In 1759, Samuel Johnson came up with this immortal line:
“Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”
For most of the last two-and a-half-centuries, his quote has stood the test of time.
But Johnson could never have envisioned a world in which people took in over a thousand advertising messages a day.
And with the meteoric rise of advertising in the 20th Century, so too came the fall of the effectiveness of big promise.
Today, even big promise ads backed up by the most carefully selected proof often backfire because prospects tend to ignore advertisers who come on too strong.
What’s an ad writer to do?
Benefits… Benefits… Benefits
Most competent copywriters know the importance of emphasizing benefits — big benefits, hidden benefits and everything in between.
But similar to Johnson’s line about big promise, benefits alone get repeated, drowned out and eventually ignored.
I’ve seen (and written) masterful ads, laden with sparkling benefits, that resulted in next to no orders.
I’ve also observed ads which were technically questionable but nailed the appeal… and pulled in orders like a mule. Fortunately, I’ve written a few of those too.
So, how do you strive to create a winning appeal in your ads?
Here are two direct mail pieces and two print ads whose success can be traced back to the appeal.
Sick of getting GOUGED when gas prices go up?… How ’bout a little GASPUMP REVENGE?
This DM from Agora is mailing now for Jim Nelson’s Lifetime Income Report.
With tensions escalating daily in the Middle East and the likely rise in oil prices, we’ll be seeing a LOT more promotions with this type of appeal.
Just as armies march on their stomachs, Americans do so on their gas tanks. And when oil prices rise significantly it ripples through every sector of our society.
Though the appeal was not paid off consistently in the body copy, the writer got the lead right — REVENGE.
In this piece, the anger is not about high prices at the gas station but the pittance that dividend investors receive from” Big Oil” companies.
Here’s an all time classic direct mail promo in the oil and gas category for Larry Edelson’s Real Wealth Report. It also had the virtue of being the right claim at exactly the right time.
Laugh All the Way To The Gas Pump… Rising oil and gas prices could make you rich IF you act NOW!
How many times have you heard the expression: “laugh all the way to the bank?”
Clayton Makepeace (we miss you Clayton!) turns this popular expression into a control king headline.
There are throngs of energy investors looking to cash in on the next spike, shortage or weather related event that’ll send the price of energy sky-high.
But Clayton doesn’t lead with a plain vanilla, double your money in months by going long on energy.
No, he hits us with a variation of an expression we’ve heard our whole lives.
The idea is clear.
While everyone else around you is cursing the high price of petrol… you’ll be laughing yourself to the gas pump.
The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches… Most People Are Too Busy Earning a Living to Make Any Money
There’ve been countless business opportunity ads before and since. And of course the tiresome parade of Internet imitators.
But the late Joe Karbo’s 25-year running space ad was a ground breaker at the time — it even had numerous insertions in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
Why was it so successful?
It nailed the appeal.
It didn’t just promise riches but captured the futility of spinning your wheels many people experience when trying to make more money. Moreover, it suggested that the quality of being lazy was an asset in making more money.
And in a similar vein, the multi-year running ad for the ROM Exercise Machine.
Forget about ten set of crunches, the five mile jogs and dead-lifts at the gym
Exercise In Only 4 Minutes Per Day
I’d love to see someone come up with an encyclopedia of advertising appeals… I know a guy who’s handy in that area. 🙂
And if you are interested in hundreds of direct mail and space ad controls like this, you’ll find plenty in this copywriter’s playground.
Ohhh Clayton, we miss you so so much ….. And Wendy
This guy inspired me into this world of copywriting. He
also used to sign off by saying something like……………..
‘once its gone like a poof, its gone’ something like that. I
believe this phrase to have been very effective.
Lin Stone says
A really illuminating idea and one that I shall treasure. Danke. Perhaps I can give diamonds away after all if I practice hard enough. The idea of REVENGE created a real stroke when I really needed it.
I have a daughter that wants to launch a blog to help veterans that have come home battered, broken and bruised, and writes as well as I do. The write name for the blog didn’t come until I read about revenge at the gas pump.. then the name came right up.. VETERAN’S REVENGE.
http://talewins.com/bulletin/archives/16325 is her very first writing attempt.
Drayton Bird says
With all due deference, Lawrence, all these ads promise a benefit.
I don’t know much about others, but Joe Carbo’s Lazy Man’s Way To Riches ad is like a little personal story targeted to people like Joe himself. Actually the ad, puzzled me so much that I was driven to read the book. Where I could read the other ads Lawrence?
Lawrence Bernstein says
Hi Drayton. No deference due or otherwise needed here.
Of course, all these promos offer benefits.
The only ads without benefits are the ones from general advertising you’re so fond of. 🙂
Yes, this topic could use some elaboration. My point is a pure recitation of benefits seems to run against a wall more often than not these days.
Certainly, the successful stuff mailing has prospect-centered/ emotional leads with strong appeals and stories. Claims and benefits seem to only pop up in the third act of the play.
Lawrence Bernstein says
BTW, the “Forget X, try this instead” template you’ll frequently find in top flight mail order copy.