A blast from my copywriting past

I’ve been sorting out my presence on LinkedIn, something I should have done ages ago – and, through LInkedIn, I’ve been connecting with many of my old comrades from my early days as a copywriter in Leeds and Bradford advertising agencies.

It’s interesting to see what my former colleagues are doing. After all, it’s over 30 years since I worked alongside them. Many are advertising agency creative directors or advertising consultants. Others, like me, have opted for the freelancing route. Or they’ve freelanced and are now back ‘on the books’ as a full-time copywriter, art director or creative director. Some, I imagine are semi-retired.

I mean, when we worked together back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the internet – as a marketing medium – was unheard of. ‘Photoshopping’ images was startlingly new and innovative. Print-ready art-work was carefully put together using spray mount and scalpels. And all layouts and any other designing was done on paper. In fact, in my first copywriting job, not one person in our advertising agency had a computer.

In my second copywriter job, I was the only copywriter that insisted on writing copy on a computer. My colleagues thought it was odd. I thought it made much more sense than the pencil-paper-and-rubber technique the other copywriters used.

In the olden days, although there was something vaguely resembling a server so you could save your work without having to use a floppy disk, PCs couldn’t communicate with each other. And no-one was connected to the internet. Later, it was dial-up, which meant that every time you sent an email or connected to the internet, the advertising agency was charged a fee by the telecoms company. So you kept your internet usage to a minimum. And, anyway, most organisations preferred to do their marketing in print rather than online. It was oh so very, very new.

I remember the first time I was asked to write copy for a website. It was for moulded wooden doors. It took a while to get my head round the concept of a website – the way the pages interacted with each other and could be clicked on at random rather than being in a logical order like a printed brochure. And the fact that we weren’t restricted to a word-count because web pages are flexible in size, not like printed pages.

So here we all are, all these decades on, using computers for everything: copywriting, art direction, designing, typesetting…

And to think everyone thought it was odd, back in the late 1980s, when I asked if I could write onto a computer rather than using the usual pencil, rubber and paper method!


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