Many direct response copywriters look at agency people as scared, pseudo-practitioners hiding out in their cushy offices and insulated from the real world results of their craft by layers of decision insurance.
I’ll admit the level of direct response competence has taken a dive at the agency level. I don’t see companies like Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson or Foote, Cone & Belding doing anything remotely as good in print as they did 25 or more years ago.
For that matter, the quality of print advertising as a whole is far less incisive than it used to be — leaving ample room for smart direct response practitioners to succeed in this medium.
But there are plenty of great examples of direct response distinction in space, if you know where to find them.
This one hails from the fabulous series I keep telling you about — “The Wall Street Journal. It Works.”
(Hey, Rupert Murdoch, if you’re reading this, maybe it’s time to take these print ads out of retirement and spruce up your ad revenue.)
So, who is John O’Toole?
He was the president of Foote, Cone and Belding who grew the agency’s revenue ten-fold during his tenure.
And he started off in the biz as a copywriter under the legendary ad man and copywriter, Fairfax Cone.
Some of the nuggets from this ad.
On life with Fax Cone:
A magnificent teacher. His prime lesson: write to a single individual, not the hypothetical masses. Fax would never let writers get tangled up in a web of creative conceit: you quickly learned that no matter how hard you worked on an ad, you could make it better. Fax believed writers had the ability to step back from their work, and look at it through the eyes of a consumer. He was as tough on himself as he was on the writers who worked for him.
On long copy:
Persuasion by essay. A powerful technique that lets you speak to the consumer as a friend. You tell your story leisurely, but without wasted words. You put forth logic and facts that lead to persuasion. Good copy is read — be it long or short. But provided your premise is accurate. Long copy increases the power of persuasion, and without decreasing readership.
Print may well be the strongest medium of all, if you have the energy and skill to deal with the discipline of the printed page. It tests the skills of the writer, for the persuasion of the copy is critical to success. It tests the abilities of the art director for the clarity of design is critical to readership. Finally, print is the most controllable of all media, with the ultimate product clearly reflecting the skills of just two or three people. If it’s strong, and memorable, and persuasive, it’s your achievement — not that of platoons of specialists who can make a weak idea look good.