THE WORLD’s FIRST FULL-TIME COPYWRITER: This was not a phrase we had specifically expected to encounter — nor, much less, did we expect to stumble across it during a random jaunt down Wikipedia Way. But there was, in fact, an official first: John Emory Powers, who was hired by John Wanamaker in 1880 to write (basically) department-store promos.
Three notes of substance here:
1️⃣ He gradually developed the “Powers style” of advertising, also known as the “reason-why” style. The language is simple, unpretentious, and based on facts; the visuals are minimal (often just a single column of text). Powers wanted to get away from the “Barnumesque” style, which relied upon flourish, exaggeration, and emotional appeal.
2️⃣ In Powers’s opinion, the Most Important Thing is to get the reader’s attention and be interesting (within the above confines). His second Important Thing: stick to the truth.
3️⃣ Powers might not have been the most agreeable fellow, but he did have a sense of humor—and his sense of humor (per the above confines) managed to accommodate near-brutal honesty. For example, this copy for a near-bankrupt clothing company actually saved them from bankruptcy:
We are bankrupt. This announcement will bring our creditors down on our necks. But if you come and buy tomorrow we shall have the money to meet them. If not we will go to the wall.
NEVER CORNER BRUCE BANNER: That’s our shortest possible re-cap of this Vox article, which is itself a recap of one episode in their seven-part podcast on Google’s history. But we’ll explain what we mean with those first 4 words:
The original advice is never corner a wounded animal. That’s a good way to get yourself hurt, because most animals will fight twice as hard once running is no longer an option. Bruce Banner (a.k.a. Hulk) enters the picture because—in the Internet era we occupy—software teams in particular can burn like nuclear reactors when they think fighting like hell is their only choice.
So who cornered Bruce Banner, a.k.a. Hulk, a.k.a. Google?
That would be Microsoft. Much the same way Apple’s starting to throttle Facebook’s user data right about now, Microsoft (with then-boss browser IE) could have squeezed the life out of Google in the early 2000s—which is why Google invented Toolbar and then Chrome, their own browser.
Of course, as soon as they won the browser war, the whole world went mobile—another fight for survival which produced Android.
We wanna listen to this podcast now. 🤔