Thursday, October 14, 2010


David Ogilvy founded one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, Ogilvy & Mather International. I had the privilege of working with him for six years as a creative director. Everyone associated with David learned a great deal from his vast knowledge of copywriting and human nature. He synthesised much of his advice in his book, Confessions Of An Advertising Man. Yet even he praised another great advertising genius, Claude Hopkins, who wrote an enduring classic of his own. Ogilvy once said of this book:

"Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life."

Here are some excerpts from Claude Hopkins’

On Salesmanship In Advertising.

Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship. Successes and failures in both lines are due to like causes. Thus every advertising question should be answered by the salesman's standards.

The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.

It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people. It is not primarily to aid your other salesmen.

Advertising is multiplied salesmanship. Therefore every ad should be a super-saleperson.

"There is one simple and right way to answer many advertising questions. Ask yourself, 'Would this help a salesman sell the goods?' 'Would it help me sell them if I met the buyer in person?'

On the lenqth of your ads:

Some say, "Be very brief. People will read only a little." Would you say that to a salesperson? With a prospect standing there, would you confine him to use only a certain number of words? That would be an unthinkable handicap.

So in advertising. The only readers we get are people whom our subject interests. No one reads ads for amusement, long or short. Consider them as prospects standing before you, seeking information. Give them enough to get action.
On the proper attitude:

When you plan and prepare an advertisement, mentally keep before you a typical buyer. Then in everything be guided by what you would do if you met the buyer face-to-face.

The advertising writer studies the consumer. He or she tries to place themselves in the position of that buyer. Success largely depends on doing that to the exclusion of everything else.

On offerinq service:

Remember that the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interest or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.

On the lessons of mail order advertisinq:

Mail order advertising tells a complete story if the purpose is to make an immediate sale. You see no limitations there on amount of copy.

The motto there is, 'The more you tell, the more you sell.'

It is far harder to get mail orders than to send buyers to the store. It is hard to sell goods which can't be seen. Ads which do that are excellent examples of what advertising should be.

Mail order advertising is traced down to the fraction of a penny. The cost per reply and cost per dollar of sale show up with utter exactness.

The most common way of comparing one ad with another [used to be] by use of a coupon. We offer a sample, a book, a free package or something to induce direct replies. Thus we learn the amount of action which each ad engenders.

But those figures are not final. One ad may bring too many worthless replies; another brings replies that are valuable to our final conclusions are always based on cost per customer or cost per dollar of sale.

On the proper use of headlines:

The purpose of a headline is to pick out people you can interest. You care only for those people.

People will not be bored in print. In print they choose their own companions, their own subjects. There may be products which interest them more than anything else in a magazine. But they will never know it unless the headline or the picture tells them.

The vast difference in headlines is shown by keyed returns. The identical ad run with various headlines differs tremendously in its returns. It is not uncommon for a change in headlines to multiply returns from five to ten times over.

Don't think that those millions will read your ads to find out if your product interests them. They will decide by a glance -- by your headline or your pictures.

On psycholoqy:

Competent advertising people must understand psychology. The more they know about it the better. They must learn that certain effects lead to certain reactions, and use that knowledge to increase results and avoid mistakes.

On the need to be specific:

Platitudes and generalities leave no impression on people whatsoever.

One expects ads to exaggerate. But just for that very reason, general statements count for little.

So a definite statement is usually accepted. Actual figures are not generally discounted. Specific facts, when stated, have their full weight and effect.

On tellinq your full story:

When you once get a person's attention, then is the time to accomplish all you ever hope. Bring all your good arguments to bear. Cover every phase of your subject. One fact appeals to some, one to another.

On art in advertising:

Pictures in advertising are very expensive. Not in the cost of good art work alone, but in the cost of print space.

Anything expensive must be effective, or else it involves much waste. So art in advertising is a study of paramount importance.

Pictures should not be used merely because they are interesting. Or to attract attention. Or to decorate an ad.

Use pictures only to attract those who may profit you. Use them only when they form a better selling argument than the same amount of space set in type.

On tryinq to chanqe people's habits:

Changing people’s habits is very expensive. But great successes have been made by going to people already educated and satisfying their created wants.

On the need for information when writinq an ad:

To have a chance at success, an ad-writer must gain full information on the prospect. A painstaking advertising writer will often read for weeks on some problem which comes up.

Genius is the art of taking pains. The copywriter who spares the midnight oil will never get very fat.

Thus an advertising campaign is usually preceded by a very large volume of data. Even an experimental campaign, for effective experiments cost a great deal of work and time.

The uninformed would be staggered to know the amount of work involved in creating a single ad. Weeks of work, sometimes. The ad seems so simple, and it must be simple to appeal to simple people. But back of that ad may lie reams of data, volumes of information, months of research.
So this is no lazy person's business.
On developinq an effective strategy:

Advertising is much like war, minus the venom. We need strategy of the ablest sort, to multiply the value of our forces.

Sometimes, a campaign depends on the product's name. Sometimes a price must be decided.

Competition must be considered. What are the forces against you? What have they in price or quality or claims to weigh against your appeal? What have you to win trade against them? What have you to hold trade against them when you get it?

On the proper uses of samples:

The product itself should be its own best salesperson. Not the product alone, but the product plus a mental impression and atmosphere which you place around it. That being so, samples are of prime importance.

A sample gets action. The reader of your ad may not be convinced to the point of buying. But he is ready to learn more about the product you offer. So he cuts out a coupon and mails it in, [or responds to an URL.]

Then you have the name and address of an interested prospect. You can start him using your product. You can give him fuller information. You can follow him up.

Putting a price on a sample greatly retards replies. It also prohibits you from using the word "Free" in your ads. And that word, "Free", will generally more than pay for your samples.

Don't ask your prospects to pay for your selling efforts. Three in four will refuse to pay.

But we do not give out samples promiscuously. The product is cheapened. It is not introduced in a favorable way.

Give samples to interested people only. Give them only to people who exhibit their interest by some effort.

Samples sometimes seem to double advertising cost. They often cost more than the advertising. Yet, rightly used, they almost invariably form the cheapest way to get customers. And that is what you want.
On qettinq distribution of your product:

We usually start with local advertising. We get our distribution town by town, then change to national advertising.

Sometimes,we name the dealers who are stocked. It is often possible to get most of your dealers by offering to name them in the first few ads.

If the samples are distributed locally, the coupon names the stores. Enough demand is centered there locally to force other dealers to supply the sample. Dealers don't like to have their customers go to competitors, even for a sample.

When a coupon is used, good at any store for a free full-size package, the problem of distribution becomes simple. Tell the dealers that each coupon presented means a cash sale at full profit. No average dealer will let those coupon customers go elsewhere.

Such a free-package offer often pays for itself this way. It forms the cheapest method of getting general distribution.

On the need for test campaiqns:

Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly, and finally, by a test campaign. And that's the :way to answer them -- not by arguments around a table. Go' to the court of last resort -- the buyers of your product.

There are many surprises in advertising. A project you will laugh at may make a great success. A project you are sure of may fall down. All because tastes differ so much. None of us know enough peoples’ desires to get an average viewpoint.

We establish averages on a small scale, and those averages always hold. We know our cost, we know our sale, we know our profit or loss. We know how soon our cost comes back. Before we spread out, we prove our undertaking absolutely is safe. So there are today no advertising disasters piloted by people who know.

On dealers vs. advertisinq:

Most of the time, making a sale without making a convert does not count for much. Sales made by conviction -- by advertising -- are likely to bring permanent customers. People who buy through casual recommendations from dealers do not often stick. Next time someone else gives other advice.

Your object in all advertising is to buy new customers at a price which pays a profit. You have no interest in centering trade at any particular store.

On the importance of individuality:

A person who desires to make an impression must stand out in some way from the masses. And in a pleasing way. Being eccentric, being abnormal, is not a distinction to covet. But doing admirable things in a different way gives one a great advantage.

Try to give each advertiser a becoming style. Make each distinctive, perhaps not in appearance, but in manner and in tone. Give each an individuality best suited to the people it addresses.

Then we take care not to change an individuality which has proved appealing. Great pains are taken never to change our tone.

We also don't want people to think that salesmanship is made to order. That our appeals are created, studied, artificial. They must seem to come from the heart.

To create the right individuality is a supreme accomplishment.

On neqative advertisinq:

To attack a business rival is never good advertising. Don't point out others' faults. The selfish purpose is apparent. It looks unfair, not sporty.

With your product, show the bright side, the happy and attractive side -- not the dark and uninviting side of things. For instance, don't show the wrinkles you propose to remove, but the face as it will appear. Your customers already know all about the wrinkles.

On the key to effective letter writing:

In a letter, the same as in ads, the great point is to get immediate action. Offer some inducement for it. Or tell what delay may cost. Note how many successful selling letters place a time limit on an offer. It expires on a certain date. That is all done to get a prompt decision, to overcome the tendency to delay.

On selecting a good name for your product:

There is great advantage in a name that tells a story. Some names are almost complete advertisements in themselves.

A serious fault in coined names is frivolity. In seeking uniqueness, one can get something trivial. And that is a fatal handicap in a serious product. It almost prohibits respect.

When a product must be called by a common name, the best auxiliary name is a person's name. It is much better than a coined name, for it shows that some human is proud of this creation.

On good business:

We see countless ads running year after year which we know to be unprofitable. We see wasted space, frivolity, clever conceits, so-called “entertainment.”

Many advertisers have little or no idea of the results of their advertising results.

You see other ads which you may not like as well. They may seem crowded or verbose. They are not attractive to you, for you are seeking something to admire, something to entertain. But you will note that those ads are keyed to trace results. The advertiser knows that they pay.

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