But with the dotcom boom in the early 2000s, something changed.
In fact, to say only that it “changed” would be an understatement. Better to call it a seismic shift.
Hard-sell marketers got a hold of the internet.
And they used four inherent features of the Web to spread cash-first copywriting like wildfire.
1. The Web is, for all intents and purposes, free.
Yes, I realize that there are costs involved in running digital ad campaigns.
But relatively speaking, it now costs hardly anything to publish an ad.
Even 25 years ago, you would have had to pay a lot to buy magazine ads, or send out expensive direct mail letters, or run an infomercial that cost thousands or even hundreds of thousands to produce.
But today you can get started for five dollars!
That low cost of putting ads on the Web encourages a “throw everything at the wall to see what sticks” recklessness in shady marketers.
If an idea isn’t exactly truthful, who cares?
It doesn’t cost much to try it out, and heck—it might actually convert.
2. The Web is fast.
Once upon a time, you had to book an ad in a magazine three months in advance, or send out a mail campaign and wait for weeks until responses started trickling in.
Today, you can publish a sales page and start getting feedback the second you drive traffic to it.
So again, there’s a rush to publish that encourages a “first draft, best draft” mentality in the worst kinds of marketers.
And that makes copywriting suffer.
3. The Web is instantly changeable.
Made a mistake?
Fix it in seconds.
Discovered a new way to scare people into buying RIGHT NOW?
Add it before the end of the day.
In the past, marketers took the time to get things right—because they only had one chance, and “whoopsies” cost a lot of money.
Now, if you gave me five minutes on Facebook, I could find you three ads with spelling mistakes in them.
4. The Web is highly measurable.
For instance, now you can edit a headline and watch your response rate—the percentage of people who take action on your offer—rise from, say, 3.02% to 3.19%.
That level of specificity has created an obsession with “more and more” that leads to more aggressive marketers to search for the slightest edge.
And unfortunately, that edge almost always comes at the expense of the reader.
Where do we go from here?
I’m certainly not advocating we should stop advertising on the Web.
But listen—when ads follow you around every time you watch a video, or use Google, or get on Facebook…
There’s no escaping them—either at 2 in the morning or 1:30 in the afternoon.
And thanks to the legacy of the internet marketing “land rush” at the beginning of the 21st century, I fear that cash-first copywriting is here to stay.
The good news?
I’m working on a real-world copywriting solution.