An article called “Words that Sing Their Way into Your Pocketbook”, contributed anonymously to the Atlantic Monthly no later than 1921. Colourful and enjoyable advice about finding inspiration for writing that sells – a must for any copywriting agency team.

Tea advert“What is tea, anyway–ugly, shriveled, dried leaves which color hot water a yellowish brown, which make it taste unpleasant and keep you awake, unless you are used to drinking them; you don’t sell a man an auger, you sell him the hole. My problem is not to sell tea. That would be difficult, indeed. I’ve got to sell you that magic spell that is brewed nowhere else but in a teapot; I’ve got to make you think of that spell as a part of Golden Glow tea.

“So I sit at my desk trying to recall all the delightful associations I ever had with tea. I draw in my breath and bring back to my nostrils ghostly odors of the fragrance of bygone tea parties. There’s a certain cosy fire, a green tea-set, and the snow falling heavily outside; a cold tramp, that ended with red cheeks–and a steaming cup of tea. There steals the memory of a woman sitting in a tall chair like a duchess, behind the richness of the silver pot and shining cups. Oh, there are a thousand such memories ! Breakfasts, splendid sunset times, and midnight madness. Tea–the very thought of it begins to drug me with its enchantments, with its fragrance. Haunting pictures of Japanese hillsides, and sunshine, and blue skies are winnowed back and forth by soft winds.

“And so I grip my pencil and begin to weave the echo of my memories into a song of tea. By and by, if I’m lucky and have sweated hard enough, I have written a piece of copy that reflects the witchery of my memories, that sing out to you to stop reading about the President, and stocks, and German perfidy, and take a moment to hear how tempting Golden Tea is, to realize what you are missing until you have some yourself.

“Or it may not be tea that Mr. Bouncing sells. It may be something like a steel monkey-wrench. Then my mind feels the thunder of the mighty hammers, pulses with the roar of industry, and sees the Niagaras of hot sparks leaping from the burning steel. I spend three days talking with the smudged-faced mechanics, about round-shouldered nuts, brittle edges, and barked knuckles; and instead of a delicate legend about tea, a chorus of endurance, strength, accuracy, tough steel, and service rings out from the page. I can’t choose my subject, you know – and I’ve got to make my song echo all the way down to your pocketbook or it’s no good.”