What are people like? What I learned from Copywriting

Since I teach rhetoric, I’m always looking for ways to give my students an edge and this leads me down all sorts of great rabbit trails: books on hypnotism, psychology, watching speeches by famous politicians, ancient rhetorical manuals, books on family systems communication, and even books on marketing.

Today I started Victor Schwab’s classic, How to Write a Good Advertisement.

He wrote it in the 1940s and one of his main points is that you have to advertise to the people who will be buying your product, not to the person you are, that you wish you were, or that you wish everybody was. He gave this list of what he thought was an alarming trend in the United States in the 40s. He thought people were leaning toward:

Success— instead of— Integrity
Spending— instead of— Saving
Restlessness— instead of— Rest
Self-Indulgence— instead of— Self-Discipline
Desire for the New or Novel— instead of— Affection for the Old and Tried
Show— instead of— Solidity
Dependence— instead of— Self-Reliance
Gregariousness— instead of— Solitude
Luxury— instead of— Simplicity
Ostentation— instead of— Restraint
Easy Generosity— instead of— Wise Giving
Quick Impressions— instead of— Careful Thought[1]

If he’s right, and he is. And if things are worse today, and they are. Then what does this mean for evangelists and pastors?

When Paul evangelized Felix, this happened:

Acts 24:24-26  After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.  (25)  And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”  (26)  At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him.


Now, Paul’s method is summarized by Luke here and we discover that this went on some two years. But I do wonder, when we share the gospel and we start by talking about self-control or right/wrong and the people to whom we speak do not even comprehend these concepts, where must we start?





[1] Schwab, Victor (1942) How To Write A Good Advertisement: A Short Course In Copywriting (Kindle Locations 1206-1216). Pickle Partners Publishing. Kindle Edition.


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