One of the greatest treasure troves full of knowledge on all things related to marketing, advertising and copywriting is David Ogilvy's book, "Ogilvy On Advertising." He is a legend in the field and was the creative genius behind more successful ad campaigns than anyone can keep track of. (And by the way, if you are in marketing, copywriting or advertising, and have never HEARD of David Ogilvy, you really should consider another line of work).

Okay, I know I get a little full of myself sometimes, so let's get down to what this article is all about.

Is Direct Response Advertising Right?

Let me quote from a section in his book called, "The lessons of direct response."

"For all their research, most advertisers never know for sure whether their advertisements sell. Too many other factors cloud the equation. But direct-response advertisers, who solicit orders by mail or telephone (and nowadays by the internet), know to the dollar how much each advertisement sells. So watch the kind of advertising they do. You will notice important differences between their technique and the techniques of general advertisers. For example:"

"General advertisers use 30 second commercials. But the direct response fraternity have learned that it is more profitable to use two-minute commercials. Who, do you suppose, is more likely to be right?"

"General advertisers broadcast their commercials in expensive prime time when the audience is at its peak. But direct response advertisers have learned that they make more sales late at night. Who do you suppose, is more likely to be right?"

"In their magazine advertisements, general advertisers use short copy, but the direct response people invariably use long copy. Who do you suppose is more likely to be right?"

Results vs Creativity For Creativity's Sake

There. It is one thing for me to proclaim the benefits of direct response techniques and how they allow a marketer to measure and test the effectiveness of their ads, websites and every element of their copy. But to hear it from David Ogilvy is like having the Word brought down from the mountain.

Ogilvy also believes that every copywriter should start his career by spending two years in direct response. I agree. Every day I see websites and ads that are creative masterpieces, but have little effectiveness in selling.

Common errors I see are: too much white space, headlines that appeal only to curiosity but not to the customer's "what's in it for me?" motivation, no call to action, and too much design and too little copy.

Ogilvy's Best Work

Ogilvy concludes his thoughts on imitating direct response, by saying:
Do I practice what I preach? Not always. I have created my share of fancy campaigns, but if you ask which of my advertisements have been the most successful, I will answer without hesitation, that it was the first ad I wrote for industrial development in Puerto Rico. It won no award for "creativity" but it persuaded scores of manufacturers to start factories in that poverty-stricken island.

Advertising, marketing creating business websites are not art forms. They are business strategies that are intended to bring in new clients, new business and make sales. Even David Ogilvy tells us that we forget that to our peril.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown


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