The Copywriter?s Hall of Fame

July 21st, 2005 by Bob Bly

I am frequently asked, ?Who do you think is the best copywriter working today??

So what better place than my blog to answer that question?

Here, in no particular order, are the copywriters I think are the best in the business today:

1. Clayton Makepeace.
2. Jim Reutz.
3. Parris Lampropolous.
4. David Deutsch.
5. Gary Bencivenga.
6. Dick Sanders.
7. Arthur Johnson.
8. Don Mahoney.
9. Paul Hollingshead.
10. Jim Punkre.

To be included on the list, you have to be a copywriter as your primary job function.

Therefore, there are some great copywriters who didn?t make the list because they focus on other tasks, such as running successful businesses.

These include Michael Masterson and Bill Bonner, both of whom would top the list if they became full-time copywriters tomorrow.

But please jump in ? and give me YOUR opinion.

Which names on the list do you agree with?

Who do you think should be added?

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78 responses about “The Copywriter?s Hall of Fame”

  1. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    I would add Ron Marshak (the best kept secret in the business) and Ivan Levison to the list. Richard Armstrong, too. Mal Warwick has written some incredibly successful fundraising letters… but then he runs other businesses, too.

  2. Steve Asher said:

    Bob Bly!

  3. Neil Sagebiel said:

    Tough question, one I don’t feel qualified to answer. The handful of ones on your list that I know of are certainly top notch.

    Also, I think it begs the question, What criteria do you use to determine who is the best? Sales only? Highest paid? Agency copywriters who focus on building mando brands and positioning? Other criteria?

    One thing I’ve learned is that there are all breeds of copywriters with all kinds of specialties. I guess it would be fair to say that the ones who are in the highest demand in their specialites must be the best.

  4. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Neil, I think the only fair criteria is how consistently these copywriters write copy that achieves objectives. In direct marketing, that objective is usually establishing, beating, or revitalizing the control. The objective might also be measured in other ways — website conversions, leads generated, members acquired, funds raised, emails opened, and so forth.

    The writers that Bob lists above all have multiple controls that other writers try but fail to beat. (At least, so far.) They are like top scorers in the NBA. Their stats speak for themselves.

  5. Art said:

    No mention of John Carlton???

  6. Scott Palangi said:

    1) Gary Halbert (c’mon, have you seen the “cataract letter” posted to his site?
    2) John Carlton
    3) Bob Bly
    4) Gary Bencivega
    5) Michael Fortin
    6) Carl Galetti
    7) Clayton Makepeace
    8) That one btitish guy
    9) Dan Kennedy (close to Bly and Halbert
    10) Scott Haines
    11) Joe Vitale (perhaps as good as Galletti)

  7. Anita Franklin said:

    Maria Veloso. I really enjoy her work.

  8. Steve Johnson said:

    I’d include Dan Kennedy, Matt Furey and of course, Bob Bly

  9. Doug D'Anna said:

    Hey, Bob: I’m bummed I didn’t make your list! I always thought I was the best! :) All kidding aside, there are so many great guys/gals I would add, including: Bill Hebdon, David Yale, Eric Beutual, Peter Betual, Richard Armstrong and the secret copywriter Phillips Publishing uses exclusively. (It’s not me–but I’m sworn to secrecy.) Then there’s Richard Stanton Jones (who showed me the way), Ron Jackson (who gave me my start), Carlene Anglaid Cole, Mark Johnson, and Kim Krause–just to name a few. In the end, I think that anyone who has ever had a multiple controls for Boardroom, Phillips, Healthy Directions, Agora, or Rodale should certainly be considered. All good wishes, Doug

  10. Lisa Banks said:

    Starting out as a lowly copywriter/translator (I didn’t even know what a copywriter was when I was hired!) in a foreign culture (Japan), it was Bob Bly’s Copywriting Handbook that saved my butt when I got my first full-time gig as a copywriter in Florida. Although I’ve developed a specialization in writing corporate web sites, I have yet to break into direct response writing and must admit I don’t know 90% of the names on the lists above, nor their stats. But if encouragement and positive influence on aspiring copywriters is a criterion, I’m putting Bob as #1 all the way!

  11. Olan Butler said:

    My list:
    Dan Kennedy
    John Carlton
    Gary Halbert

  12. Beth Sobiloff said:

    Definitely Ted Nicholas!

  13. William Reagan said:

    Well if the criteria is offline direct response copy I would have to give my vote to Gary Bencivega or Clayton Makepeace. If you are looking at online copy/conversion, my vote would be for Eric Graham or Michael Fortin. Although I guess Eric Graham would fall into the “other” catagory, because I think he mixes non-copy stuff like usability and split testing into his conversion voodo. But Fortin writes full time.

  14. Eric S said:

    I would add Bob Bly or Robert Bly, or both of ‘em!

    And also Dan Kennedy and Joe Vitale.

  15. Jay Hepner said:

    “But if encouragement and positive influence on aspiring copywriters is a criterion, I’m putting Bob as #1 all the way!”

    Very true. I’m betting Bob has inspired and encouraged most of us here. Heard Arthur Johnson’s and Don Mahoney’s names mentioned quite a bit yesterday during teleconference. Vitale and Nicholas are two I’ve purchased,downloaded work from.

    Hope to see my own name up here in five years or so.

    Maybe sooner!

    Jay

  16. FRANK GIRARD said:

    Bob, I’d add Brian Keith Voiles, creator of ad magic and Gary Halbert.

  17. John Clausen said:

    Bob, you’re too modest. I agree with the others…put you name up near the top of the list.

  18. John Clausen said:

    I meant put “your” name near the top of the list. I guess I won’t be making the top copy editor list.

  19. Andrew Cavanagh said:

    I think you really do have to include Dan Kennedy, Gary Halbert and John Carlton on any list of top copywriters.

    But the most notable exception is Brian Keith Voiles.

  20. karim said:

    I’d say:
    1- Eugene Schwartz
    2- Gary Bencivenga
    3- The croud

  21. Anonymous said:
  22. Anonymous said:
  23. Anonymous said:
  24. James said:

    Under the category of “would be considered great full time writers if they weren’t running successful businesses…”

    Ben Suarez

    Joe Sugarman

    Ken Roberts

  25. Joel Heffner said:

    I’m not sure who the “best” copywriter may be. However, I do know which person I’d ask first if I had the need for a copywriter. He’s the one who I’ve been following through his articles, books and tapes for many years. He’s the one who makes sense when he explains why he did what he did. He is also the one who’d honestly recommend someone else if it wasn’t in his area of expertise. He is … Bob Bly!

    Joel

  26. Michael Vanderdonk said:

    I know some of the names on the list. Some I don’t. It would be helpful for me (and probably everyone else) to view some of these peoples work.

    Do you know where to find some of their best work?

    Thanks!
    Michael.

  27. Steve Morsa said:

    The Prince of Print: Gary Halbert. Mr. Painful Reality: Dan Kennedy. Book-a-Month Boy: Bob Bly. The Ohio Terror: Ben Suarez.

  28. Lakshmi Iyer said:

    Hi! Bob,
    You need to have your name up there right at the top as
    Sir Bob Bly…not just as the King of Direct Mail but as a selfless Guide to thousands or is it lakhs or millions of aspiring copywriters and marketing professionals around the world.
    As a Miracle maker, Record breaker, Product saviour,
    and the Marketing Director’s Invaluable Guru cum
    Life Saviour…you are not just a leader of a team that
    has the world’s best direct mail copywriters but also a
    great teacher and a wonderful human being willing to share so much of your knowledge. That’s what makes a world of difference!
    Direct mail is like democracy and the people’s vote decides…You and all the copywriters you have listed are those who have clearly not just captured people’s hearts and minds but also got people opening out their cheque books to buy.
    It’s a pity that you have to necessarily limit the list
    to top 10. If you have a list of the top 25, that would give space and encouragement for many excellent copywriters…who are almost there…wouldn’t you agree?
    May I suggest in all humility that perhaps you need to have a separate list for the best women copywriters in direct mail because they look like an extinct species in this list. Where have all the top female direct male copywriters gone? Not one to make it to your list. That’s a pity really.
    I think may be you might want to consider having a separate list for promising copywriters who might make it someday…Ha! Just kidding.
    I was afraid to speak…but I have picked up some courage and started speaking…so please pardon me and correct me if you think differently.

  29. Lakshmi Iyer said:

    Oops! Sorry a spelling error crept up in yesterday’s comment.Where have all the top female direct mail copywriters gone? Not one to make it to your list

  30. Chris De La Rosa said:

    What a greta list and some great suggestions from the comments..I personally like Dan Kennedy.

  31. Kristin Stankewicz said:

    I was wondering the same thing as Lakshmi Iyer…aren’t there any great women copywriters out there? I’m just getting started in this business full-time, and I’d love some positive female role models.

  32. Dale L. Branning said:

    I’m not familiar with all the people who are listed as top copywriters. I’d list: 1) Bob Bly, whose books like to sneak into my bookshelf.
    2) Steve Slaunwhite.
    3) Herschell Gordon Lewis
    4) Peter Bowerman. Hey Peter! I’m famished.
    5) Dan Kennedy, ok, no BS.
    6) Gary Bencivenga, his bullets are on target.

    Ok, which one of you guys is giving away self-confidence by the ton? I need a million tons or so. By the way Bob, you’re successful and recognized, so I know you have more self-confidence than I ever imagined having.

  33. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Kristan, Donna Baier Stein is a well-known copywriter and copywriting teacher. If you’re looking for a female role model, you can’t do much better than her.

    Also, the late Joan Throckmorton was an exceptional copywriter and direct marketer.

    By the way, both have written terrific books on the subject. However, Joan’s book is hard to find.

  34. Kevin Stirtz said:

    This is redundant but Bob you do belong on the list. And, I’d add Dan Kennedy too.

  35. Michael Dunamis said:

    Gimme a couple of years and I will be the most spiritually-dynamic copywriter you have EVER SEEN AND HEARD…PERIOD!

  36. Andy said:

    I’d have to put Gary Halbert at the top of the list having read his history. A real independent. Also John Carlton as well as Dan Kennedy for his seemingly “stands-alone” profile. Another not to be left off the list is obviously Gary Bencivenga and you could also add near the top of the list Joe Sugarman, Michael Fortin, Bob Bly (of course), Joe Vitale, Clayton Makepeace, Don Mahoney, Jim Reutz, Etc….. I mean, the list goes on and on. How is a guy supposed to compete with these guys? I got it… ignore the false premise of ‘scarcity’ and you’ve got half the problem licked. There’s plenty of work to go around. There is…. isn’t there?

  37. Bob Bly said:

    Andy: Most of these guys work for a limited market: investment and health care newsletters and online marketing. The other 99% of the market doesn’t care who they are and won’t pay their fees, creating a huge market for everyone else.

  38. John said:

    Bob Bly!

  39. Stan Smith said:

    I agree with most of these picks, especially Bob Bly, Steve Slaunwhite, Dan Kennedy, Gary Halbert, and Herschell Gordon Lewis. Another one I don’t think I’ve seen here is Dr. Harlan Kilstein. He’s fairly new in the copywriting field, I hear (since 11/03), but has already cut a wide swath.

  40. Eldo Barkhuizen said:

    Drayton Bird is probably the greatest UK copywriter around today. I’d like to add his name to the list.

    He was Creative Director and close friend of David Ogilvy at the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency.

    Today he runs the Drayton Bird Partnership in London.

  41. Adam Carroll said:

    The best copywriters around? Here’s my list, in no particular order. I think once you reach the level that these guys have reached, you can’t really get any better…

    Parris Lampropoulos…
    Gary Bencivenga…
    Clayton Makepeace…
    Jim Rutz…
    Arthur Johnson…
    Jim Punkre…
    David Deutsch…
    Carline Anglade-Cole…
    Bob Bly…
    Rick Duris…
    Doug D’Anna…
    Peter Betuel…
    Eric Betuel…
    Dan Rosenthal…
    And, although he concentrates on his own biz, Jay Abraham is a truly exceptional copywriter, too. As is Mac Ross…Drew Kaplan…Ben Suarez…Joe Sugarman.

    Personally, i’ve been exposed to a great deal from Parris Lampropoulos. The guy is an extraordinary copywriter who has consistently beaten controls written by all the “Top Guns” out there.

  42. fabien said:

    Where’s Dan Lok?
    Dan, if you read that, i’ve saved your honor.
    Christian Godedroy is pretty good.

  43. jonesjune said:

    Many you mentioned are very good. John T. White might be the best. He’s not a self-promoter, just sells millions every year,

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  48. John Forde said:

    John Forde!… Ha ha… just kidding, Bob. I think you’ve come up with a pretty good list there. I admire all those guys (though I don’t know Jim P.’s work) and think we’ve all got something to learn from each of them. (I have, by the way, beaten 7 out of your top 10, in head-to-head mailings, either on new promos or working controls ; ).

    Definitely, though, there are a few others I’d post in there… Peter Beteul, for instance. But I guess I couldn’t start to list the rest here, for fear of leaving someone out. They know who they are!

  49. Peter Schwartz said:

    Bob’s right: Most of these “guys” work in a narrow section of the market: newsletters. Hard sell; lots of hype. How about the greats of “yore”? Bill Jayme. Linda Wells. Joan Throckmorton. Not to mention the “fellow” who wrote the 25-YEAR CONTROL for the Wall Street Journal.

  50. JAY WHITE said:

    I am looking for contact information for a number of the elite copywriters
    mentioned in your Hall of Fame list. Is this something you could help me with.
    thanks,

    Jay White
    President
    Institute for Vibrant Living

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  52. Donavan McDonough said:

    Bob, There is one name that has not shown up as yet that deserves a mention. He is not a fulltime copywriter but is respected by some of the biggest names in the game.

    He has been copywriting for over 30 years. While he is not known for his copywriting skills, he has some controls that have run for seveal years.

    His is Ken McCarthy of “The System Training” Fame

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  62. Stephanne said:

    Definitely two the best copywriters:

    Dominik Bjegovic
    Gary Bencivenga

  63. kwame said:

    Ted Nicolas is missing in this list. He has sold over $7 billion worth of items with his copywriting skills.

  64. Killer said:

    This has got to be the best post (and comments!) on this topic I have found yet. I have been looking for names of copywriters to research and you helped a lot. Thanks all!

  65. oning said:

    Gary Halbert
    Ted Nicholas
    Michel Fortin
    Dominik Bjegovic
    John Carlton

    Top 5 IMO.

  66. sales copy said:

    Clayton Make peace is very popular in our place, i have spoke to him last time and he teaches me about some techniques and strategies for copy writing.

  67. Jenn said:

    Where’s Indra Sinha and Neil French???

  68. Rezbi said:

    You’ve got almost everyone I could think of, but you missed Drayton Bird.

  69. Rez said:

    Best entrepreneurial copywriter

    Gary Halbert (RIP)

    Best B2B Copywriter

    Dominik Bjegovic

    Best B2C copywriter

    Gary Bencivenga

  70. Ryan said:

    What about Mike Palmer at Stansberry & Associates? Future hall-of-famer?

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    Where all all the Great Women Copywriters?

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