Copywriting is the backbone skill

No matter what channels and systems you use, you still need to earn attention and convince people to buy your product. This makes copywriting—the art of writing to drive conversions—the single most important skill in marketing, by far.


  • Copywriting is different from content writing. Content is meant to educate or entertain an audience. Copywriting has a very specific goal: to drive people to take action like clicking a button or buying a product. Copywriting is “salesmanship in print”.
  • To master copywriting is to master salesmanship in a way that can scale. While AI can increasingly help write copy faster and generate concepts rapidly, it is still an invaluable skill to learn how to effectively persuade people, change their minds, and drive action.
  • Copywriting is deeply anchored in human psychology and persuasion. To learn copywriting, study direct response marketers and study the classic masters of the field. Some good places to start: David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Gary Halbert, Dan Kennedy. To study copywriting, study the best pieces of marketing ever created.
  • Learn to use a swipe file: collect all bits and snippets of great copy that you come across. Swipe files help accelerate your learning, but also make it easier to get you unstuck.

In Practice

In 1948, David Ogilvy founded his agency Ogilvy & Mather on Madison Avenue. He soon dominated advertising, creating legendary campaigns for brands like Hathaway, Schweppes, and Dove.

But Ogilvy never lost touch with his roots in direct-response copywriting. Even as Ogilvy & Mather grew into a global agency, he tested all creative personally by running ads in local newspapers. Based on reader response rates, he chose the best performers to run at scale for clients.

For example, when crafting the headline for a Rolls-Royce ad, Ogilvy tested “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise comes from the electric clock” against four other options. The winning headline generated over 2.5X more inquiries from prospective buyers than the next best option.

Ogilvy called this “The most important decision in advertising”. While big agencies chased awards, he focused ruthlessly on what drove sales.

This direct-response discipline gave Ogilvy an incredible conversion optimization skill. He created ads that didn't just win acclaim from industry peers, but drove measurable sales impact for clients. This helped Ogilvy & Mather become the most influential agency in history and cemented Ogilvy's reputation as the "Father of Advertising".

Pair with

  • Ogilvy on Advertising
  • Boron Letters (Gary Halbert)
Ads shouldn’t look like ads