“[The copywriter] must never write an ad just to please the client…or to make money…or meet a deadline…and never, never write an ad for a bad product.”
Turning a deaf ear to critics should be added to this list.
Several decades before he made the above remark, he was offered $7,000 to write a real estate promotion — a hefty sum for a young ad writer in the 1950s. Even though Gene was financially strapped and had a family to feed, he turned it down because he didn’t believe in the offer.
Gene’s moral compass pointed firmly north, yet it didn’t save him from being assailed by the critics who said his claims were over-the-top, trumped up.
As marketers, we should rejoice in this.
No statue was ever erected to a critic.
The armchairs of the Western World are filled with those playing it safe, never boarding the boat, let alone rocking it.
As marketers and business people, we should run legally and ethically compliant businesses and…
Break conventional thinking like a toothpick!
Gene’s ads were about crossing the chasm of fear and doubt in one leap. It can’t be done in two.
Take the 1967 ad he wrote for Alan Watts’ The Book. Gene’s company was the first to publish it and he, of course, promoted it via his patented “big promise” advertising.
The headline Gene used was: “This book could remove your fear of death forever.”
“The Book” is not only an enlightening read, 45 years after it was written, but one that has as much impact on its audience today as it did initially. It’s just short of 5-Stars on Amazon.com, with 112 reviewers weighing in. The self-help and spiritual categories are two of the most EVERGREEN — and these buyers in 2012 prove it.
What about Gene’s advertising methods? Are they still valid and effective today?
Much of the power and grandeur of Gene’s giant promise advertising came from scrupulous research and knowing the product inside and out. The rest must be chalked up to an intangible genius that let him crank out a blockbuster ad, layout and all, in one short workday.
Like the ad he wrote for The Book.
While a shade esoteric for the typical direct response offer, it’s a link in a 40 year chain that’s achieved everything from:
- Selling $50 million worth of one mail order book – The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing
- Clearing the shelves of plant nurseries from coast to coast through the power of space advertising
- Launching a $100 million per annum company – Boardroom Reports
It’s also proof positive that just about anything can be successfully sold using direct response advertising, provided you believe in the product and serve up the right offer to the right audience.
Here’s a PDF of this evergreen ad. Right click on the ad and ‘save target as’ or ‘save link as’ to download it to your computer
I love the qualifying “trick” he uses in the the third paragraph, as well as the tantalizing snippets from the book included later in the ad.
“…If you do not want to discuss or confront the question of death – then please turn away from this page now. The rest of the ad will simply be confusing and destructive for you.”
As you read this ad, keep in mind Gene was a proponent of ugly or asymmetrical layouts, which he said outperformed pretty layouts through his numerous tests.
Rigorous testing of layouts — especially ugly verses pretty — is something most advertisers neglect today.
The before-and-after moment… since it will turn on its head much of what you (think you) know about the art and skill of copywriting.
Want to elevate your copywriting prowess by a notch or two?