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Way Retro: A History of Copywriting

We all know what copywriting is, right? If you don't, check out our upcoming blogs for a deep-dive! In brief, copywriting is defined as


the craft of writing persuasive messages that drive people to take action.

Copy is found on websites, apps, in e-mails, on Instagram, on flyers, and business profiles - just to name a few!


Even among copywriting experts (like us), very few people have spent the time to figure out where it came from, or how copywriting started*. Thanks to our expert researchers and copywriters, you're about to get a whirlwind tour of the history of copywriting.


Taking it way back

It's believed that copywriting existed in Babylonia; however, the first example of written advertisements talking about the features/benefits of a product go back to 13th century China. Packages were wrapped in ornate paper embellished with Chinese symbols, which described 'the variety, quality, and characteristics of the commodity.'


In England, the first example of copywriting on record is a religious advertisement printed by William Caxton in 1477. On sale was a pamphlet of clerical rules for dealing with the change of Easter.


Across the pond in the USA, the first printed ad was in 1704. The ad encouraged citizens to advertise about items they had for sale or let; or things they had lost or had been stolen. The copy requested:

notices of houses, lands, ships, vessels, or merchandise to be sold or let, or servants run away, or goods stole or lost.

These advertisements would be run in the newspaper for a small insertion fee, which is very similar to the way classified ads work today!


The first copywriter

It's widely accepted that the first copywriter was the American John Emory Powers. Powers was 'a master copywriter whose style and convictions influenced the world of advertising.' Powers introduced novel styles of copywriting we still use today, including advertising in the form of a play or story and using direct and straightforward language in advertising copy.


Copywriting today

We live in a world where everyone is continuously inundated by messages. Listening to your favorite podcast, reading the local news, downloading that new app, or scrolling through your social feed are just a few moments when you'll experience marketing copy. If you're looking for someone to help you write your content, contact us via hello@thisiscopyshop.com.


*we know spending the time doing this research might just be that we're a bit obsessed with copywriting...

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