients’ money getting new contracts instead of getting results for those they already have.

Look at how he introduces his agency – Lord & Thomas’s greatest strength – their copy.

An astonishing salary – but worth it

The head of the copy department he refers to was him. At $1000 a week.

If you want to know how much that is today – it’s $29,856.70.

An astonishing sum – but he was worth it.

Such copy built the world’s largest ad agency = and some of its biggest brands. Brands like Palmolive and Quaker that thrive to this day.

Look how he repeats his proposition – “Ready to handle advertising without any contract whatsoever”

Look how he bravely says if anyone can beat him they can have the business.

Look at how he repeats phrases to strike home his point.

“There is a way. There is a way. There is a way. There is a way.”

There is no copywriter in the world today, 111 years later, better than this man.

Perhaps you understand why it’s taking me such a lamentably long time to write a book about him.

You can take just one of his ads and write fulsomely about it, as I just did.

And note such important details as the line at the bottom pointing out that each of the agency’s offices is equally good.

No question in your mind is unanswered.

This is perfect advertising.

At my firm we are all students of Lord & Thomas.

If you like that way of thinking you should probably be talking to us.


Drayton Bird
Author: Drayton Bird

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

Leave your thoughts

Related reading

  • Keep up to date with global best practice in data driven marketing

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.