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Bringing mid-century Mad Men to 21st-century copy

Why does copywriting matter? Is it more than just ‘words on a page’?

Yes – but you knew we were going to say that!

Copy is the substance that makes up all marketing communication. Websites, pay-per-click advertising, social media posts, brochures, capability statements, newsletters, video scripts and radio scripts – the list goes on. All of it comes from copy, and that’s not a new concept. They are the universal ‘convincer’ – and half the time, you don’t even notice you’re reading them!

Although hacky industry articles pop up now and then claiming ‘the end is nigh’ for copywriting – because our attention spans have dropped/because video is everything/because of AI – at Roobix, we disagree. 

Good (human-made) copy builds brand personality and engagement for a business. You only have to experience a beautiful website without well-written copy to see why. The written word can turn advertising into an emotional experience. It encourages us to feel a certain way about the brand – which is the entire point of any marketing exercise. Good feelings mean added value, and added value means higher conversions. 

However, honing that emotional appeal and cutting through the noise requires more skill than one might expect – especially today, where over-saturation and ad-blindness are real problems. 

To take a step toward engaging copy, you’ve got to take a step back in time. 

A very short history of copy
The history of copywriting, like the history of many other things, can be loosely split into two periods: pre-Internet and post-Internet. These two methods of writing are referred to as ‘traditional copy’ and ‘digital copy’.

If you were born before 1990 – or if you’ve seen Mad Men – you know what traditional copywriting is. Virtually all marketing and advertising came in print, radio or television form, and every ad was incredibly expensive to produce. For that reason, every ad had to be very, very good. There was limited space for those who didn’t have the resources to pay an advertising agency, and it was absolutely not viable to waste time and money on flat, unengaging, poorly-thought-out marketing. 

Bill Bernbach was the man behind the famous Volkswagen Beetle Lemon ads – as seen in the first episode of Mad Men and widely agreed upon as the best campaign of all time. He sold an incredibly successful German-made vehicle that Hitler had a hand in creating immediately after WWII. How? He looked at all the other car ads:




And made something more creative:




Bernbach was also collaborative – his ads were not created in isolated departments. The design and copy were inseparable and neither could exist alone. But even less creative ads at the time were left to the pros. The style of advertising had to be direct but compelling, employing a comprehensive mix of logical and emotional reasoning (plus a dash of wit) to sell. That style of work requires a trained professional – there was no such thing as a freelancer, and not many business owners would try their hand at a full-page print as in the Sunday paper! 

Digital copywriting, on the other hand, is basically a free-for-all. The barriers to entry into marketing have lowered significantly – it’s now easier than ever to start a business and market it yourself. For that reason, today’s marketing is an exceedingly crowded (read: noisy) space. Plus, there are no physical limitations on space – digital real estate is infinite, whereas a magazine real estate is not. 

The majority of digital advertising comes in the form of Google, social media and pay-per-click advertising, often written by freelancers or business owners themselves. The overall distinction is quantity over quality – digital advertising is not often written creatively or critically because it’s cheap, fast and limited for on-screen space. See some examples of digital copywriting below:

digital media


Digital copywriting is generally direct, straight-to-the-point, and has no emotional reasoning. It can be creative, intelligent and engaging – but it requires that little bit of extra attention. 

Taking some lessons from the world of traditional copywriting and applying them to the digital world could perhaps be the best way to stand out against thousands of competitors across millions of ads plastering almost every available square pixel of screen space. 

So how do we do that? Well, in the words of Bernbach:

“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”

A copywriter can deliver the dash of imagination and originality that overcrowded modern advertising needs – but having a team of business-focused specialists on hand is important to maintaining the delicate balance between creativity and profitability. 

At Roobix we draw lessons from Bernbach, who advocated for an end to siloed job roles in advertising. By collaborating (one of the Roobix core values) on marketing projects, we find we get better results. 

That’s the beauty of a Managed Marketing Service, which gives you access to a bundle of 60+ marketing professionals at all times. We’ve learned that siloed job roles can lead to flat, boring, redundant copy – but vibrant peer review from a range of skill sets leads to better engagement. The Strategist knows what will capture the target audience. The Copywriter knows how to put that into words. The Social Media Specialist knows how to deliver ROI on that ad, and the Marketing Delivery Officer knows how to interpret the results. 

Looking to up your digital content game? Roobix offers a range of content services as part of it’s celebrated MMS service:

  • Web copywriting
  • Social media advertising
  • Capability statements
  • Case studies
  • Brochures and flyers
  • Blogs
  • Print advertising
  • Radio and video ad script writing


Call Roobix on 13 30 40 for a chat about your content potential – because sometimes it’s best to leave it to the pros!

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