Why Is It Called Copywriting? The Origin Story

Copywriting comes from "copiae".

It’s a Latin word from the 1300s that means an abundance of writing.

Copywriting started with print, newspaper, television scripts.

Now, you can find it on every smartphone, laptop and desktop across the world.

History Of Copywriting

Ancient Greece And Rome

The origins of copywriting come from the history of advertising.

Long before 'copywriting' was even a word, merchants in ancient civilizations used used it to promote their goods.

In ancient Rome and Greece, vendors used street criers and wall paintings to advertise their products.

In the Middle Ages, market towns had signs and symbols to identify different trades.

15th Century

The significant turning point came with the advent of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century.

This invention allowed for the mass production of flyers and brochures, which merchants used to advertise their goods.

The Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries further boosted advertising as mass production created the need for mass selling.

Modern Copywriting (Early 20th Century)

The early 20th century marked the birth of modern copywriting. With the rise of newspapers and magazines, businesses began to recognize the power of written advertisements to influence public opinion and consumer behavior.

One of the first copywriters was John E. Powers, who worked for department stores in the late 19th century.

His straightforward, honest style was a departure from the exaggerated claims commonly used in advertising then.

Here's an example:

Claude C. Hopkins introduced the concept of scientific advertising in the early 1900s.

He emphasized the importance of understanding consumer psychology and testing advertising methods for effectiveness.

He published "Scientific Advertising" in 1923 and it's still considered a fundamental book in advertising and marketing.

What's crazy is people still read and purchase his book on Amazon despite how old it is.

The Golden Age of Copywriting (Mid-20th Century)

The mid-20th century, particularly the post-World War II era, is often referred to as the Golden Age of Advertising.

This period saw an explosion in consumerism, aided by the advent of television.

Advertising agencies flourished, and the role of the copywriter became more prominent.

Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, and Rosser Reeves were among the influential figures in advertising during this time.

They brought creativity, wit, and strategic thinking to copywriting, elevating it to a form of art.

David Ogilvy stressed well-researched, engaging, and brand-specific copy.

His famous Rolls-Royce ad in 1958 is a classic example of effective copywriting that combines product knowledge with storytelling.


The internet and social media changed copywriting forever.

Traditional print and TV advertisements turned to website content, email marketing, social media, and content marketing.

This era has seen the rise of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) copywriting, where the focus is not only on persuading the audience but also on ranking in search engines like Google.

People like myself are using copywriting to grow a following and building audiences on social platforms.

Social media copywriting and storytelling are more important than ever.

Video content seems to be dominating too.

What Makes Copywriting Different From Writing?

Copywriting and writing seem similar, but they're not the same.

Writing paints pictures and tells stories. It's an expression of ideas.

Copywriting sells. It's designed to persuade. It takes the reader on a journey towards action.

One entertains. The other engages.

Everyone can write but not everyone can write copy that converts.

Copywriters influence every day decisions, they do copious amounts of research, they get people to take action through storytelling, curiosity, pain and desires.

That's the difference.

Check out this article on how to get into copywriting.

Who is Dakota?

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