What Is Direct Response Copywriting?

If you’ve landed on this page, chances are you’ve heard people spruik the amazing benefits of direct response copywriting (probably from a direct response copywriter themselves because, let’s face it, those folks like to toot their own horn).

So if you want to learn what direct response copywriting is, how it can work wonders for your business, and why it’s one of the most crucial elements of profitable marketing, then you’re in the right place. This blog post will answer your deepest and darkest questions, so let’s get started.

What is direct response copywriting?

Woah there, slow down jellybean. Let’s start at the start. First, let’s look at what copywriting is. Once we’ve got that covered, we can tackle the adjectives ‘direct response’ next.

Copywriting has nothing to do with copy rights or the little (C) symbol. That’s a different profession altogether (you can read about copywriter Vs copyright here). And it’s also different from content writer, although the two are closely related (see how to differentiate a content writer from a copywriter in this article).

In a nutshell, copywriting is writing for marketing. The words in advertisements are referred to as ‘copy’, whether that’s the headline for a website, the text on a billboard, or a slogan for a TV commercial. A copywriter is a person who writes these words.

For example: You know Elaine from Seinfeld who used to write those long-winded product descriptions for the Peterman catalogue? Yeah. That’s copywriting. And the words in the long-winded product descriptions is the copy.

Now we’ve got that covered… What is direct response copywriting?

Direct response copywriting is copywriting that directs the reader to make a certain response. That response might be clicking a link, filling out a form, or making a purchase. Direct response copy is used in a variety of media, including email, landing pages, direct mail, and more.

How is direct response copywriting different from other forms of copywriting?

The other most widely known form of copywriting is ‘branded copy’, which is designed to build brand recognition or establish an emotional connection with the reader. Direct response copy differs because it is focused on driving a specific response. It’s often used in campaigns where the goal is to generate immediate conversions or leads.

Direct response copywriting is also different from SEO copywriting. While direct response focuses on driving the reader to take action and buy something, SEO copywriting focuses more on ranking higher search engines (although great SEO copywriting does both).

What are some examples of direct response copywriting?

The best way to understand the difference is to look at examples. Consider this headline complex for a (hypothetical) real estate company:

Direct response copywriting example

That’s the direct response example – they’re trying to get browsers to sign up for a free consultation, so they can progress the leads further down the sales pipeline.

A branded copywriting alternative might read something like this:

Branded copywriting example

The branded copy elicits a certain feeling, but it doesn’t direct the reader on the response they should make to the copy, nor does it explicitly state what the company is offering.

What are the benefits of direct response copywriting?

Increased conversion rates

Direct response copywriting advocates will tell you the first headline should result in more sales than the second. It is written to encourage readers to take specific action immediately. In theory, if 100 people read both headlines, the first would convert a greater percentage into sales enquiries (and by extension, will lead to more sales).

Improved targeting

Direct response copywriting is typically aimed at a specific audience or market segment. For the direct response headline alternative above, the property company is directly targeting renters as opposed to property investors (you can tell by the sub-headline that asks, “Ready to escape the rental trap?”) By tailoring the message to the needs and interests of the specific target audience, you can increase the effectiveness of the copy.

Measurable results

Direct response copywriting is often used in marketing campaigns that are designed to generate measurable results. Campaigns like social media ads, Google ads, and old-school direct mail are all easily measured. That makes it simple to calculate the return on investment you generate from the marketing campaign.


Direct response copywriting can be a cost-effective way to reach potential customers. By targeting specific audiences and using a clear call to action, it is possible to generate leads and sales without spending a lot of money on advertising.

Who invented direct response copywriting?

Wondering where this masterful art form came from? Direct response copywriting has a long history and has been developed by numerous individuals over time. However, the father of modern direct response copywriting is widely considered to be John E. Kennedy.

In 1904, Kennedy wrote a ground-breaking advertisement for the pianist, Ignacy Paderewski, which was published in a magazine. The advertisement used persuasive language and a strong call to action, inviting readers to send in a coupon to receive a free booklet about the pianist.

Kennedy’s approach was unique because it aimed to elicit an immediate response from readers, rather than simply building brand awareness. His approach was so successful that it revolutionized advertising, and direct response copywriting has been used ever since.

Who are some famous direct response copywriters?

Apart from Elain of Seinfeld fame, there are a few well-known direct response copywriters who’ve paved the way for the rest of us:

Gary Halbert

Often referred to as the “Prince of Print,” Halbert was known for his legendary sales letters, which were often controversial but highly effective. He was one of the most successful copywriters of his time and helped to popularize direct mail advertising.

John Carlton

Carlton is a legendary copywriter who has worked with many top marketers and businesses. He is known for his ability to write compelling, no-nonsense sales copy with a touch of humour, including the books Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel and The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Shit Together.

Dan Kennedy

Kennedy is one of the most well-known direct response copywriters and marketing consultants in the world. He has written numerous books on copywriting and marketing and has worked with many top businesses and entrepreneurs.

David Ogilvy

While Ogilvy is best known as a branding expert, he also made significant contributions to the field of direct response copywriting. He was a strong advocate for using research and testing to improve advertising results and wrote extensively on the topic.

Eugene Schwartz

Schwartz was a highly successful copywriter and author who wrote the classic book Breakthrough Advertising. He was known for his ability to craft compelling headlines, as well as being a respected speaker and lecturer on copywriting and marketing. 

Gary Bencivenga

Many people consider Gary Bencivenga to be one of the greatest copywriters of all time. He spent decades writing monster direct mail winners for large mailers like Boardroom, Phillips and Rodale. John Carlton said Bencivenga’s control packages were “nearly impossible to beat“. He also created the Bencivenga Persuasion Equation® which is a widely studied framework used by copywriters.

What about famous female copywriters?

Why are all these copywriters blokes? Great question. Well, I’ve simply listed the most famous direct response copywriters. But that doesn’t mean they’re the best.

In fact, copywriting methods like incorporating testimonials, crafting copy that resonated with a customer’s deepest desires, and illustrating a vision of how life could improve after using a product, were pioneered by female copywriters. That’s why we dedicated a separate post to famous copywriters who are women.

What does it take to become a great direct response copywriter?

It takes a combination of knowledge, skill, and practice. If you’re thinking about a career switch, or want to write some direct response copy for your own business, here are a few great places to start:


There are many books available on copywriting that can help you improve your skills. Some popular ones include The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert, Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy, The Ultimate Sales Letterby Dan Kennedy, Words That Sell by Richard bayan, and Advertising Secrets of the Written Word by Joseph Sugarman. These are full of incredible lessons, stories, and quotes from some of the most successful and influential copywriters of all time.

Books will provide you with insights, tips, and techniques for writing effective direct response copy. Of course, many of these have been converted to audiobooks, for those of us fraud writers who are too lazy to read!


Courses can be a valuable investment for direct response copywriters looking to learn the craft or improve their skills. They provide a structured approach to learning the fundamentals of persuasive writing, and often offer practical exercises and feedback from instructors and peers.

You’ll learn the principles of persuasive writing, how to identify areas for improvement and gain valuable opportunities to network with other writers. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to build on your existing knowledge, taking courses can be a great way to enhance your writing skills and advance your career as a copywriter.


Having a mentor can be a valuable asset for direct response copywriters, especially if you’re ready to start making money from your newly acquired skill. Mentors provide guidance, support, and feedback on your writing, while drawing on their own experiences to help you navigate challenges and identify opportunities for growth. Mentors can also provide valuable connections in the industry and offer insights on best practices and emerging trends.


Research is something you’ll do a lot of, especially when you begin to write copy. It’s an essential skill to becoming a great copywriter. One rookie mistake new copywriters often make is to begin writing immediately, without doing their required research. As Abraham Lincoln (allegedly) once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Once you research each product or service, the competitors, and the target market, you should be able to craft laser-focused, high-converting copy. Generally speaking, the more you know about your target market, the better you’ll be able to capture their attention and hold it long enough to make a sale!

Summing up…

Direct response copywriting is a marketing technique that aims to encourage a specific response from the reader, such as making a purchase or filling out a form.

Unlike branded copywriting, direct response copywriting is designed to generate immediate conversions or leads. This can lead to better conversion rates, improved targeting, measurable results, and more cost-effective marketing.

While new marketing mediums and platforms will continue to emerge, there’s a fair chance direct response copywriting will remain an in-demand skill for marketers for decades to come.

If you’d like to hire a direct response copywriter, you can contact us for a free chat, or take a look at the copywriting services we specialise in.