following is a reprint of my Interview with AWAI's (American Writers and
Artists Institute's publication Monthly copywriting Genius (www.monthlycopywritinggenius.com).
A membership site that offers interviews with top producing direct response writers
- and analysis of one of their campaigns.
Genius: Issue #64
Find Out Why This Master Copywriter Says,
are the Three Best Ways to
Perfect Your Copywriting Skills
Hi, Leon. Thank you for speaking with us. Id like to get started by asking
you about your background. From there, well talk about your methodology,
and then Ill ask you about your control for Growth Stock Wire. So lets
begin. What was your job prior to becoming a copywriter?
Leon: I was an
adjunct lecturer in English at Queens College of the City University of New York.
Basically it was teaching freshman composition and supervising the Colleges
writing workshop which assisted students after classes.
CG: Did you know
what copywriting or direct mail was before you became a copywriter?
Yes, I did. At a certain point, I knew I would be leaving teaching. I did a systematic
review of my talents and abilities and what jobs suited me. Copywriting seemed
to be it, so I took a look at what was available.
CG: Wow! Thats a
good way to approach copywriting. Most of the copywriters we interview usually
stumble into copywriting. Not many realize they could have a career as a copywriter.
So tell us how you become a copywriter.
Leon: While I was teaching, I investigated
copywriting possibilities. As an adjunct lecturer, I only taught a couple of days
a week, so I had time to try my hand at copywriting. A friend knew the promotion
director at Times Mirror Book Clubs. I put together some spec samples and got
a number of assignments writing direct mail for their book clubs: Nature Book
Club, Outdoor life, History, etc.
At that time, I also wrote a long article
that was featured in the Sunday New York Times the article, along with
Times Mirror samples and some more specs, got me my first job as a copywriter
at Wunderman (at the time, it was called Wunderman Ricotta Kline), the largest
direct marketing agency at the time. I was first interviewed by Lester Wunderman,
who was the chairman or chairman emeritus at the time. After my interview, he
sent me to interview with various creative directors, and I got the job as copywriter.
Thats really neat
that the article helped you get your first job
as a copywriter. So at the agency, did someone help you? Did you have a mentor?
My beginning was pretty much working at ad agencies. You worked with copy supervisors
and group creative directors. There were so many, so I cant point to any
particular person just an accumulation of supervisors who worked with you.
Your copy was constantly being reviewed and critiqued. And you had to rewrite
in order to get approval. Then of course, there was editing after client comments.
So it was constant on-the-job learning. You were constantly creating concepts,
writing drafts, having them reviewed, then you rewrote and edited. You learn a
lot in that process. Theres a lot at stake, so you really absorb and internalize
Also, at that time, Wunderman and its parent agency, Young
& Rubicam, where I worked after Wunderman, had formal training programs. Wed
go to various workshops in the morning. Workshops on creative strategy, strategic
thinking, copywriting, etc. So, overall, the agency experience provided a great
deal of training. I dont think they have the resources or the profits to
do that these days.
Throughout I also had a subscription to Whos
Mailing What, and studied the packages very closely. In particular, I followed
and studied the work of Bill Jayme. I thought his work was truly brilliant. He
was the one who saw how to use every element of the direct mail package. I think
it is also relevant that he worked so closely as a team with his art director
for years and years.
CG: I forgot to ask this earlier, but how long have
you been writing copy?
Leon: 27 years.
Top Notch Agencies and Gangbuster
CG: Do you remember the first project you worked on as a copywriter?
It was a package for Times Mirror Book Clubs. I believe it was for their Nature
Book Club. At the time, the main element in the package was a large fold-out piece,
which unfolded like a map. It acted as their brochure. For instance, one section
on the Nature Club fold-out might be a beautiful illustration of a bird with some
interesting facts about that bird. You might say it was a way to present all sorts
of fascinations in a graphic and engaging way.
CG: What about the first
success you had as a copywriter? Do you remember what that was?
believe my first official success was when one of my packages I wrote for Times
Mirror for their Outdoor Life Club beat the control. But the first
big success was when I was writing on the Time magazine account. I wrote a print
campaign that lasted for years, and also worked on their successful direct marketing
CG: Is there one project that stands out as your favorite?
Yes, it was for San Francisco Federal Savings I think theyve since
been acquired or merged. The package was a promotion for some kind of bank membership
club. I forget exactly what you got with membership, but it included a nice increase
in CD rates plus various bonuses. It was meant to convey a sense of exclusiveness
for San Franciscans.
At the time, there was an iconic newspaper columnist
in San Francisco named Herb Caen. His column was an interesting mix: part local
gossip of the San Francisco area who was seen at various nightclubs, etc.
and part celebration of the SF Bay area, and how wonderful it was to live
there. Since the banks Club membership was supposed to convey a sense of
insider status in the San Francisco Bay area, I thought nothing said that better
than Herb Caen.
So one of the concepts I proposed was to have the mailing
come from Herb Caen.
The idea was to imbue a boring bank membership with
some of Herb Caens panache and excitement. Instead of a brochure I proposed
we have a long column in Herb Caens format, and I would write the column
in his style. His style was known as 3 dot journalism. He would offer a tidbit
of gossip, followed by three dots, then another tidbit, and so on. So for the
promotion I tried to think up juicy things that people could do with the club
membership and the money they got from the rate increase. Each item was separated
by the three dots.
While I really liked the idea, I thought it was one of
those longshot concepts. Either the client or Herb Caen would nix it. Well it
turned out they all liked it. Caen just wanted final approval.
It was a
lot of fun to write, turning CD rates and other banking items into tidbits of
gossip. And Caen approved it without any changes.
It turned out to be one
of those wonderful trifectas, where the client loves it, you love it, and the
results are gangbuster. And for a moment, you think alls right with the
CG: Such a great story. Thanks for sharing it. You talked about working
for agencies, but let me switch gears here for a minute. As a freelancer, how
do you drum up clients?
Leon: Well, a number come to me through referrals
from current and former clients and art directors Ive worked with in the
past. A number come to me because theyve found me on the Internet.
far as drumming up clients
I periodically send out direct mailers to select
target audiences. The mailer includes a flyer with a concept that demonstrates
a good direct marketing approach. Usually something fairly simple, so I can just
call on an art director friend to polish the design. The flyer and the letter
have my phone number and also direct the reader to a webpage where I have samples
and other information about my services.
CG: Sorry about jumping around
here, but our readers would be curious to know
What do you like most about
Leon: Id say its a combination of 3 things. There
is a certain satisfaction in craftsmanship. It is a craft. And when you feel like
youve crafted together a really effective marketing piece from concept to
finished copy, there is satisfaction in that. Of course its much better
if the piece does well and beats the control. That isnt always the case.
But you can always feel youve done your best and crafted a piece of marketing
communications that has everything in place, hits all the hot buttons, flows well,
Also I find satisfaction in helping people grow their business. This
is particularly true when some sort of kinship is established between me and the
client. I believe my copy is an important part of the success of their business,
and when you get to know and like the client, that is very rewarding.
other thing at least its true with freelance writing is the
freedom to work on your own. At home with control over when you work.
We talked earlier about some of your successes. Now let me ask you this: What
one thing did you learn (or take away) from a package you wrote that didnt
work as well as you had expected or hoped?
Leon: I remember a piece I thought
would do well. It had a really good, unique idea. The story was well told. It
did okay, better than average but not great. When I rewrote it and took an approach
that was more in your gut, something that leveraged current events more forcefully,
a more controversial approach, it did better. It told me that it takes more than
a good idea to get the best response. You have to find the idea that hits the
audience in a more emotional, visceral way.
CG: Was there a moment in your
career where you knew you had made or could make good money writing
Leon: Id say it took a couple of moments. After I worked as
a successful copywriter in the ad agency world for a good many years, I had to
prove myself as a freelancer.
I got a project working on subscriptions for
a computer magazine. At that time, new computer magazines were springing up every
day. This was a technology magazine that was part of a larger group of magazines.
They hired me essentially to act as their creative agency. I hired the art designer
and we worked together to produce a very successful package. Once that made it,
I knew I would continue to get projects from the other magazines in the group.
when I moved back to New York after a number of years in California, I had to
prove myself again. I got a project to create a multi-step direct mail package
for IBM. It beat the control many times over and was written up as a case study
in a direct marketing textbook. Once I saw it in the textbook, I was pretty sure
I could make good money based here in New York.
Tell Us About Your Methodology
CG: Now lets get into the nitty-gritty of your methodology. Whats
the first thing you do when you get an assignment?
Leon: The first thing
is to research the subject matter. I do a lot of research on the web competitors,
articles, reports, forums, Amazon.com. I want to know characteristics of the list.
If Im promoting a newsletter I want to see as many previous newsletters
as I can. I ask to speak to company executives and others who might be helpful,
whether it is an editor or a marketing director.
Once I get a grasp of the
subject, I start thinking of a first round of ideas and concepts. I tend to do
this before looking at old controls. By doing this, Im not influenced by
what people did before me. Then, after I have a first round of ideas, I analyze
previous controls and other promotions, and try to assess why the control worked
and why others didnt.
CG: What do you need the client to supply you
Leon: A project brief. If they dont have it, I ask them some
questions so I can create one: Who is the target audience, what is the main benefit,
what is the unique selling or value proposition, what is the main problem the
product or service addresses, etc. Any previous samples, previous controls, competitive
pieces, relevant websites, testimonials and case studies, access to interview
CG: Has a client every supplied you with too much information
enough that it bogged the project down or was too overwhelming?
Yes, that does happen. When it does, I have to make a conscious effort to decide
what is needed and what is just weighing me down. In some cases this weeding out
process is helpful, because as youre eliminating or accepting material,
youre refining your thought process about the promotion. But sometimes weeding
out overload is just time consuming.
CG: How do you get to know the target
Leon: In some cases where Ive worked in the arena for a
long time, I know a great deal about the target audience already. For example,
the investor audience. Other times, I try to assess as soon as possible what is
the main problem or pain of the target audience that the product or service should
solve or address. Once I get a good fix on the problem, I try to get as much demographic
and psychographic information as I can. Age, gender, lifestyle, attitudes, income,
I read websites that relate to the product. Ill also see if there
are any online forums related to the product and read them. Its a good way
to find out the problems your target audience is having
what gets them
agitated. You also get a peek into the specific language and buzzwords they use.
Ill read any testimonials and case studies the client has. I check out Amazon
and see what books in that market are popular. I read the reviews, pro and con.
Ill also check out related magazines, trade journals, and articles. Just
the titles alone of articles can be very revealing.
Your Target Audience
CG: What about the concept of the package? How do you
come up with the theme or idea for the promotion?
Leon: It certainly starts
with research on the target audience. Its important to understand what their
main problem is, what they really want. Not only the rational problem and benefits
they are seeking, but also the underlying emotions. Is it fear, or anxiety, do
they feel they are missing out on something? Are they confused about an issue?
Are they seeking simplicity? Get all the rational and emotional benefits.
try to refine the emotion at the heart of the matter. For instance, is it really
wealth the audience seeks, or a sense of security? Once I feel I have a grasp
on that, an understanding of the market, and a unique selling proposition, thats
when Ill go off and work on themes or ideas for the promotion. I want the
theme to be based on the target market and the unique selling proposition.
Im working on my own, and not with an art director, Ill go to a café
with a notepad and just start thinking of ideas. Since I live near Central Park,
Ill walk around the park and mull over ideas. Generally what happens is,
once Im thinking of concepts for an assignment, its hard to turn my
mind off, so Im thinking about it all the time.
Working on themes
and ideas is one of my favorite parts of the work, so I really get into it. I
try many different angles, each aimed at illustrating the unique selling proposition.
There may be a single detail or fact that can be expanded. For instance, in the
China promotion, I was reading quotes by Chinese officials about how important
the upcoming Olympics were to them. There was building frenzy to make sure they
made a good impression on foreign visitors. So it occurred to me that, not only
were certain companies benefiting greatly from the pressure to build now, but
the fact that the Olympics were upcoming lent itself to the idea of an inherent
deadline: If you want to invest in these companies, do it now, while they are
benefiting from the build up to the Olympics.
I try lots of different ideas,
and then I narrow it down to about 2 or 3. If I feel I could go with any of them,
I present them to the client, and get feedback. Then well talk about it.
CG: Do you develop the headline first or start with the body copy?
It depends. I always start with the concept and theme first. Then if its
a standard direct mail package Ill begin working on the body of the letter
first. When Im working on the brochure or booklet part of the package, Ill
begin by working on headlines.
Why the difference? I think people will glance
at headlines of brochures first and decide if they want to read it. With a letter,
while the headline or Johnson Box is important, I think its the first few
lines of the letter that determines whether the person will continue to read it.
an online promotion, lets say an email sales letter, I start with headlines.
I think with email and other online promotions, the subject line and the header
are even more critical. You must grab the readers attention and interest
or they wont scroll down. Youve got to hook them in very quickly.
Im not trying to hone the headlines yet, just trying to get a bunch of possibilities
that I can attach to specific themes and ideas.
During the course of writing
the copy Ill keep revising the headline. Sometimes the direction the copy
takes can dictate some dramatic changes in the headline. Sometimes the best headline
is buried in the body copy or in a subhead you just have to recognize it.
After you finish a draft, do you let it rest for a day or so and then re-read
and make edits?
Leon: Oh, yes, I think that is necessary. Let it rest. Come
back to it with fresh eyes. Copy almost always improves when you come back to
it after letting it sit for a bit.
CG: Do you ever show your copy to another
copywriter for comments and suggestions?
Leon: Sometimes, when I know a
copywriter friend is around. Sometimes Ill show it to a non-copywriter
somebody who may be representative of the target audience so I get more
of a sense of the typical reaction from people who might be receiving the promotion.
Financial Products to Silicon Valley
CG: I know you have a varied background.
But do you specialize in writing for certain products? If so, which ones?
I wont say I specialize in certain areas, but there a few areas where I
have extensive experience, and most of the work falls in those areas.
instance, Ive done financial services for most of my career. In fact, at
one point, when I was writing copy for an investment magazine for many years,
I actually went ahead and earned a stockbrokers license. I wasnt really
going to be a stockbroker but I found it interesting
and it definitely
separated me from the pack. For example, when Barclays was introducing iShares,
the agency handling the account told me the fact that I had a brokers license
was one of the reasons they picked me to write for the account.
For a number
of years I worked extensively with pharmaceutical ad agencies. This meant learning
referencing and annotating its almost a scholarly type of work, where
every claim has to have acceptable attribution be it a recognized journal
or clinical study. Having this kind of expertise has brought me a good deal of
When I was working in the San Francisco Bay area, right
near Silicon Valley, I would get a lot of technology assignments software,
hardware, publications, etc. Right now, there seems to be an upswing in tech clients.
So it varies, depending on the business cycle. When certain industries
are doing well, I get a lot of assignments in those industries. Right now, no
matter what the industry is, I get a lot of Internet-related work.
How would you characterize your style of writing?
Leon: I think its
strong on concept and theme. It tends to be conversational, but that varies to
a degree, depending on the audience. I try to get a good picture in my head of
the ideal target audience. One person. Whether its an investor, someone
suffering from arthritis, whatever. I keep that person in my mind as I write.
And because I read my copy over and over out loud as Im revising, I imagine
reading it to the person I have in my mind.
CG: Do you make suggestions
on what things the client could test on your package?
Leon: I do. Generally,
themes, headlines and lead paragraphs. It can be a progression. For instance,
first testing different headlines and leads with the same theme. Then switching
to testing new themes and different headlines within the new theme.
far as the offer is concerned, usually the pricing is set, but I often suggest
different bonuses. For instance, special reports that may relate to the promotions
CG: How involved are you in the design?
Leon: Im often
very involved. I worked with agencies for many years where you generally work
with an art director. I really enjoy working with art directors and have a very
healthy respect for the power of design to affect response.
asked to choose my own art director, I first try to see if one of the art directors
Ive worked with in the past is available. If the client has its own design
staff, I often do very rough drawings to indicate graphics or layout.
How long did it take you to complete this project?
Leon: This one took about
2 weeks. I was also working on other projects at the same time, so it wasnt
2 weeks solely on that project. But thats about how long it took from start
CG: If you could divide you work up in parts, how much time do
you devote to research, to writing, to editing?
Leon: This can vary. Also,
there isnt a strict demarcation between them. While I may start with research,
sometimes in the middle of writing copy I realize that more research
in a particular area is needed. And as I write, I also do a fair amount of editing
before I have a first draft. If you include concepting and brainstorming as part
of writing, its something like this: 30% research, 35% writing, 35% editing
this indicates, I spend a great deal of time of time editing and rewriting. I
think a copywriter is like a sculptor. The sculptor has a rough slab and he is
constantly whittling, scraping, refining until the piece is finished. My copywriting
process is something like that.
CG: How do you figure out all the benefits
a product offers? Do you list them out, do you talk with the client, do you use
the product yourself?
Leon: Ill ask the client, research the product,
use the product if possible, study and analyze the target audience, look at testimonials
and case studies. Ill try to see if anything has been overlooked
or if there is a benefit that is not obvious but is maybe an emotion that was
not considered at first.
CG: Do you think there is a difference between
online prospects and direct mail prospects?
Leon: It depends. If its
a promotion mailed to a certain list vs. a promotion emailed to a similar list,
the messaging and the writing can also be quite similar.
But if, lets
say, its a promotion mailed to a list vs. a landing page people come to
from a pay per click ad, then there is a bigger difference. The person who arrives
at the landing page has actively searched using specific keywords for a topic
or problem. When they click on the ad they want to see a pretty specific message.
The landing page needs to be very aligned with the keywords and ads in the pay-per-click
campaign. You need to write with that in mind. With the direct mail, you dont
have to align your writing so closely to specific keywords.
CG: Do you have any special tips or techniques for boosting
Leon: Its important to inject a credible sense of urgency
to boost response. Once the reader puts it aside, the possibility of a response
plummets. If the urgency is tied to an offer with a deadline or a limited quantity,
try to give a reason for the deadline or the limitation. Make it as real and credible
as possible. If its possible, I also try to find a deadline that is organic
to the promotion. Like the Olympics I mentioned for the China stock promotion.
The urgency to get into these stocks before the upcoming Olympics was inherent
in the promotion.
I like to use graphics to heighten a sense of urgency.
In direct mail I like deadlines and calls to action to not only be in the copy
but also attached to graphics, such as boxes, callouts, etc. Make it stand out.
On the web, you now have great multimedia tools such as audio and video
to heighten urgency.
CG: Is there a special thing you do to come up with
headlines for your projects?
Leon: Well, one thing is to write a lot of
them. But not just wordsmithing variations. I look at whole different approaches
and categories of headlines before wordsmithing.
For instance I might look
at some benefit-heavy headlines. Then I might try headlines that approach it from
a more emotional point of view. Then problem-solution, etc. So I try to make sure
I have a bunch of very different directions before I really get into wordsmithing
the different headlines.
Also before wordsmithing, Ill use a pen
and pad and get into a relaxed atmosphere whether its my couch or
a nearby café. Once I start refining the wording, Ill work on the
CG: Is there ONE thing that every package you write always has?
A central idea. In other words, not just an offer or sending an announcement that
the client thinks is important. The idea could be a story, a unique marketing
angle or offer, a new solution to a problem. It gives the mailing or webpage a
reason for being. People see all sorts of announcements and offers. A central
idea or theme strikes a deeper chord and sets it apart.
How to Build Credibility
for the Product
CG: How do you build credibility for the product?
I look to incorporate as many credibility indicators as possible: awards, certifications,
testimonials, case studies. Certain names or brands, depending on the industry,
can offer credibility. In the health field, it can be a study from Harvard Medical
School or Johns Hopkins. If the promotion is technology-related, any connection
to a Google or an IBM, or a company like that, will carry a lot of weight. Certain
investment firms and analysts carry a lot of weight in the financial field. Track
records and biographies can be particularly effective in certain categories.
testimonials are effective, I think testimonials integrated within case studies
are even more effective. I call them case stories. This way the quotes have context.
You know the situation and how a problem was solved.
CG: How do you stay
in touch with the marketplace?
Leon: I read tons of magazines and newsletters.
The NY Times, NY Post, INC, Business 2.0, Forbes, etc. Websites such as popurl
and digg not only tell you what people are reading but how popular articles are
in different industries or sectors. Home pages of Yahoo and MSN are not only good
for keeping up with whats happening, but its also worthwhile to study
About Your Current Control
CG: Now lets talk about
your current control. I know readers will want to know more about it. Can you
describe the target audience to us
. their concerns, etc.?
target audience for Growth Report, an investment newsletter focusing on growth
stocks, is self-directed, individual investors primarily trading through online
brokerage accounts. Major concerns are inflation, US stocks, discovering opportunities
in China-based stocks trading on US exchanges.
CG: So what is the core emotion
in this package?
Leon: On one hand you, could say that almost all investment
pitches appeal to the desire to make more money. But I think there is an underlying
emotion that is an offshoot of that. The fear of missing out on a big opportunity
at least that is the core emotion I used in this instance.
cases, I think the fear of missing out triggers a stronger call to action than
the desire to take advantage of an opportunity. I know they sound about the same.
But there is a psychological difference, and that difference is reflected at various
points in the copy. Of course, you have to make the opportunity big enough and
credible in order to make the fear of missing out effective.
CG: You do
a nice job of teasing about the stocks in the report. Is that original copy of
your own, or did the material come from the report?
Leon: The copy is definitely
my own. I read the report and incorporated any relevant data and insight about
the stocks that are in the report. But I also did a lot of research on my own
about each stock I chose to write about. The fact is, I needed to do initial research
in order to select the juiciest stocks in the report to write about.
to Yahoo Finance and other investment portals to see whats there
do a Google search on the stocks and the industries theyre in, and of course,
look at their websites. Im pretty through on doing additional research.
The research often yields additional nuggets. Even if its just one piece
of data that I can build a story around, its worth the time.
of the report, how involved were you in the concept of the free reports or were
they part of the control?
Leon: In this case, they had already created the
report. The control piece used a similar China report, although the stocks were
different. How I used the free report was up to me whether the letter would
focus on the report or the newsletter, which stocks to highlight, how many stocks
to use in the tease, etc.
CG: Your description of the newsletter is great
more like a special, highly focused membership club
How did you come up with that copy?
Leon: I think the idea of a being a
member of a special club is more desirable than just a subscription. Of course,
you need to be able to justify calling it a membership. And I believe the added
features and benefits subscribers to Growth Report get with the website
such as updates and 24/7 access justifies the larger claim of a membership.
Whenever possible, I look to stimulate the idea of being part of something special,
appealing to the desire to be an insider. Its not just added value
its added emotional value.
CG: Why do you think this package worked
Leon: Id point to a number of factors:
the incredible growth rate of one of the companies in the headline not just drew
people in, but set up the possibility of a big investment opportunity.
a framework of organic urgency. What I mean by that is, I stated that much of
the furious growth in China is being stimulated by the rush to prepare for the
It was all part of a central underlying image I tried to convey:
China feverishly building and growing. The statistic about Chinas infrastructure
growth equaling the size of the city Houston every month and using a photo
of Houston to emphasize the point all added to this image of feverish growth.
And by implying that it was all hurtling toward this one day, this global deadline
the opening of the Olympics fed the urgency to find out about these
I tried to integrate each stock tease into the thought that
certain stocks were riding the wave of Chinas hyper growth and you
shouldnt wait to find out what these stocks are.
CG: The tone you
use in the copy is very conversational and easy to read. Would you say that is
one of your trademarks?
Leon: Yes. And this brings up an interesting topic
to me tone and voice. I havent seen enough talk about it in copywriting
articles and books. And I think it is critical.
I try to be appropriately
conversational. It depends on the industry and the venue. In the investment newsletter
world I think a conversational, slightly wise-guy approach works well.
a number of years, when I was working with an institutional investing magazine,
I was fairly heavily involved with investment analysts. At that time, I noticed
that a few star analysts, for instance Mary Meeker, an analyst at Morgan Stanley,
wrote research reports that were highly evocative and conversational. Something
you wouldnt expect from high-end analytical research. But the fact is, they
were the most popular analysts. In a sense, I saw it as a green light to be just
as conversational and evocative in my marketing copy for the industry.
tell you something interesting on the topic of tone and voice. A number of years
ago I was also writing a bunch of annual reports. It was well-paying work that
kept coming my way. But I noticed that, as I was adopting the kind of corporate
tone and language that fit that venue, I was losing, or feared that I might lose,
the conversational tone I liked for my marketing projects. So, at a certain point,
I turned down all annual report work and stuck to marketing.
CG: Can you
share with us results such as gross revenue, response rate? Any statistics
you can share is greatly appreciated.
Leon: According to the marketing director
for Business Financial Publishing, the parent company to Growth Report, my sales
89% better than the previous control piece on China
better than our initial China control piece
CG: Fantastic results. Thanks
for sharing. Now for a few fun questions.
A Few Fun Questions
Whats it like to work with you on a project?
Leon: I like to think
Im pretty easy and flexible to work with. I think its important to
meet deadlines, so I do. I try to get buy-in at key points. This helps avoid misunderstandings,
etc. For instance, I like to get buy-in on a concept before proceeding with the
writing. I want the client to have a pretty clear idea of what direction I want
to go in and what to expect, so were all on the same page, so to speak.
CG: If you could choose another career besides copywriting, what would
that be and why?
Leon: Well, actually, I am already working in that other
career. Internet entrepreneur. I market a number of information products online.
Its not only a nice income generator, it also keeps me on top of what methods
are working best, whats getting the best response, etc. So it also helps
me in my copywriting work with clients. I find the Internet extremely interesting.
For instance I believe the Internet has been crucial to the rise of Barack Obama.
It really was his spectacular online fundraising early on, instead of through
the old methods, that said, I am a serious candidate.
advice would you give up-and-coming copywriters to help them learn this trade?
This is a trade, a craft. And I think you learn best by working with someone who
knows the craft. This could be working at an agency, or apprenticing to a successful
copywriter, or a hands-on writing course, where youre getting specific assignments
which are critiqued by professionals. Writing, getting critiqued, then rewriting.
This is how your skill grows. Studying and really analyzing controls in different
industries is also extremely helpful.
CG: Tell us about your most outrageous
client and how you dealt with it.
Leon: I remember working with this marketing
consultant who had a very large client. He hired me to write the copy and to be
in charge of the creative. He was off-the charts obsessive. He would send 50 page
faxes in the middle of the night. Im talking about 3:00 in the morning.
At the time, I had a free-standing fax machine (Ive since gone to computer-based),
so I would hear the fax ring then the pages go on and on until it finally rang
off. Sometimes he did this a few times in the middle of the night.
was indicative of his obsessive, micro-management throughout the process. I dealt
with it the best I could, got him toned down a bit. It was very good money, but
once the assignment was done, I said, Adios. And then slept a whole
CG: Tell us about the funniest copywriting experience youve
Leon: I was a copywriter working on the Johnson & Johnson account.
At the time, I was working on their dental floss. We had a big focus group, and
a whole bunch of us client people, agency people were behind the
one-way mirror, watching the focus group. The focus group was finishing up. We
were hungry and were gobbling up the sandwiches, standing close to the one way
mirror watching the people file out of the room. One person didnt file out
right away. She went up to the mirror and opened up her mouth wide and started
examining her gums, as we were inches in front of her on the other side of the
mirror, our mouths full of food. Needless to say, we didnt finish our sandwiches.
CG: Thanks so much, Leon, for joining us!