Direct Response Copywriter on David Ogilvy

You can read a great deal about David Ogilvy, online and off. You can read a great deal by David Ogilvy. He was a prolific author. His best book, although it’s more of a manual, was his guide to selling Aga cookers.

My goal in this blog is to focus on Ogilvy’s contributions to direct marketing and what you can learn from Ogilvy when it comes to direct response copywriting.

You can easily look up his background and other information.

Strangely, perhaps, Ogilvy is best known for his branding work. But he was a direct marketer first and foremost. If you need proof, then watch one of the most inspirational videos you’ll ever see. It’s called “We sell or else” and it does two things. Click here to see it.

First, it beats up branding types and branding advertising. Second, it’s proof that direct marketing works.

In fact, whenever I get into it with a branding type, I point them toward this video. I win.

Ogilvy was an excellent writer but he was also an excellent salesman. He must have sold a lot of Aga cookers. So he know how to sell. Every direct response copywriter must know how to sell. He knew how to sell accounts.

Dig a little bit and you’ll discover that Ogilvy built his agency though direct mail. He took a correspondence course on copywriting. He then solicited new clients by mail. And it clearly worked.

He called direct marketing “his secret weapon” and it proved he could produce tangible results for his clients. There was always a direct marketing department in his agency. I wonder if that’s the case today.

Dig around the Internet and you’ll come across a series of bold, full-page ads that appeared in The Wall Street Journal. You can see one here.

Dense copy and lots of it. I’m sure it worked.

This was not a branding exercise. This was all about generating leads from qualified potential clients.

But I'm mistaken, of course. It WAS a branding exercise. Here’s the “secret” the branding types don’t want you to know. Companies routinely build their brands through direct marketing and with the help of a direct response copywriter.

Two of my most successful clients have achieved tremendous brand recognition without spending any money on branding and not even thinking about branding. Yes … you can have your cake and eat it too.

David Ogilvy must have understood this important fact. Remember, he considered direct marketing to be his “secret weapon.”

He also wanted his creative talent, especially his copywriters, to understand direct marketing. It’s strange to me that so many people in advertising laud David Ogilvy yet totally ignore direct marketing. A bit of a mystery.

Yes … it’s important to study everything David Ogilvy achieved and how he achieved his success. But focusing purely on his branding work totally misses the point.

David Ogilvy was one of the world’s top direct marketers.

Direct Response Copywriter on Veracity

Last week, I received a curious email through my website.

The question: “How does it feel to be a scammer?”

I don’t know the person who sent this and I didn’t reply. I’m not a scammer and I’m careful to avoid clients who are eager to scam people and generally engage in malfeasance. I can spot these reprobates and blacguards a mile away.

But I understand why people think that direct marketing is a scam. There are lots of scammers in direct marketing and lots of scammers who use direct marketing techniques to sell their products and services.

Every single one of my clients offers a guarantee. And they stand behind it. Nobody forces my readers to try the products I’m selling. I never write hype and I never lie about a product or service. There’s no ‘bait and switch’ and nothing stupid or hidden. My style is clear and straightforward and I don't write the type of "hyperventilating" guff that some copywriters, some of them well respected, think is mandatory. I write golf copy and there's a famous, or infamous, golf ad from several years ago. Something about a golfer with one arm hitting the ball a million miles. No. This direct response copywriter doesn't make absurd claims just to get someone's attention. I don't need to.

There’s no need to lie or obfuscate. The people who read the copy have a need for the product or service I’m writing about. The product or service helps the readers get where they want to get. Only amateurs and really bad copywriters rely on telling lies and/or absurd hyperbole.

Want scammers?

Fact is, you’ll find scamming and scammers in every industry. Yes, you’ll find them in direct marketing. But if you’re a direct response copywriter, you can avoid the scammers.

I understand why people are skeptical about direct marketing. Just look at your email. And there are several direct response copywriters who are happy to push well beyond the boundary. What’s worse is that several people in direct marketing put these copywriters on a pedestal. I find this to be inexcusable.

Now … I work hard to put the truth and the product or service in the best possible light. Why would I not? But that’s NOT lying and it’s not scamming.

And once again, I make it totally clear you’ll get your money back if you don’t like what you bought.

But if you want to see an example of scamming in direct response copywriting, look no further than copywriter groups on Facebook.

There are quite a few of them. I was in one for a few months and I just left. It’s a so-called “private” group with almost 20,000 people. Not exactly private.

Here’s the basic premise.

Join and you’ll get general advice about writing copy from other copywriters. Plus there are people who need copy who will post jobs.

Advice plus opportunities to meet people willing to pay copywriters for copy.

Sounds good, right? What could be wrong?

So … why did I leave?

The other day, I saw a post by someone who wanted a full-on AR series outlined for … FIFTY DOLLARS.

Writing that series would take about two days of work. I would charge a lot more than $50 for my time and expertise. So would you.

The moderator of the group said he had to delete over 50 “snarky” comments about the fee and the person who wanted the AR series.

Is that censorship? We could have a long debate about that. I’d tell you it is.

But here’s the point. The person who wants the AR series for $50 is a scammer. Or stupid. Or both.

And the person who organizes the “private” Facebook group is a scammer. He’s happy to organize, to help himself in some way, a group where really bad clients (and yes, they’re ALL really bad) can try to scam copywriters by offering really bad terms, really bad pay, and really bad products. Complaints? Don’t try to complain in that group … and all the similar groups.

And I’m a scammer?

But the organizer/moderator is only a scammer if you let him/her be.

If you’re relying on a Facebook group to find clients, then stop immediately.

And when it comes to finding clients, I’ve said it many times before.

The best way to find clients is to target who you want to work with/for and let them know you can help them … and prove it.

OK ... I fully admit to some venting here. There are so many great people in direct marketing and I hate it when a few genuinely awful people give direct marketing a bad name. Oh well ... I'll keep moving on, NOT being a scammer.

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.”

Why?

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.

Direct Response Copywriter on The Not-So-Secret Secret

I run into a lot of people in/from the business world. I meet people with business degrees. I meet successful entrepreneurs. I meet business academics. Pretty much the whole shebang.

Many of these people want to know what I do.

I tell them, “I’m a direct response copywriter.”

And then I get a blank stare or a few moments of embarrassing silence … even from people in business.

Quite a few people think I’m some type of lawyer, specializing in the realm of intellectual property, specifically the little ‘c’ sign.

©

That’s copyright, not copywriting.

Quite a big difference.

Even though I’m in the writing business and words are my day-to-day existence, I’ve never really come up with a quick and simple definition of what a direct response copywriter really does.

Here are just a few of my efforts.

*It’s sort of like those infomercials.

I’m a salesman in print.

I write ads.

BUT WAIT … THERE’S MORE.*

The problem with the last explanation is this … it makes me seem a tad low-end. That’s not how I operate. I’m not trying to fool or con anyone. I’ll leave that to the bankers from a certain national bank.

Let me make it much, much easier for everyone.

The people who know what a direct response copywriter does … and hire a good one … make a TON of money.

One of my clients has organized sales in excess of $400 million for their products. A major international company purchased another client for tens of millions. The copy is part of the equation.

Let me say it again …

The people who know what a direct response copywriter does … and hire a good one … make a TON of money.

Certain people in advertising and marketing fully understand my work and how I write copy. But they won’t hire me or another direct response copywriter because they’re worried about “brand equity” and other such nonsense.

Oh well … that’s your loss as the money leaves for your competition.

How many direct response copywriters are there in the world? About 200-300 who can genuinely motivate potential customers to become actual customers.

This explains, in part, why so many people in business don’t know what I do.

I hope that changes.

I’ll write it one more time.

The people who know what a direct response copywriter does … and hire a good one … make a TON of money.

Direct Response Copywriter on Excuses and People Who Know Everything

I love direct marketing and direct response copywriting for many reasons. One of them … I never hear excuses from serious direct marketers. When sales are lower than usual, direct marketers find a way to increase revenue.

So you can imagine my SHOCK when I recently received an email blaming a lack of sales this year on something that happend LAST YEAR.

I thought I had seen and heard pretty much everything in the world of marketing but that’s a first.

Let me say that again … sales are down this year due to conditions last year. If I were the CEO or owner of that company and I saw something like that coming from the marketing department, two things would happen. First, the head of marketing would be given a straight red. Then I’d find a direct marketer who could actually generate sales and revenue whatever is happening.

The direct marketers I admire are the ones who get the job done whatever is happening in the economy and the world. Imagine what would happen if I wrote some direct response copy and it failed and I blamed conditions last year … or ANY year.

The client would go totally berserk … and with good reason. If things aren’t going well revenue-wise then direct marketers dig deep and find that revenue.

Let’s change the subject before I implode.

I belong to a number of groups on Facebook and Linked In. I can’t say that I spend a great deal of time participating.

Here’s one reason … I see a TON of awful advice and information in these groups. A few months ago, I criticized a person for providing information I know is blatantly wrong. I received a fast response from the person who leads that group saying I was wrong and she was right. I won’t go further into the exact details. I stopped right there with the conversation because I have better things to do than get into online arguments. I'm a busy direct response copywriter.

What’s my point here?

Don’t listen to people in those groups. Base what you do on advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about. There’s one problem here … these direct response copywriters don’t hang around in Facebook and Liked In groups.

Don’t make excuses. Be careful who you follow and believe.

*

I'm a direct response copywriter working 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][2] when you have a project you'd like to discuss. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.