I remember going through ‘ad school’, under the wonderful tutelage of Tony Cullingham, and being told – aside from a healthy dose of creativity and sheer hard work – I had to know my ‘ad history’; the great agencies (past and present), famous ad campaigns, and the best copywriters and art directors in the industry.
The first time I was ever asked who my favourite copywriter was, I said “David Abbott”, without thinking. I knew nothing of his work, but knew his name, so thought that answer would make me sound good. Retrospectively, I looked up his work: what an unintentionally brilliant choice I’d made in naming him.
He was phenomenal conceptually, but with a fair chunk of incredibly smart copy thrown into the mix.
His work resonated with me as, although I was learning how to craft conceptual campaigns, I hankered after writing longer form copy – it was my default mode.
At one point, I was told “look, Nick, you can’t write your way out of every client brief”
David Abbott’s work showed me that, while – to a degree – that statement was true, it was possible to marry visual work to smart, punchy copy that had real impact.
Too often, the word ‘legendary’ gets bandied about. I get told that ‘copywriter x’ is legendary and I should’ve heard of them. When I look them up, they’re great at writing sales letters, but that seems to be it.
That doesn’t make you a great copywriter, it simply means you mastered one particular format.
David Abbott, from what I could see, was worthy of the term ‘legendary’ in his field, across all platforms/channels.
The likelihood of me ever reaching the dizzy heights of Mr Abbott are slim to zero, but he gave me confidence to believe I could be a decent copywriter and set a benchmark for me.
Here are some of my favourite bits of his work: