Celebrating Clayton Makepeace
The Life and Legacy of a Legendary Copywriter and Friend
Please join us in celebrating the life of our dear friend, colleague, and AWAI partner, Clayton G. Makepeace, who passed away on March 24, 2020.
Clayton, seen here at Bootcamp, was a treasured speaker at AWAI training events for more than 20 years. He never missed an invitation to speak because he LOVED being with our members. At every event, you could find him coming to Job Fair early to chat with everyone, asking how people were doing, graciously answering question after question, and making sure each person had his full attention when conversing with him.
He worshipped his wife, Wendy … and much to our delight, she accompanied him to our events and became part of the AWAI family. Our hearts are with her, and we thank her for sharing these comments with our writing community:
“Clayton had so many people who cared for him. He is a huge legend in his Copywriting field of work. He was and is truly one of the greatest of all time.
Clayton wasn't satisfied just to be a successful copywriter, he wanted to share his secret with everyone else who was looking for a different life so he also taught what he does. His greatest pleasure wasn't just in teaching, it was seeing his protégés become successful, giving them the freedom to live the dream themselves. Fortunately, he leaves about 45 years of his work so he can continue to pass the torch.”
When you read some of the greatest and most iconic headlines in copywriting history — such as, “7 HORSEMEN of the Coming STOCK MARKET APOCALYPSE” … “Shameless Two-Faced S.O.B.s!” … and, “Health Breakthrough News — Cholesterol’s EVIL TWIN”— smile and think to yourself, ‘Clayton Makepeace wrote that.’”
We’re so lucky to have known him and to call him a true friend. He will be missed.
“The ultimate champion of up-and-coming writers …”
“A giant in the copywriting world, Clayton was more than just a valued member of AWAI’s expert faculty. He was a friend to Rebecca Matter, me, and all of us at AWAI. And, he definitely was a friend to our members — always happy to chat at events and during his online trainings … always over-delivering whenever he was teaching and mentoring.
I don’t think I was on any webinars with him that lasted less than two hours because he wanted to be sure every question was answered! He was the ultimate champion of up-and-coming writers … and so many of our industry’s top writers credit him with their very successful careers.
My heart goes to his wife Wendy and his children and grandchildren — the loves and lights of his life. His enthusiasm for you and all the people he cared about was always a joy to see and inspiring to be around.
“The kindest soul in the industry”
“He was the kindest soul in the industry. Despite being a legend … literally one of the best copywriters of our time … he was always so patient, motivational, and again, kind.
I learned so much from him … writing … marketing … teaching … kindness … I'm beyond saddened we lost him so soon.”
“An honor to know him”
“Clayton was a rare person. Intelligent. Thoughtful. Highly skillful. Charitable. And affable.
On the top of my to-do list for the AWAI Bootcamp each year was, ‘Hang out with Clayton Makepeace.’
We weren’t close friends, but our friendship always felt close. It was always a great pleasure to spend time with him, and an honor to know him. I will miss him greatly.”
“A gentle giant in our industry”
“Clayton is such a giant in our industry (and a most gentle giant, at that) it never occurred to me he could ever leave us. The first time I met Clayton, he didn’t know me from Adam. It was at Bootcamp. I was nervous as hell. But it took him exactly one second to make me feel like we had been friends for life. He just reached out his hand, leaned in, and suddenly I was the most important person in his world at that moment.
If you've met him, you know what I mean. And the funny thing is, I felt that way with Clayton whether talking with him one-on-one … or watching him share his writing secrets with hundreds from the stage, as he loved to do.
I’m sad that he’s gone, but happy he'll be remembered as so very few ever will: as much for his kindness and generosity as the powerful writing legacy he leaves behind.”
“ … His legacy prevails!”
“At 2:00 p.m., March 24, 2020 — my mentor and friend, the legendary Mr. Clayton ‘I love you’ Gerald Makepeace took his last breath. And he was gone.
But is he REALLY gone?
While Clayton may have gone to sleep — he sure is keeping us WOKE! I wouldn’t be writing these words to thousands of aspiring copywriters if it weren’t for the lessons I learned from Clayton Makepeace.
Clayton and I would spend hours — even days — going over copy face-to-face. He showed me how nuances in copy can make a powerful impact on the subconscious mind of the prospect.
He challenged me to be BETTER every time. He told me to ‘stop writing like a girl’ when I was working on a male potency package. Now — that’s a story for another time.
By the way — I just showed you an example of how to whet the prospect’s desire for MORE. Don’t you want to know more about that story? That’s a lesson I learned from Clayton!
I’m thankful the folks at AWAI have captured so many lessons from Clayton. Very thrilled that his vast knowledge is still accessible to us. So to me, that means — he’s not gone …
… His legacy prevails!
Future writers can become stronger writers by learning the lessons Clayton still can share. His website www.makepeacetotalpackage.com still contains tons of FREE articles and advice that are priceless!
And I will continue to share the copywriting skills Clayton Makepeace generously taught me. It’s my duty to the next generation of writers …
… And it’s a responsibility I will always treasure.”
“A person with a big heart”
“I was nervous. I was about to hand out AWAI’s first-ever Copywriter of the Year Award to a legend in our industry, Clayton Makepeace. After all, he was the ‘Million-Dollar Copywriter’ and I was just an up-and-coming writer and marketer. But those nerves melted away with his infectious smile. And in that moment, I knew he was more than a man gifted with powerful copywriting skills … but also a person with a big heart.
Every year after that first time meeting him, we greeted one another with a big warm hug. The other half of his life was complete with the woman he called The Redhead, his wife Wendy. He and Wendy lit up Bootcamp every year. You could feel their presence everywhere.
Clayton loved giving back to our community of writers in every way possible. Thank goodness he left behind a body of work for writers to study and learn from.
With his passing, there is now a void in the copywriting world that can never be filled. He truly was one of a kind. I will forever treasure being able to say I knew and was a friend to Clayton Makepeace.”
“He was the best of us”
“My good friend and superstar copywriter Clayton Makepeace recently and unexpectedly passed away. I am numb with shock and saddened beyond description. I felt great affection for him (and still do), and considered him a friend, colleague, and teacher.
Among copywriters, he was the best of us, both in the craft and as a person.”
“The greatest teacher and mentor of young copywriters who ever lived”
“I remember the first time I met Clayton. We were at the speaker’s dinner for the 2012 AWAI Bootcamp. I felt honored and excited just to be in the same room with him — even though there were at least 30 other people in the room. I screwed up the courage to say hello, told him how much I admired his work, and he replied by saying, ‘That means a lot to me, coming from you.’ I intended to give him a compliment, in other words, but I got an even better one back from him. Typical!
Over the years, we found ourselves at a lot of ‘speakers’ dinners,’ and I always finagled my way into sitting next to him. He was so charming, funny, insightful, filled with trenchant observations about life, politics, people, and, of course, copywriting. Sitting beside him was like sitting inside some sort of radioactive glow. In short, he was charismatic.
But unlike many of the other charismatic people I’ve met over the years, he didn’t suck up all the oxygen in the room. He was always interested in what YOU had to say, willing to laugh at YOUR jokes, eager to pick YOUR mind about one thing or another. Because he was interested in, fascinated by, and curious about EVERYTHING.
He was not only one of the greatest copywriters of all time, but he was also the greatest teacher and mentor of young copywriters who ever lived. I believe Clayton saw himself as a kind of Professor Henry Higgins when it came to teaching copywriters. I think he believed that with the right instruction, encouragement, and gentle guidance, he could take even the most unlikely Eliza Doolittle and turn him or her into a Master Copywriter. He did it so many times it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence. That’s just one of the reasons the loss to our industry is incalculable.”
“Grateful for everything you shared”
“Aachen + IMPACT = Two of our favorite fonts.
It'll be tricky choosing them or hearing the word "magalog" without thinking of your wisdom, smile, and caring ways.
Grateful for everything you shared during our work and play together over the last couple of decades.
I'm gonna miss you like nobody's business.
I love you, Clayton.
“An inspiring mentor and trailblazer”
“Clayton’s writing talent was inextricably linked to his personality.
Both he and his writing were so filled with life and heart — colorful, incisive, witty, compelling, surprising, and above all, never boring.
His love of life — and of writing — were contagious.
For me, he was as an inspiring mentor and trailblazer — who constantly demonstrated the power and magic of simply putting the right words together.
His teachings and his emotional style of copywriting had a profound impact on my own writing.
But he was also a friend who was always ready to listen, advise, laugh, trade direct-response war stories, or go off on an adventure.
I’ll miss him greatly. As will countless others. Which is perhaps the greatest tribute to him of all.”
“Always have a special place in my heart”
“Clayton is hands-down one of the most kind-hearted souls I knew. Seven years ago, he took me under his wing as his Copy Cub and I will forever be grateful.
I owe so much to him and he'll always have a special place in my heart.”
“Copywriters are thinkers — and Clayton was one of the best”
“I first met Clayton in the early 90s. I worked for the Weiss Group — and my first introduction to him was the assignment to pay his royalties. I was in marketing and ran all the daily statistical numbers.
At first glance, he was tough, demanding, and smart as heck.
But through working with him, I found him to be generous, full of life, and a fantastic teacher. He was thoughtful about what he wrote and business in general. Copywriters are thinkers — and Clayton was one of the best.
He was a constant mentor to copywriters at every level. He was encouraging and supportive. He always had a kind word for everyone.
He was an all-or-nothing type of guy. He did things BIG.
His passing will be felt by everyone in the copywriting community. My heart goes out to his Redhead — his wife, Wendy, whom he loved with abandon.”
“One of the most wicked-good skill sets in the game”
"I first met Clayton back in Los Angeles in the '80s, when I was working with Gary Halbert. He was already a well-known copywriter, one of the handful of ‘A-Listers’ dominating the direct-marketing scene back then.
Over the years, I've had the honor of hanging out with Clayton many times. He was a gracious, generous, amazing man with a blistering sense of humor …
… and one of the most wicked-good skill sets in the game.
His controls are legendary. Monster hits, game-changers.
And no, there won't be anyone else remotely like him coming up the ranks."
“Clearly respected and admired and loved”
The news of your passing was like a bolt of lightning — unexpected and shattering in its effect. And not just to me — but to everyone who knew you …
I was shocked and sad and angry — how could this be? But as I read Wendy’s news and saw what other folks were saying, it felt like we were all having a ‘virtual wake’ for someone who was clearly respected and admired and loved. And this made me feel such gratitude … for having met you, first in 2006 at AWAI; and having the chance to work with you on so many events. I’ve watched you teach people from the stage and one-on-one; listened to the crazy stories you shared with your friends and colleagues at Bootcamp …
I realized how fortunate I was, because in addition to the work, I had the opportunity to talk with you — and laugh with you, and Wendy, on many occasions.
I remember one dinner where we talked about John Lennon and Mary Oliver. Music was more often your muse than poetry, but we shared an appreciation for words in various formats — for using just the right words. You obviously mastered that in your work …
At one point, I was trying to recite one of Mary Oliver’s poems that I was particularly smitten with at that time … I couldn’t remember it then, but I do now; rather the book on my desk does — and this part of it — this makes me think of you with a smile …
‘When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.’
You were, you did Clayton; in so many ways. Sweet dreams …”
“Genuinely interested in nurturing the careers of others”
“If you’re new to AWAI, you might not know about Clayton. I first heard of him when I joined AWAI and attended my first Bootcamp. His presentation that year changed my life; not only did it spark a passion for me to leave corporate life behind and be a freelance copywriter … but also a consultant to my clients and a teacher to others.
Clayton made such an impact on so many people (he probably didn’t even know the extent) on how to write incredible copy, test and test again, and own the role as a consultant; to be in charge as a partner to clients. He often said that the more invested you are in the success of your clients — and the more they see that — the more successful everyone is.
Clayton was so generous and warm; he’s known to all as one of the most successful copywriters EVER … yet so down-to-earth, kind, and genuinely interested in nurturing the careers of others. I’ll miss his humor and his lessons from an awe-inspiring career that serves as an example for all of us.”
“You never doubted that he believed in you”
“It was Bootcamp 2019. As usual, I got a big bear hug from Clayton when it was time to say goodbye. I never dreamed that would be the last bear hug I would ever get.
And when we talked by email a couple of months ago … I couldn’t have imagined that I would never talk to Clayton again.
Yet here I am … with a reminder of how fragile life can be … struggling to capture the impact Clayton had on my life.
I’ll never forget the first time I met Clayton in person … at a VSL conference he did with AWAI. Now, I had seen him at Bootcamp. But I had never talked to him. So, I was starstruck. Yet it didn’t take me long to see how down-to-earth he was. Clayton treated everyone as if they were the most important person at the conference.
And as so many people will say, Clayton shared every bit of knowledge he had. He never held back. If he could share a tip or strategy, he did it. And boy, could he make me laugh.
Not long after that conference, I won a spec that Clayton offered at Bootcamp. That spec was one of many that he offered copywriters. He wanted everyone to have a chance to learn and accelerate their copywriting careers.
And winning that spec certainly did that for me.
About two years later, Clayton offered me a position to work as a copywriter at Weiss Research. He saw the potential in me, long before I believed in myself.
We only worked together for about 18 months. But what a time it was! Those were some of the most fun … hectic … and crazy days of my life. Yet I wouldn’t trade one minute for all the gold in the world.
Of course, I learned a lot about writing copy. When it came to critiques, Clayton was direct. But every crit session ended with laughter. And you never doubted that he always believed in you.
He knew you could get the job done.
Just 18 months after I started, Clayton left Weiss, and I left not long after. Yet in the two years since then, I’ve come to realize that my position at Weiss was a real turning point for me — not just professionally, but also personally.
I was actually planning on telling Clayton this at the next Bootcamp. I wanted him to know that the opportunities he provided often went far beyond a successful copywriting business or a six-figure income.
I wanted to share some of the exciting things I’m doing now. Because I know he would have been excited and happy for me. That’s just the way he was.
Most important, I wanted to tell him ‘Thank you’ for everything he had done — even unknowingly — in getting me to where I am today.
Of course, I won’t have the chance to do this in person now. Yet I believe he knows anyway.
So to end, I’ll say this …
Clayton, I will miss you. I’ll miss our discussions … your advice … your warped sense of humor (which I always laughed at, by the way) … and your big bear hugs.
Thank you for everything. I promise you that I will carry the torch as a Copy Cub, sharing what I know, whenever I can. And Clayton, I will make you proud.”
“A Masterclass in copy and kindness”
“I will truly never forget working with Clayton, he was a great man, through and through.
I was so nervous to meet him; his reputation as a copywriting legend preceded him. But upon that first meeting, his warmth diminished all nerves. Watching Clayton work live on copy, and interact with people, was a Masterclass in copy and kindness.
His spirit and impact is so large that I know he will be in our hearts, and on our minds, for a long time to come.”
“A dear friend, a mentor, and a cheerleader”
“‘You're the best speaker and crowd pleaser I've ever seen on stage. You ever consider doing infomercials or training or more live stuff?’
Clayton and Wendy Makepeace were sitting across the hall from me in the Delray Beach hotel. It was day two of AWAI's annual Bootcamp. I was surprised by his comment to me. At the time, my whole life was focused on being a copywriter. As the event emcee, I had introduced Clayton earlier that day — but other than that, I didn't really know him.
For close to the next decade that followed, Clayton was a dear friend, a mentor, and a cheerleader for me.
His advice about my speaking skills refined and redefined my business.
His insights on my writing transformed my persuasion power and helped me go to the next level.
His friendship made me laugh, helped me to see the world with more common-sense clarity, and taught me how to love more fully and unconditionally.
His business advice made me millions.
His care for ‘The Redhead’ helped me be a better husband and family man.
I'm such a better person because of Clayton. Thanks for everything, my friend. I will miss you.”
What’s your favorite Clayton Makepeace memory or story?
Knowing that Clayton touched the lives of many, many copywriters and marketers — from “A-list” legends to writers just beginning this journey …
We invite you to post your thoughts below.
Together, we’ll keep his legacy and love for the writing community alive.