I’m no Don Draper. So am I still a copywriter?

July 2, 2015 •
Don Draper Feature Image

A guy applied for a freelance copywriting job with me many years ago, and I turned him down. In return, he abused me, and mocked my portfolio, suggesting it wasn’t really copywriting.

Although I knew he was striking out because I’d hurt his pride, and I’ve never questioned my writing skills, his comments stuck with me. And they re-surface every time I watch Mad Men.

Why? Well, this may come as a bit of a surprise, but…

I’m no Don Draper

I take my scotch with Coke. It’s cheap scotch and I drink it from a schooner glass. My face goes red afterwards, and I say silly things and giggle. I rarely pass out, though.

I’ve shaved once in the last 5 years, and I do my hair twice a week. I work in tracksuit pants, grandpa slippers and thermals. In summer it’s shorts and a wife-beater.

Notwithstanding that last sentence, I’m nice to my wife. And to my girlfriend. I respect them both. 😉

I’m fairly comfortable being powerless.

I believe in love, and I don’t think advertisers manufactured it.

I probably couldn’t have come up with this headline…

Example of Don Draper's advertising copywriting

Well, maybe I could. But only if I got lucky or worked really, really, REALLY hard.

Don just pulled that headline out of his arse. That almost never happens for me.

I can’t just guzzle alcohol and wait for inspiration to strike. It simply doesn’t. Nothing comes to me if I spend days on a bender abusing people, either.

For me, the goods only come if I sit at my desk and grind it out. Typing, deleting, cutting, pasting, taking toilet breaks I don’t really need, typing some more, reading out loud (in a radio voice – I’m doing it right now!), making cups of tea I forget to finish, typing typing typing, reading, refusing to give in and look at social media…

Don never did any of that.

So am I still a copywriter?

I know Don’s technically a Creative Director, but he started out as a copywriter. And copy is still equally as important to him as concept, and more of a focus for him than design.

And when I tell people I’m a copywriter, they think of Don and what he does. They think of people like David Ogilvy, John Caples, even Australia’s John Singleton.

But if I actually describe a typical day in my office (and my victim stays awake long enough to hear it), glamorous copywriters like Don are the last people who come to mind.

So if Don’s the very definition of an awesome copywriter, and I’m so different from him, was my abusive job applicant right?

Am I really a copywriter at all?

Yes. I am.

Think about who really carried Sterling Cooper’s creative. Most of the time it wasn’t Don. He just impressed and intimidated the clients. Peggy was the real machinery.

Peggy Olson was the real copywriter

Peggy Olson – The real copywriter – Photo courtesy of AMC.

Don may have gotten people reading, and that’s critical. But Peggy kept them reading.

That’s how I like to think of my copywriting. Most of it’s web copy, and Ian (my designer and business partner) is kinda my Don Draper. He gets people reading by designing something they want to look at. Then I keep them reading with words that push all the right buttons.

Indeed, when I think of it this way, the whole comparison begins to turn on its head. Don didn’t write much more than Ian does! And he’d never be able to apply himself to writing a 60-page website, where every word on every page needs to engage the reader.

Certainly not with that drinking habit.

So yes, I’m a copywriter. At least as much a copywriter as Don is. We’re just different sorts of copywriters.

And that’s OK.

PS. I don’t have a girlfriend.

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Kent wrote on July 2nd, 2015

Well, you are absolutely right about Peggy.

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on July 2nd, 2015

In which case I'm DEFINITELY not Don! ;-)

comment avatar
Lisa Cropman wrote on July 3rd, 2015

Thirty-five unopened emails, 4 clients baying for copy, and 3 kids driving me mad. Stressful day so far but just paused to read your post and it prompted my first smile of the day. Love Peggy Olsen's work but love yours more :)

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on July 3rd, 2015

Awww! Thanks. You just prompted my first smile too!

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