Many today connote direct response with enlargment pills, acai berries and colon cleansers.
Here’s a yesteryear presentation by the Scottish high priest of direct response, David Ogilvy (heralded by trumpets).
Interestingly, the chasm between direct response and general advertising that Ogilvy mentions is just as wide as when he gave this presentation over thirty years ago. And were it not for the Internet clearly demonstrating the ineptitude and shortcomings of most Fortune 500 advertising, they’d still be in the dark.
The boldings are mine. I certainly echo the sentiment that, “Your timing is perfect. You’ve come in the direct response business at the right moment in history.” Though it would be insane for most to capitalize on this timing at an agency. Get in front of your computer and put on your thinking cap.
I wish I could be with you today, in the flesh as they say. Unfortunately, I’m in India. Ever been in India? It’s very hot. If you don’t mind, I’m going to take off my coat.
You know, in the advertising community today, there are two worlds — your world of direct response advertising, and that other world, the world of general advertising.
These two worlds are on a collision course. You direct response people know what kind of advertising works and what doesn’t work. You know it to a dollar. The general advertising people don’t know.
You know that too many commercials on television are more effective — more cost effective — than 10 second commercials or 30 second commercials. You know that fringe time on television sells more than prime time. In print advertising, you know that long copy sells more than short copy. You know, that headlines and copy about the product and its benefits sell more than cute headlines and poetic copy. You know it to a dollar.
The general advertisers and their agencies know almost nothing for sure because they cannot measure the results of their advertising. They worship at the alter of creativity, which really means originality, the most dangerous word in the lexicon of advertising. They opine that 30-second commercials are more cost effective than two-minute commercials. You know they’re wrong. In print advertising, they opine that short commercials (whoever prepared the teleprompter presentation goofed, obviously he meant ads) sell more than long copy. You know they’re wrong. They indulge in entertainment. You know they’re wrong. You know to a dollar. They don’t.
Why don’t you tell them?
Why don’t you save them from their follies?
For two reasons:
First, because you are impressed by the fact they are so big and so well paid and so well publicized. You are even, perhaps, impressed by their reputation for creativity, whatever that may mean. Second, you never meet them. You inhabit a different world. The chasm between direct response advertising and general advertising is wide.
On your side of the chasm, I see knowledge and reality. On the other side of the chasm, I see ignorance. You are the professionals. This must not go on. I predict that the practitioners of general advertising are going to start learning from your experience. They’re going to start picking your brains. I see no reason why the direct response divisions of agencies should be separate from the main agencies. Some of you may remember when television agencies were kept separate. Wasn’t that idiotic? I expect to see the direct response people become an integral part of all agencies. You have more to teach them than they have to teach you. You have it in your power to rescue the advertising business from its manifold lunacies.
When I was 25, I took a correspondence course in direct mail. I bought it out my own pocket from the Dardanelle Corporation in Chicago. Direct response is my first love, and later it became my secret weapon. When I started a Ogilvy & Mather in New York, nobody had heard of us, but we were airborne within six months and grew at record speed. How did we achieve that? By using my secret weapon, direct mail.
Every four weeks, I sent personalized mailings to our new business prospects, and I was always amazed to discover how many of our clients had been attracted to Ogilvy & Mather by those mailings. That was how we grew.
Whenever I look at an advertisement in a magazine or newspaper, I can tell at a glance whether the writer has had any direct response experience. If he writes short copy or literary copy, it is obvious that he has never had the discipline to write direct response. If he has had that discipline, he wouldn’t make those mistakes. Nobody should be allowed to create general advertising until he has severed his apprenticeship in direct response. That experience will keep his feet on the ground for the rest of his life.
You know the trouble with many copywriters and general agencies is that they don’t really think in terms of selling. They’ve never written direct response, they’ve never tasted blood. Until recently, direct response was the “Cinderella” of the advertising world. Then came the computer and the credit card, and direct marketing exploded. You guys are coming into your own. Your opportunities are colossal. In the audience today, there are heads of some general agencies. I offer you this advice; insist that all your people, creative, media, account executives, that they’re all trained in your direct response division. If you don’t have such a division, make arrangements with a firm of directing marketing specialist to train your people. And make it a rule in your agency that no copy is ever presented to clients before it has been vetted by a direct response expert.
Ladies and gentlemen, I envy you. Your timing is perfect. You’ve come in the direct response business at the right moment in history. You’re on to a good thing.
For 40 years, I’ve been a voice crying in the wilderness, trying to get my fellow advertising practitioners to take direct response seriously. Today, my first love is coming into its own. You face a golden future.