You’ll Find Some of the Best Direct Response Copywriting—In the Airplane

Some people hate to fly and find traveling a big nuisance. I’m not one of them. I love flying, I love airplanes, and I love going to see current clients and people I would love to have as clients. When Mark McCormack, the guy who founded IMG, was building his business, he would fly across the country to meet someone he wanted to do business with, even if it meant just 15 minutes with the prospective client. I’ve done exactly the same and it’s always been worth the effort. Yes—sitting next to an obese person in a tank top is never pleasant, especially when she snores, and getting stuck in a blizzard is no fun but send me to the airport and I’m a happy camper. From my toddler years, I’ve loved airplanes and, even today, I can spot the difference between an Airbus A321 and A320 in less than a second. I’m an aero-geek and I happily admit this, even in public on a blog.

Roger Roger--Put this DR Copywriter on a Plane Anytime

But I’m getting off subject.

For the avid direct response copywriter, there’s a reason to love to fly: going through the in-flight magazine and the SkyMall catalog is a like going through one of the best copywriting textbooks ever written. It’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of DR. Let’s take a look at SkyMall first.

At worst, the headlines are basic but effective and benefit-driven.

“Say Goodnight to Bunions!”

“Read Deleted Cell Phone Messages.”

At best, many of the headlines are excellent. Here’s a great example of a question headline.

“This person is able to sleep comfortably in any seat! Can you say the same?”

To be honest, the device looks uncomfortable but I’ve noticed the same device in SkyMall for well over 15 years. Maybe the headline has something to do with the success.

Let’s face it, some of the headlines HAVE to be good as some of the products in SkyMall are a touch marginal. Do I really need a feather duster that telescopes to reach the corner of a cathedral ceiling? Do I really want to hear conversations 200 yards away?

The body copy isn’t exactly chopped liver, either. And even though there there’s a lot crammed into the catalog, there’s a TON of copy…another great lesson.

Which takes me to my next point. Take a look at the in-flight magazine. Several businesses have built their success around direct response advertising in these magazines. I’ve been flying at least once every six weeks for about 15 years and I see the same companies pop up.

Bored on a plane? If you're into DR copywriting check out SkyMall for the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good is really good, though.

Whether it’s a smaller display ad or a two-page spread, the advertisers that have been advertising in these publications for years use DR techniques. Great headlines. Lots of interesting copy. Irresistable offers. Call to action. Selling happiness, etc.

And the companies that try to be clever and “creative” and out-of-the-box? They last a year, maybe less, then they’re gone.

Here’s a great headline for an exercise machine that costs a small fortune and looks like a medieval torture device.

“Exercise in Exactly Four Minutes a Day”

This product has been part of the in-flight magazine for as long as I can remember so it must be working and it must be selling well.

Bose has headphones it’s been advertising in the in-flight magazines for more than a decade. This headline isn’t world-beating but it’s straightforward. And the headline is wrapped right around a great photo of the product. It takes less than a second to get the benefit and the benefit of the product.

“New. Quieter than Ever Before.”

This ad for a dating service has a clever headline that doesn’t really work but the sub-head is excellent.


“Why log in when you can go out?”


“It’s Just Lunch is the ‘real people’ dating service that skips online profiles and hand-selects matches.”

They should have hand-selected the sub-head. The body copy is good. It has to be...the competition in this market it fierce...I’m told.

Message to marketing decision makers: if you’re going to advertise in SkyMall or the in-flight magazine, DO EXACTLY WHAT THE COMPANIES WHO HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFULLY MARKETING FOR YEARS IN THESE PUBLICATIONS DO.

How difficult is that?

P.S. I just put down the tray table and here’s a good headline for a cold remedy.

“Ground your cold before it takes off.”