Dear writers, Let’s cut right to the chase. We know how hard this is for writers to hear, so let’s just move right through it without making a scene, shall we? You aren’t making any money.
Look, we’re not trying to disparage any of your efforts — maybe you’re writing an alt-poetry chapbook about your stepdad called “Bone Feelings,” or finishing up your webseries that follows three roommates in Brooklyn as they try to crowdfund their way out of the Great Depression. Maybe you’re just hanging around the New Yorker and trying to look busy until someone assumes you work there. But, as we all know, none of those things are going to pay the mental health specialist bills.
We want you to write copy for company blogs because we want to offer brands some real talent, not just a bunch of keywords stuffed into incomplete sentences. That being said, we get it: we’re the big, bad sponsored content startup and you guys are the inspired ones trying to do something “real.” But, you want to know what’s “real”? Employment is real. Checks are real. Products are real. You can rub your grimy paws all over a stunning set of sterling silverware—they don’t even let you touch the art at the Met.
Just in case you’re still thinking about holding onto those worthless principles, here’s a list of famous writers who wrote advertisements and also were better than you.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Like you, the Great Gatsby author spent much of his early career running from newspaper to newspaper, trying to impress them with lyrics he wrote for the Princeton Triangle Club. Also like you, he had little success selling his jaunty little ditties to people who worked at a real office from nine to five every day.
But things started looking up when someone in the ad industry told Fitzgerald he was wasting his time (ahem). The ad man helped to get him a job with Barron Collier, an ad agency that had him write slogans to display on street cars. Fitzgerald recalls his boss saying, “it’s plain that there’s a future for you in this business. Pretty soon this office won’t be big enough to hold you.”
Just to lay all our cards on the table, we will probably never tell you this because you are probably not F. Scott Fitzgerald. We prefer to motivate to our writers with little sayings like, “this office will contain you until the end of days. The future is over—there is only content now. Report to Sector 4 immediately for brand reeducation.”
If you’re into grittier fiction, though, crime novelists can write advertisements, too. Though she’s known now for her series of murder mysteries, centered on amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy Sayers was once one of the world’s foremost voices on the subject of mustard.
As one of the top writers at the London ad agency Benson’s, Sayers had the distinct pleasure of creating and writing one of the era’s most popular campaigns: the Mustard Club, a fictional society featured in ads for Sailor Savouries. The spots featured silly characters with names like Lord Bacon of Cookham and obscure references to Chaucer and Greek mythology, something that she could do because it was 1926 and people read more because they didn’t have Netflix. You are not allowed to do this because no one will understand what you are talking about. Also, you don’t deserve it.
Faulkner’s career as a copywriter was fairly short-lived because his tagline for Johnson & Johnson shampoos went like this: “Because there is something in the touch of flesh with flesh which abrogates, cuts sharp and straight across the devious intricate channels of decorous ordering, which enemies as well as lovers know because it makes them both touch and touch of that which is the citadel of the central I-Am’s private own: not spirit, soul; the liquorish and ungirdled mind is anyone’s to take in any darkened hallway of this earthly tenement. But let flesh touch with flesh, and watch the fall of unwanted dry skin – with Johnson & Johnson.
A lot of people don’t know it, but many of Plato’s most famous dialogues are reworked from copy he wrote to get by while developing his philosophical theories. If you’re wondering why Socrates never shuts up about ships and horses in Plato’s works, it’s probably because the original drafts were plugs for a Sicilian startup called HorseShip, whose tagline was, “Let’s put that pony on a boat!™” The company closed its doors in 405 B.C., after its CEO was impaled for accidentally dumping a bunch of Cretan mares meant for the king into the depths of the wine-dark sea.
Much of Plato’s philosophy—and, by extension, the source of Western thought—has its roots in sponsored content. The metaphor of the cave, for instance, comes from an ad that many historians consider to be the precursor of modern clickbait. The spot was a simple sign on the outside of an Athenian cave that read, “You Won’t BELIEVE What’s At the Bottom of THIS CAVE!!!” Readers who entered would suffer debilitating injuries in a fall to the bottom of the underground cavern, where a theater troupe would then chain their writhing bodies to the wall and force their audiences to watch their amateur shadow puppetry productions.
The author of the famous, best-selling trilogy of religious texts had to start somewhere! Believe it or not, before He became the Father of all beings, God got his start as a young copywriter on Madison avenue who dreamed of something bigger.
Though the Creator is known by many pseudonyms, He first started publishing work under His Christian name, Benjamin Horwitz. A promising upstart at an NYC-based firm, Horowitz built his reputation on the newspaper ads he wrote for a carpet cleaning company, promising readers that there was “nothing cleaner than Stanley Steamer.” His campaigns were so successful, in fact, that his article for Parenting Magazine, “The 10 Commandments You MUST Follow This Year,” still has something of a cult following.
Though He has since retreated from the public eye, many people say that God continues to write to this day, which might explain why He doesn’t have the time to hear your prayers.
Hopefully, this stirring listicle of literary brilliance is enough to convince you that, when it comes to writing, we mean business. The fact is that writing for L&T isn’t just a highly cost-effective way of selling your soul—it’s a way to keep yourself writing every day. Making content for our clients means writing in a way that everyday people will understand and relate to. It’s an opportunity to do something that’s accessible, not just edified. Even if your pitifully weak writing fingers have real talent, writing content is a way of building on those skills, not wasting them.
No matter what their ambitions are, all writers need an audience—if you’ve got the talent we’re looking for, that’s exactly what L&T can give you. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.