Teaching The Basics Of Advertising Isn’t So Basic Anymore

A little confessional today:
So I’m teaching a five-week “Intro to Ad Copywriting” class at Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts. It’s only a five-session course, part of a “Summer Boot Camp” for the business. It’s not much time. So we’re starting with the basics: Headline writing, concepting, making persuasive arguments. We’ll move into visual thinking, writing for the web and radio/video later on. Really though, that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what today’s copywriters need to know to be successful.

I’m starting to think that teaching the basics, in this era of so much fragmentation, is a little like walking my students to an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’m the one who has to give them a fork, a knife, and a plate. Otherwise, they can’t go any further.

A while back on Talent Zoo I asked the question, Are the Fundamentals of Advertising Fundamental Anymore?. And the truth is, I have no idea. Some of the best ideas in advertising and marketing, if you believe what you read and what’s getting awarded, has little to do with the art of copywriting.

But I gotta start somewhere. Right? What would you want aspiring copywriters to know?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Great post.

    I think the bottom line is that there’s no bottom line right now. There are no hard and fast rules. We are in the process of making it up as we go along. The best thing that you can do is teach them the art of persuasion and educate them about the crowded mental environment, the consumer’s decision making mechanisms, what it means to be memorable and what it means to be real. Teach them to forget everything they know about advertising (as passive observers, if nothing else) and introduce them to the conundrum that we’re all in right now.

    And don’t be afraid to ask them for advice.

    • Dan Goldgeier says:

      Great advice, Todd. Thank you. 
      One of the things I’m also doing is pointing them to the countless refernces and resources that exist to help them pursue this: Blogs, books, websites that serve as ad repositories. Most of my students are generally not aware of how much there is at their fingertips that they can use on their own time after our class is done.