There are two kinds of fool.
The first says, “this
is old and therefore good”, the second says “this is new and therefore
I must be a fool then.
Because I see very little
new work these days relating to copywriting, that hasn’t been done much better
in the past…
We’ve not learned a lot
in this crazy business, it seems to me. And they call it progress…
So this month, I’m going
to take you back. To the good old days. To the days of yore…
…when copywriting for response
was recognised as a specialist art. People used to study it. They
used to discuss it. They used to marvel at great examples of it.
Yes, I know. I can
hear those heads shaking. Some of you are going to find that hard to believe.
But they did. Trust me.
Here are a couple of people
whose work will stimulate the open-minded forever…
The first is James Webb
Young. It’s impossible to list all of James Webb Young's major achievements.
He was a great man of this
business and an advertising ‘hall of famer’ who truly changed the way the advertising
James Webb Young joined
J. Walter Thompson Cincinnati in 1911 as a copywriter. His previous knowledge
of copy had come from his experience in New York, where he wrote mail-order advertising
for a local book publisher.
After only a few years, Young became head of the Cincinnati office. It was
at this office that he created some of his most memorable work.
Odorono is a great example.
It is difficult to imagine a world without something as simple as deodorant.
In fact, the first underarm
deodorant product did not come into the marketplace until 1907. It was invented
by a surgeon in Cincinnati. He called it Odorono. By 1919, advertising
for Odorono was already well established.
In that same year, Jim Young
wrote an ad for the brand that has become a classic.
The headline read, "Within
the Curve of a Woman's Arm."
The headline for the Odorono
ad, cleverly avoided mentioning the armpit. The ad itself also drew women
in with copy stating that, "persons troubled with perspiration odour seldom
can detect it themselves."
Here is the original
copy Young wrote:
Within the curve of a woman's
A frank discussion of a subject too often avoided.
A woman's arm! Poets have sung its grace; artists have painted its beauty.
It should be the daintiest, sweetest thing in the world. And yet, unfortunately,
it isn't, always. There's an old offender in this quest for perfect daintiness
- an offender of which we ourselves may be ever so unconscious, but which is just
as truly present.
Shall we discuss it frankly?
Many a woman who says, "No, I am never annoyed by perspiration," does not know
Of course, we aren't to blame because nature has made us so that the perspiration
glands under the arms are more active than anywhere else. Nor are we to blame
because... have made normal evaporation there impossible.
Would you be absolutely sure of your daintiness? It’s the chemicals of the
body, not uncleanliness, that cause odour. And even though there is no active
perspiration - no apparent moisture - there may be under the arms an odour...
Fastidious women who want to be absolutely sure of their daintiness have found
that they could not trust to their own consciousness; they have felt the need
of a toilet water which would insure them against any of this kind of underarm
unpleasantness, either moisture or odour.
To meet this need, a physician formulated Odorono - a perfectly harmless and delightful
The Odorono campaign ran
originally in the Ladies Home Journal.
During that time the Journal
and the American Medical Association warned that Odorono could be dangerous. Women,
who saw the product and its advertising as being offensive and disgusting, cancelled
their subscriptions to the Ladies Home Journal.
Yet amazingly, even with
over 200 cancellations, Odorono sales went up by an incredible 112% in that
He took a taboo subject
and created advertising that was cutting edge - by simply using the right words.
And, by being brave too…
Don’t see much of that around
now either…especially from the client side – but that’s a subject for a future
"Nothing is said now
that has not been said before"- Terence (161 BC)
How true that is.
Drayton told me years ago that “there is nothing new in this business”.
I thought he was nuts at the time. Now I know he was right.
Most "original" ideas are
reworks of what has gone before.
Writer George Polti reckoned
that there are only 36 dramatic situations. Any plot, old or new, fits into one
of the 36.
Shakespeare's Hamlet can
be traced back to a 12th century tale by a Danish writer called Saxo Grammaticus.
Which in turn, can be traced to a story called Amlothi in the 1100s.
And that was ‘nicked’ from
a story called Amleth in 917.
What this all means is this.
There is nothing new in our business, only new ways of looking at old ideas.
My good pal Murray Raphel
summed it up in his usual flamboyant style in an article a few years ago.
“In those very rare times
when a "new and original" idea does appear, it is often rejected. Because there
are dangers in making changes.”
Example: When you change
your advertising copy for an established product or service, nine out of ten times
nothing happens to sales.
There is a legendary story
of the CEO of a soft drinks company whose advertising was a popular jingle that
was running for several years.
He called in his advertising
agency and asked, "How many of your people work on my account?"
"Forty five," said
the advertising executive. "What do they all do?" asked the CEO. "Well,"
he was told, "one of them is working on new ideas for future advertising.
The other 44 have the
job of keeping you from changing what's working."
Someone who really knew
what worked in advertising was Claude Hopkins.
He was the outstanding
copywriter and strategist of his time. His time was the 20’s and 30’s.
The place, predictably, the USA.
Hopkins wrote two books,
the first of which was Scientific Advertising, published in 1923.
If you read only one book on the art of communication, make it this one.
I normally read it twice a year and have done so for over 10 years. I still
find gems in its pages.
David Ogilvy said after
reading this book, “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising
until they have read this book seven times. It changed the course of my
**Want to own a
copy of this wonderful book?
Please see my note at the foot of this article**
Hopkins believed that "advertising
is salesmanship" and as such, it should be measurable and justify the results
that it produces. He was a strong believer in "reason why copy" and the
principles that he discovered and documented are as valid today, as they were
Whatever medium you use,
from print advertising to the Internet, the fundamentals taught by this great
man are universal and timeless.
Back in 1919, Schlitz beer
approached Claude Hopkins. Their beer sales were in 15th place. They asked Hopkins
if he could help them sell more beer. He agreed to meet with Schlitz and toured
the brewery. He was fascinated with what he discovered. He then returned two months
later with an ad campaign.
His ads told of the “crystal clear water from a special artesian well”.
They told of the one “mother” yeast cell that produced all the yeast for
fermenting the beer. It was the result of over “1,500 experiments and produced
a very distinct fresh, crisp taste”. He told of how the bottles
were “sterilized 12 times to ensure purity, so that nothing would interfere
with the clean taste of the beer”.
The Schlitz people hated it. They explained to Hopkins that this would never
work. They told him, “All beer is made the same way.” Hopkins calmly assured
them that people would be fascinated with the “behind the scenes” look
and, that no other beer maker had ever told the story.
After much discussion, Schlitz
relented and let the ads roll out. Six months later, Schlitz beer was the Number
1 selling beer in the nation.
From 15th place to 1st in
half a year – absolutely astonishing…
In actual fact, Schlitz
were right. All beers are made pretty much the same way.
But, what Claude Hopkins
had done was to turn the features that went into making beer, into the
benefits people gained when they cracked one open and drank it - clean,
crisp and, distinctive.
The work of a master.
How some booze ads could
do with his touch today…
For all those of you interested
in getting better at the art of communication, you can do much, much worse than
look back. There are some masterpieces out there, just waiting for you.
Some of these guys were
geniuses in our business. In the most part, their approaches are still as
relevant today as they were all those years ago.
More so, in a lot of cases.
Keep the faith
** Scientific Advertising**
A FREE COPY FOR YOU
Want to receive
a FREE copy of this classic book? Well you can…
I invite all readers
to send me examples of good, bad, memorable or laughable letter copy or ads they
have seen or received. I will review them all and the best three will be
shared with everyone in this article in the coming months.
The senders of
the best three will be sent a copy of the classic Scientific Advertising, from
me, absolutely FREE.
About the Author
Andy Owen is Managing
Director of Andy Owen & Associates, a leading International Strategic Marketing
Consultancy specialising in all aspects of contemporary direct marketing. The
company has offices in UK, Middle East & North Africa, with Associate Offices
in Europe & The USA.
The company's corporate
website is www.andyowen.co.uk The
specialist copy division has its own site at www.copywritingthatsells.com
As well as his International
speaking engagements, Andy runs in-house copywriting sessions and workshops for
companies and organisations all over the world. If you feel your company could
benefit from this, please contact Andy for details.
If anyone would like
further information on any aspect of copywriting for direct marketing, please
contact Andy direct at firstname.lastname@example.org