Direct Response Copywriter on Ugly

I’m sure you’ve heard about a sports team “winning ugly.” It means a team hasn’t played perfectly but still found a way to win. A football team might have fumbled the ball five times ... yet won.

Advertising agencies who seek awards for design and creativity and “good work” dislike direct response practitioners for many reasons. One of them: the general ugliness of direct response advertising.

As a direct response copywriter, I fully admit that direct response marketing is rarely going to win any prizes at black tie advertising awards galas. When I visit direct response marketers, I NEVER see rows of awards up on the walls. Why? That’s because we’re not after awards: we’re trying as hard as we can to sell products and services. The award: our clients make more money.

Yes – the work looks ugly. I get it. Serious graphic designers must vomit when they see our web pages, sales letters, squeeze pages, emails, TV ads, and the like. I get it. But there’s one fundamental of direct response marketing: ugly wins.


You’d think that people who want to buy products and services would respond more positively to advertising that looks beautiful.

I suppose it all depends on one’s idea of beauty.

To this direct response copywriter, beauty is all about response and revenue. The design has to be clear and basic so the reader can read the copy and get the message. My website is not beautiful, graphically, but it works … it generates leads and I turn those leads into revenue.

I could make my website beautiful but it would likely DECREASE response. The OFFER is ultimately more important than beauty. Proof elements are more important to people who will buy a product or service.

Recently, I visited a company to discuss their direct mail pieces. The current control, which creates huge revenue, is ugly. VERY ugly. I told the client to make it uglier. But their creative group, armed with a beautiful new mailer to try, wanted to make things “pretty” and “pleasing to the eye” and “more focused on the brand.”

I would bet $1,000 the “beautiful” piece loses to the “ugly” piece.

The potential client or customer is only ultimately interested in one thing, “what’s in it for me?”

This direct response copywriter is going to provide the answer … even if the answer isn’t provided with total beauty.

When in doubt, win ugly.


I'm a direct response copywriter. I write direct response copy for clients around the world. Enter your information to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or [contact me here][3] if you have a project you'd like me to quote. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.