Direct Response Copywriter on Creativity

I work in advertising so people think I’m creative. What does that word “creative” really mean?

My admittedly somewhat rudimentary dictionary defines creativity as …

“The use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”

In many advertising agencies, you’ll find someone called a “Creative Director” and this person is often in charge of the copywriter. Sometimes they rose from being a lowly copywriter to the exalted position of Creative Director. Woo-hoo! But the Creative Director has to come up with ideas for ads.

What does a direct response copywriter do when it comes to creativity? I see two problems, going back to that definition: original ideas … artistic.

Every direct response copywriter knows that being original and artistic is a huge mistake. The “branding” copywriter can be original and artistic because they don’t really have to sell anything. They’re not accountable.

I love those beer ads featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” But they don’t make me buy Dos Equis beer. I also believe they took the idea from “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt” created by Ogilvy and Mather. Whatever.

My “creative” work has to motivate people to buy the products and services being sold. But how creative can I be? In direct marketing, 80% of the work is following the usual methods that have worked for decades. Then 20% is creative, coming up with a fresh way of selling the product or service … coming up with a fresh narrative and/or big idea. I also like to be involved in the graphics by providing ideas and thumbnails.

But I don’t want to be too creative. The foundation of great copywriting is following the tried and tested tactics and strategies of direct response copywriting and direct marketing. Anyone who deviates from this is doomed.

Yes … I get to be creative and it’s fun coming up with new headlines, subs, and body copy. But I have to remember that I’m a direct response copywriter. I’m selling a product or service and NOT trying to win awards for creativity.


I'm a direct response copywriter working for clients around the world. Enter your information to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here when you have a project you'd like to discuss. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.