How do you sell a high priced around-the-world adventure, including the North and South Poles, on a shoestring budget?
Lead with a great idea, then persuade the world’s best mailing list expert and copy talent to jump on board.
This seven-page sales letter was mailed in 1968 on a budget of $5,000 to owners of yachts, Arabian horse breeders and owners of private two-engine airplanes. The price for this round the world voyage was $10,000 or $65,000 in 2013 dollars.
The promo was a smashing success and pulled in 72 respondents who ponied up $10k each.
Dick Benson was the “grumpy genius” behind the list selection and marketing and the late great Hank Burnett wrote the ad copy.
Notice the influence of Ernest Shackleton’s legendary Antarctic recruitment ad.
“It will cost you $10,000 and about 26 days of your time. Frankly, you will endure some discomfort, and may even face some danger.
On the other hand, you will have the rare privilege of taking part in a mission of great significance for the United States and the entire world. A mission, incidentally, which has never before been attempted by man.”
The New York Times ran an article on this promotion on May 11, 1990 after Dick Benson was honored at Direct Marketing Day New York.
This is one of the best travel and high ticket swipes you’ll run into.
The Admiral Byrd Society Sales Letter
Please reply to me in care of:
Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center
18 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108
October 11, 1968
Mr. Melvin K. Acheson
119 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10003
Dear Mr. Acheson,
As Chairman of the Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, it is my privilege to invite you to become a member of an expedition which is destined to make both news and history.
It will cost you $10,000 and about 26 days of your time. Frankly, you will endure some discomfort, and may even face some danger.
On the other hand, you will have the rare privilege of taking part in a mission of great significance for the United States and the entire world. A mission, incidentally, which has never before been attempted by man.
You will personally harp the chance to help enrich mankind’s fund of knowledge about two of the last earthly frontiers, the polar regions.
I am inviting you to join a distinguished group of 50 people who will fly around the world longitudinally, over both poles, on an expedition which will commemorate Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s first Antarctic flight in 1929.
Among the highlights of this transpolar flight – the first commercial flight ever to cross both poles and touch down on all continents – will be stopovers at the American military/scientific bases at Thule, Greenland, and McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.
Because this expedition has the interest and support of much of the Free World, you and your fellow members will be honored guests (in many cases, even celebrities) at state and diplomatic receptions throughout the itinerary. You will have the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the world’s important national leaders and public figures, such as Pope Paul VI, the Emperor of Japan, General Carlos Romulo, Joan Miro and many others who are already a part of history.
By agreeing to join this expedition, you will, in a sense, establish yourself in history too. For you will become a Founding Trustee of the new Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, sponsor of the expedition.
Your biography will be recorded in the Center’s archives, available to future historians. The log, photographs and memorabilia of the expedition will be permanently displayed in the Center. And your name will be inscribed, with those of the other expedition members, on a bronze memorial tablet.
Before I continue with the details of the expedition, let me tell you more about the Byrd Polar Center and the reasoning which led to its establishment this summer.
Located in Boston, home of the late Admiral and point of origin for each of his seven expeditions, this nonprofit institution will house, catalog and preserve the papers and records of both Admiral Byrd and other Arctic and Antarctic explorers.
But the Center will have a more dynamic function than merely to enshrine the past. It will be a vital, viable organization devoted to furthering peaceful development of the polar regions, particularly Antarctica.
It will become, in effect, this country’s headquarters for investigation and research into the scientific and commercial development of the poles. The Center will sponsor, support, initiate
and conduct studies and expeditions. It will furnish comprehensive data or technical assistance to the United States, or to any university, institution, foundation, business organization or private individual legitimately interested in polar development.
In other words, the Center has set for itself a course which the Admiral before his death endorsed wholeheartedly. He foresaw that mankind would one day benefit enormously from development of Antarctica’s vast potential. And he perceived that Antarctica’s unique and diverse advantages and resources might best be developed by private capital in a free enterprise context.
The Byrd Polar Center is dedicated to these objectives. And the essential purpose of this commemorative expedition is to dramatize the role that private enterprise – and private citizens – can play in the opening of these last frontiers.
At the same time, the expedition should help prove a few other important points. It should demonstrate the feasibility of shrinking the world through longitudinal navigation. It should also help blaze a trail for commercial air travel over the South Pole. Presently, to fly from Chile to Australia, you must go by way of Los Angeles, even though a straight line trans-Antarctic route would be far shorter.
There is another factor I should mention, one which I think lends a certain urgency to the work of the Center. Development of the polar regions enjoys a high official priority in the Soviet Union – higher, some believe, than in the United States.
The Center’s activities can provide a tangible, effective complement to those of our own government, and over the long term, contribute meaningfully to preservation of the Arctic and Antarctic regions for peaceful purposes.
These objectives, I think you will agree, are entirely valid. And important, for the future of humanity. It is for this reason that the inaugural activity of the Byrd Polar Center will be an expedition of such scope and magnitude.
The expedition will be led by Commander Fred G. Dustin, veteran of six polar expeditions, advisor to Admiral Byrd and one of the intrepid group which spent the winter of 1934 in Little America on Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition II. Commander Dustin is a member of the U.S. Antarctica Committee and President of the Byrd Polar Center.
Considered the ranking American authority on the polar regions, Fred Dustin is probably better qualified to lead this expedition – and brief members on virtually every aspect of the polar
regions – than any man on earth. The Center and the expedition are fortunate to have Commander Dustin, as you will discover should you decide to participate.
The flight will be made in a specially outfitted, four-engine commercial jet with lounge-chair-and-table cabin configuration. A full flight crew of six will be headed by Captain Hal Neff, former pilot of Air Force One, the Presidential plane. Special clothing and equipment, such as Arctic survival gear, will be provided by the expedition and carried aboard the plane.
The expedition members will meet in Boston on the evening of November 7, 1968, for briefing and a reception and send-off party with the Governor of Massachusetts, Mayor of Boston, local officials and directors of the Byrd Polar Center. Next day, we will take off, head due north from Boston’s Logan International Airport and follow this itinerary (as I have not yet visited all these places myself, I have drawn on the descriptions submitted to me by Commander Dustin and the other experienced people who have planned the expedition):
Far above the Arctic Circle, past the chill reaches of Baffin Bay, lies desolate Thule, the northernmost U.S. air base. Almost 400 miles further north than the northern tip of Alaska, Thule was originally surveyed as a possible military site by Admiral Byrd and Commander Dustin. Here, in the deepening Arctic winter, you will get your first taste of the rigors of polar existence. You will have the chance to inspect the installation and meet the men for whom Arctic survival is a way of life.
According to those who have crossed the North Pole, you will completely lose your day-night orientation. Sunrise and sunset can occur within minutes of each other, a strange and
unforgettable phenomenon. After Thule, you will cross the geographic North Pole, just as Admiral Byrd did in his pioneering trans-Arctic flight with Floyd Bennett in 1926. A memorial flag will be dropped.
After crossing the pole, the plane will bank into a 90* left turn and head south, over the Arctic Ocean and Beaufort Sea, past Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak, and on to Anchorage. There, you will meet the Governor and key officials.
The highlight of your stopover in Japan will be an opportunity to meet the Emperor and Premier. (Fishing; excursion to Hakone and Atami by bullet train; tea ceremony at private homes.)
General Carlos Romulo, the legendary patriot and statesman, an old friend of Admiral Byrd, will give the expedition a warm welcome in Manila. (Folklore performance; hunting for duck, deer, wild boar and a special species of water buffalo; fishing for tuna and marlin.)
You will note that here and elsewhere we have prearranged a considerable amount of hunting, fishing, and so on. These activities are optional. (Members of the expedition will be asked to indicate their preferences 30 days before the flight.) For those who do not want to participate in any of these events, there will be sight-seeing, golf and many other things to do.
Hard by the Timor Sea, tropical Darwin offers some of the world’s most superb beaches. You will have time not only to sample the sand and water sports, but to see Australia’s great outback. With its spectacular chasms, canyons and gorges, the rarely visited outback is a scenic match for our own West.
You can look forward to an enthusiastic reception in Sydney by the Prime Minister and government officials. For one thing, Australia is on particularly good terms with the United
States. For another, Australia has traditionally been in the vanguard of nations involved in Antarctic exploration and development. (Hunting for kangaroo, crocodile, buffalo, wild boar, duck, and geese; or off-shore fishing for rifle fish, salmon, and giant grouper.)
Christchurch, New Zealand
This is our staging point for the flight to Antarctica, and it couldn’t be more appropriate. Most of the early expeditions departed from New Zealand, and Admiral Byrd is still considered a national hero there. New Zealand is Antarctic-conscious and its people take almost a proprietary interest in the frozen continent. You will be something of a celebrity in New Zealand, and can expect a thoroughly enjoyable visit while the expedition awaits favorable weather reports from McMurdo Sound. (Deer hunting – where deer are so plentiful that they pay a bounty; fishing for all of the great species of – in an area known for the greatest marlin fishing in the world – also Mako shark.)
McMurdo Sound, Antarctica
I am told that only a total eclipse of the sun is comparable, in emotional impact, to the first sight of Antarctica. Once experienced, neither can be forgotten. If you prove to be like most who have seen Antarctica, you will need somehow, someday, to return. And when you do, the emotional impact will be just as profound. That is what the Antarctic veterans say.
For Antarctica exists well beyond the boundaries of the world you know. You will see there a sun you have never before seen, breathe air you have never before breathed. You will see menacing white mountains towering for thousands of feet over a black ocean in which, with luck, you might survive for 45 seconds. You will see the awesome Ross Ice Shelf, as large as France, with its 50 to 200 foot ice cliffs cleaving the sea for 400 miles. You will see the active volcano, Mt. Erebus, 13,000 feet of fire and ice.
And you will see the huts, so well preserved they seem to have been inhabited only yesterday, which Shackleton used in 1908 and the ill-fated Scott in 1911. Antarctica, apparently, is not subject to the passage of time as we know it.
At McMurdo Base, you will meet the military men and scientists who inhabit this strange, alien territory. And you will inhabit it for a while too – long enough to feel its bone-chilling cold, to hear its timeless silence, to perceive, at the very edge of your composure, the terror of its mindless hostility to human beings.
While you are there, you will learn, as few men have ever had the opportunity to learn, about Antarctica. You will learn about survival, but more important, about what men must accomplish to truly open this formidable frontier.
Admiral Byrd was the first man to fly over the South Pole. In all of history, probably fewer than 200 men have crossed the pole, by air or otherwise. As a member of this expedition, you will join that select group.
Punta Arenas, Chile
From the South Pole, you will fly to Punta Arenas, on the tortuous Strait of Magellan which separates continental South America from bleak Tierra del Fuego. The visit here will be brief, but you should get some idea of the flavor of this nearly forgotten outpost.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This memorable stopover will include a diplomatic reception. You will also have a chance to relax and sample the sights and sounds of fabulous Rio. (Special plane to Belo Horizonte for hunting boar, duck, jaguar, panther, water buffalo, crocodile and deer.)
You may never have expected to see Dakar, but you will on this expedition. (Tribal dancing; safari.)
No trip would be complete without a stop in Rome, where we will be received enthusiastically. During our stay there we will have a private audience with the Pope.
From London, the expedition will fly back across the Atlantic and terminate with a debriefing, critique and farewell dinner in Boston, on December 3.
As mementos of the expedition, you will receive a leather-bound, personalized copy of the log book and a piece of the fabric from Admiral Byrd’s original plane, mounted in crystal.
You will also be presented with a framed certificate from the Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, affirming your appointment as a Founding Trustee and expressing appreciation for your interest in, contributions to and efforts on behalf of the Center and its objectives. In the future, you will be kept fully advised of the plans and activities of the Center, and be invited to participate to whatever extent you wish. And of course, you will have lifelong access to the Center’s archives and services.
Most important, you will take back with you a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The day may come when journeys to and over the poles are commonplace. But today, the privilege is available to very few.
It is true, I think, that this privilege does carry responsibility with it. By the time you return, you will have received a comprehensive indoctrination course in the polar regions by the world’s leading authorities. Your responsibility will be to make the most of the knowledge you will gain, to become an active advocate – perhaps even a disciple – of polar research and development.
It is a responsibility which, I trust, will weigh easily upon you. For once the polar air has been absorbed into your bloodstream, there is no cure. Like others who have been stricken, you will probably find yourself reading every word you can find on the North and South Poles. And, most likely, thinking about your next trip.
But first of all, you must decide about this trip. If you have a sense of adventure, a certain pioneering spirit, and if the prospect of taking part in a mission of worldwide significance and
historical importance appeals to you, perhaps you should consider joining the expedition. It is doubtful that you will ever have another chance like this.
Obviously, you can’t make a decision of this magnitude instantly. But a word of caution: reservations will be accepted in the order received – a total of only 60, including ten standbys. The departure date, remember, is November 8, 1968, so there is little time to waste.
The price of $10,000 includes food and beverages, all accommodations (the best available under all circumstances) transportation, special clothing, insurance, side excursions – virtually everything except your travel to and from Boston.
Money received will go into escrow at the United States Trust Company in Boston until the time of the flight. To the extent that revenues from the trip will exceed costs, the activities of the Polar Center will be accelerated.
To reserve your place in the expedition, just drop me a note on your letterhead or personal stationery, with your deposit check for $2,500, made out to the United States Trust Company. Incidentally, if anything prevents your leaving as planned, you can send another in your place; otherwise, cancellations cannot be accepted later than 30 days before departure.
If you have further questions, please write to me in care of the Trans-polar Expedition, Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, 18 Tremont Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02108.
I hope we may hear from you soon – and that we will welcome you to the expedition.
Edward C. Bursk
P.S We have just made arrangements for a professional camera crew to accompany the flight, and as a result we will be able to provide you with a short film clip and sound tape of your experiences.