Direct Response Copywriter on The Big Idea

A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to introduce a “big idea” into something that you’d probably think is totally unrelated to direct response copywriting.

I won’t go into the precise details here, because they’re not totally salient, but the person I was working with asked, “what’s a ‘big idea’?”

It’s an excellent question.

The big idea in copywriting is, essentially, a theme.

In branding advertising, examples are the famous Ogilvy ad …

The Man in The Hathaway Shirt.

Then there’s the now extinct ad … The Most Interesting Man in The World for Dos Equis beer.

It’s not a coincidence I’ve mentioned these ads. They’re really quite similar. Hmmmm.

In the world of the direct response copywriter, you’ll see a lot written about “the big idea.” I'm not a huge fan of the tactic. Why? Because the prospect isn’t interested in your big idea. They’re interested in themselves and how the product/service can help them get where they want to get.

When I’m writing direct response copy, I’m focused on communicating, with intense clarity, how a product or service will help the prospect. I’m not so interested in a big idea.

The big idea is the foundation of a branding ad campaign. Right now, you’ve seen these ads for Bud Light. They’re built around the idea of people from medieval times enjoying Bud Light. I’m not certain I get the concept but it’s an example of a big idea.

A lot of big-time direct response copywriters like the idea of the “big idea.”


It’s a way to get, and more importantly, keep, the attention of the prospect. It can also be a way to provide clarity and maintain focus.

So … instead of blabbing away with a lot of features and benefits, the big idea keeps everything together.

I use a big idea more than I think, without really ever thinking about a big idea.

Here’s an example. Click this link now.

A lot of golfers hit good shots on the practice range then fail to take them to the golf course. This applies even to the top golfers like Tiger Woods.

So I built a promotion around this theme. It’s the big idea.

If the big idea works for you in your advertising, and you can measure a jump in revenue through your testing, then use a big idea. But a big idea isn’t always vital.

People in the branding world LOVE big ideas. But they’re not measuring results. Things are very different in the world of direct marketing and the direct response copywriter. We’re measuring everything to the penny and if an ad with a big “big idea” is outpulling an ad without a big idea, then the big idea is big.

But I’ve written plenty of direct response ads that don’t have a big idea. These ads give the prospect plenty of reasons to try a product or service.

Remember … the prospect is more interested in THEMSELVES than your big idea, however brilliant it might be.