Seth Godin gets it wrong in blog, says direct response copywriter.

Yes! I dare to disagree with the great Seth Godin and his coruscating heid.*

* Scottish slang for head.

Godin wrote a blog titled “Direct response and the coarsening of culture” and this caught my attention seeing as I’m a direct response copywriter.

I disagree with almost all of the blog.

Here’s the blog with my thoughts below.

Godin's blog in bold with my comments in italics.


Direct response advertising to strangers is demanding. You pay for your click or you pay for your stamp and then you get a shot at making a sale. No sale, no revenue, no revenue, no more stamps.

If you know what you’re doing in direct response, you sell plenty of stuff and have plenty of money for stamps. And yes—direct response IS demanding which is why most advertising agencies avoid it and the fact that there's nowhere to hide in direct marketing is the main reason a lot of marketing people think it's 'coarse.'

Sorry, Seth, you've got it all wrong about direct response.


As a result, direct marketers sometimes race to the bottom. They sell what sells the first time, and use the words that work right now. If the largest conversion rate is for a flat belly diet, then it's the flat belly diet that gets sold. The public gets what it wants.

No. In direct marketing, we sell solutions. Just like everyone else. We don’t ‘race to the bottom’ because we’re always trying to improve conversion. We're racing to the top.


And what does the mass public want? Shortcuts. Discounts. Claims. No room for subtlety or even innovation.

You’re right about innovation. We execute the tactics that ALWAYS work when executed properly. Creativity is about 5% of the deal.


Yes, there are great products sold by direct marketing, but in most cases, those products were dreamed up and refined and beloved in a less measurable world.

Absolutely wrong. For decades, direct response has always been about measuring. Haven’t you read Scientific Advertising?

In a world that was 90% retailers and pr and word of mouth, the direct response around the edges was no big deal. It brings us the Veg-o-matic and bald spot hairspray, but it doesn't really direct the culture.

In direct response, we’re not trying to direct the culture. That’s better left to The Rolling Stones and Lady Gaga. We’re trying to sell stuff. It’s what you do in marketing. Direct response has always been a big deal to the people who rely on it for their livelihood...and this includes a wide range of companies.


Here's the thing: going forward, just about all the growth in marketing spend is happening on the direct response side.

Why? Because you can measure ROI and there’s no place to hide anymore. And bean counters run big companies these days and demand accountability, not prizes.


Google ads, email campaigns--these are measured in percentage points and in clicks. Without the tastemaking sensibilities of the buyer at Bloomingdale's or the quality guys at Fisher Price, the urge to compromise/shorten/cheapen/overpromise/dumb down is almost overwhelming.

No. The inference here is that direct marketing is all about selling junk. Plenty of ‘upmarket’ sellers use direct response. There’s no urge in direct response to dumb down anything. In fact, direct response is an excellent way to sell a complex product. I’m writing copy right now for a product that helps to heal horses faster. It costs around $600.


It's already happening to TV and music. (The label doesn't have to please the music-loving program director. It has to please the YouTube clicking teen.) It's likely to happen to your industry soon as well.

There’s always been plenty of dumbing down in music but the availability of information makes everyone more least in theory.


People who have never sold advertising sometimes point out that a new form of advertising is better because it's more measurable, because it provides exact data instead of clumsy diary systems.

There’s NOTHING new about direct response. As Dan Kennedy said: it worked 100 years ago and it will work 50 years from now.


Do you see that most advertisers don't actually want better data? If you're not sure what's working, you can't get blamed.

Got that right, pal.


And since you can't get blamed, you get to decide, to be creative, to create stories and fables, instead of merely being Mr. Ronco selling the bassomatic, at the mercy of anyone with a telephone.

What do you want, Seth? Creativity or sales? With ‘creative’ ads, you get creativity. With direct response, you can actually have both. SEE: TV ads which aim to drive people to their website.


Measurable isn't always the only thing that matters.

As a direct response copywriter, measurable is ALL that matters. I’m not here to provide flowery phrases and advertising awards; I’m here to provide my clients with sales by persuading the reader (creatively, of course) to pull their credit card out of their wallet.

Here's the original blog.



I'm a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I specialize in providing copy and content for the direct marketing environment for clients around the world. I increasingly specialize in sales pages and landing pages. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here.