The Evolution of Copywriting: A Brief History of Traditional & Modern Copy

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Trying to trace the history and evolution of copywriting is like trying to trace the history of the first bread. 

We know that in one moment of history man discovered that baking a mixture of ground cereal and water resulted in the tasty concoction that is bread. But, we rarely give much thought to its origins and how they impact us today, don’t we? 

As a copywriter, it’s important that you explore the history behind copywriting in order to understand its significance nowadays. Today, we’ll help you do just that!

Ancient advertising copy 

You may think that copywriting is something new in marketing. But in reality, we can trace the first advertising copy to 3000 B.C.

At first glance, this piece of papyrus copy is about a fabric dealer named Hapu. He is offering a reward to anyone who can find his slave (Shem) and return him to the shop where the best fabrics are woven according to each person’s tastes.

And there you have it, the world’s first advertising copy. Complete with an attention-grabbing headline and a sneaky call to action that advertises the product. 

Printing press

Copywriting didn’t truly take off until the printing machine was invented back in the 15th century. 

Along with the creation of newspapers came the first newspaper advertising. Allowing copy to found a medium that doesn’t depend on someone passing by a sign.

Advertising emerged as an industry by the time the 1800s rolled around. And copy has evolved into something news-like — clear, informative, providing a structured argument of the product it’s promoting. 

The 60s

Everything changed in the 1960s, when art and copy developed a closer relationship, paving way for modern advertising campaign. Impacted by the evolution of culture, lifestyle, and technology, the intent of copywriting shifted from merely informing towards entertaining and persuasion. 

In this era, copywriters are not only required to sell a product, but create an emotional hook — using short and punchy headlines. Shorter slogans become the norm as people’s attention span’s decreased, due to the growing popularity of television. 

21st century copywriting

In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive media environment, copywriters have to work smarter to win the attention of their target audience. 

But it doesn’t stop there, copywriters also need to be versatile and able to craft different copy for various channels. Such as digital advertising, video scripts, storytelling campaigns, to the traditional print copy. The rise of social media usage also increases the importance of two-way communication and having a strong brand voice. 

Modern copywriting is more conversational, more benefit-led, emphasizing on building an authentic relationship with the consumers and humanizing the brand. 

Some things don’t change

Although we can see how copywriting has changed and evolved, one thing remains the same. Both traditional and modern copywriting objectives come down to one thing —  crafting a compelling story.

When crafting a story, the most important thing is to understand who your audience is.

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What are their pain points?

What are they trying to achieve?

How can you (and your brand) help them achieve their goals? 

By figuring this out, you will be able to insert your brand into their narrative — winning their attention and interest in the process. Using the right emotional trigger words will help you prompt the audience into taking the desired action.

Now that you gained more knowledge on the evolution of copywriting, are you interested in hiring a professional copywriter?

The Blank Pad is ready to back you up. Click here to start a project with us!

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