No PC, no web, just a pencil… copywriter 1988 style

Oh, and a Filofax and a stack of lined pads of A4 paper. This is what I was presented with when I began work as a copywriter back in 1988 with BRAHM advertising in Leeds.

In those days (when I was still writing under the name of Bev Mattocks), BRAHM had a reputation for being one of the most creative advertising agencies outside London, winning strings of accolades at The Roses Awards and more. The annual visit to The Roses in Manchester was a very boozy event, to say the least.

But I digress…

As a copywriter in the 1980s all I had was a pencil and paper. I wrote in double-line spacing so I could scrub out words and phrases and edit them before handing the copywriting to the creative department secretary to type up (on a typewriter, of course).

I think this is why our copywriting always tended to be on the short side. Just a headline and a few sentences and that was it.

But, then, we copywriters mainly wrote press ads, TV commercials, leaflets, etc. As far as I’m aware, website copywriting hadn’t been invented. I didn’t write my first website until I became a freelance copywriter in the 1990s.

By the time I left BRAHM to work at Poulters plc (in its day the largest independent advertising agency outside London), I’d had enough of using a pencil to write copy.

As a direct marketing copywriter, I needed a PC. Direct marketing (or below-the-line) copywriting tends to be more lengthy than above-the-line copywriting.

But even then my demand for a PC was thought a bit odd. Ditto with my next job, as a senior copywriter with Charles Walls Advertising in Leeds.

And, still, we had no internet.

One day in the mid 1980s after I’d gone freelance, an advertising agency client briefed me to write a website for a doors manufacturer.

Scary! I’d never even seen a website, let alone written copy for one. I had no concept of the way web pages worked – the way that a website isn’t like a book which you flick through in logical order. And SEO copywriting was unknown. So were blogs, email marketing and social media.

But I did it, even though – in those days – we still had dial-up connections and time on the Net was limited because it was expensive. And painfully slow.

That was almost 20 years ago – and I can’t count the number of websites I’ve written copy for since then.

Incidentally, doing a search on the web for BRAHM, my first ad agency, (now called Brass and living in the rather gorgeous gothic building I used to stare at from my copywriting desk) I see they now position themselves as “a digitally-centred communications agency”.

How far we copywriters have come since 1988 and the pencil, paper and filofax, hey…

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