What I Learned About Copywriting From A Waiter Named AL
My uncle Monty owned a forty-two room hotel near the Jersey shore. When I was a child, we spent at least two long weekends a year at the hotel getting together with extended family and friends. It was idyllic for us kids.
[Here I must note, I had a lot of “uncles”. My father came to America from Turkey as a boy of four. He was placed in an orphanage until eighteen and the “Boys from the Home” became his family – and ours.]
Monty served three meals a day in a dining room that could seat almost a hundred. Other than the food and wonderful feelings, I remember a kindly waiter named Al. All us kids loved Al. He treated us special.
Role Models Come In All Shapes And Sizes And You Can Learn Lessons From Unexpected Sources.
As I grew up, I could appreciate Al more and more – as a grandfatherly figure – and as the glue that made that dining room such a wondrous place.
Al, all 5’2” of him, would carry heavy trays with eight bowls, each containing a metal “coffee cup” full of hot soup. He’d place the bowl in front of us and gently – and quietly – tip the metal cup into our bowls with never a splash or ripple, so effortlessly, that we hardly noticed him. But we noticed the rich aroma of the soup.
We did, indeed.
Now, Let’s Tie This To Copywriting
Fast forward fifteen years.
I was twenty and in my second year of interning at a top Madison Avenue Ad Agency. That summer, my girlfriend and I spent some time in the mountains where I was in a “teenage” band, playing at a resort hotel. I looked up Al, who was waiting tables at a nearby hotel (he did this every summer because he didn’t do well in the heat and humidity of the shore).
It was a emotional reunion. We reminisced about Monty’s place when all the kids were young. I told him I was working as a copywriter intern while pursuing my degree in Psychological Advertising – and how thinking of him helped me in my copywriting. I think that hit him in the heart…it certainly did me.
As Yogi Berra Said, “You Can Observe A Lot, Just By Watching”
When Al was your waiter, his efficiency and skill were almost taken for granted. He always presented the food to the table as if he was bearing precious gifts. Al was never the center of attention – that honor belonged to the food.
Just like a great copywriter.
- If your readers notice your writing (“Wow…whoever wrote this can really write.”) it puts the attention on the writing, not the product.
- Your job, as a copywriter, is to inform, educate, and motivate you readers about the benefits and satisfactions of your product. Nothing should get in the way of achieving that goal…not even you.
- You’ll be a truly good copywriter when readers never notice you…but they buy your product.
And that, dear fellow copywriters, is what I learned from a waiter named Al.
Copywriting Is A Lifelong Learning Commitment
Throughout my 35+ year career, I've written copy for every conceivable type of client. Multinational corporations, local and regional businesses They were online and brick and mortar, and non-profit or for profit, successful. and start-ups. And they included four small businesses I co-founded.
Since 2002, I've written four books, run seminars for over 3,100 copywriters and entrepreneurs, and coached several dozen. Finally, in 2021, I completed my seminal work, the "How To Write Copy" System. For many, this system is the stepping-stone to top-tier skills. The system contains a massive library of over 310 educational experiences, with 159 "members-only" courses, tutorials, and toolboxes based on the Techniques and Secrets of the World's Best Copywriters.
To your great success.