Direct Response Copywriter on Super Bowl Ads

Today, the Monday after the Super Bowl, is the day football pundits weigh in on the game. It’s also a day for advertising "experts" to rank the ads.

My local newspaper, The Charlotte Observer, asked local advertising executives to choose their favorite Super Bowl ad. Here’s the article.

Predictably, none of these "experts" even mentioned ROI. That’s because most of Charlotte’s advertising community is brand-oriented so they're more concerned about "brand authority" and they're not so concerned about how much money an ad actually generates.

I work in advertising as a direct response copywriter but I watched the game for … the football. I love football and study the game. Personally, I would have run a lot more 12 and 22 formations against the Seattle defense. But there you go.

And yes – I can tell you all about 12 and 22 formations. Denver goes with a lot of 11, which obviously didn’t work.

But I watch the ads in the Super Bowl because I’m in advertising. I was especially keen to see the Squarespace ad because I use and like the platform.

My reaction to the ads is the same every year. They all fail. Place them all in the “L” column. I may have missed an ad that asked for a measurable response but here’s the salient question: “which ad produced the highest measurable response?”

That’s the winner.

And no, a Super Bowl ad that makes a YouTube video "go viral" is not a success unless you have way to measure revenue.

Last week, a well-known ski resort breathlessly tweeted about an award for an ad campaign. My reply, “Congrats on the award. What was the ROI?”

Turns out results were not measured.

"Why not?" I would ask if I were the big banana/CEO.

In my world, direct response copywriting, my job is to write copy that produces revenue for my client. I’m accountable. The copy goes live or gets into a mailbox and everyone knows the results. I recently wrote a promotion for a golf company that generated $1.6 million in sales.

I’ve had my failures, too. But the smart direct marketers accept failure as part of discovering what’s going to work.

Last night, I saw hugely contrived ads striving to be shocking, funny, clever, witty, or touching. The ads quickly became a miasma of mixed metaphors, bizarre images, strange connections, and pure pulp. The “experts” who created these ads gave me a migraine-inducing mix of bad Saturday Night Live comedy combined with a vomituous surrealism that wins awards, but not customers.

Even Luis Buñuel must be scratching his head.

So you liked the Doritos ad? Are you rushing to the convenience store with your credit card to buy 12 bags of Doritos? You liked Newcastle's strategy? Drinking one now? Going to buy a keg of Newcastle tomorrow?

What were the people at Maserati thinking? Do the few people who can afford this car really want a bizarre feel-good message? NO! They want to look cool and/or join an exclusive club and/or go from 0-60 in under 4 seconds. Plus they probably want a powerful concert hall-quality sound system. If the buyer is young, male, and wealthy, he's buying the car to annoy his friends and impress potential dates.

Give me a list of people with the right demographics and psychographics and I’ll write six letters that will generate tons of qualified leads for Maserati salespeople. And I'll start by asking Maserati salespeople why people buy the car. How's that for strategy?

And what were the people at Squarespace thinking? As I mentioned earlier, I love Squarespace and regularly recommend the platform to friends and colleagues. I choose Squarespace for the service, the ease of use, the community of web developers who can fix my HTML mistakes(!), the rock-solid “back room” stuff, and the sensible price. I believe the platform has helped me rocket up the SEO rankings.

The Squarespace ad, quite frankly, gave me the creeps and made me question what the company is really trying to achieve.

Here's the ad.

For the same money spent on the ad and the media, a competent direct response professional could have generated a measurable – and superior – response. Send traffic to a web page I'll write about Squarespace and I’ll smash the ROI from that look-away-awful TV ad.

Wanna bet?

I bet you 12 bags of Doritos and a pint of Fuller’s London Pride at The Churchill Tavern on E. 28th I can outperform your Super Bowl ad. Or give me a percentage of the sales from the landing page. I'm a direct response copywriter. I will happily work on a royalty.

Everyone in advertising can agree David Ogilvy knew what he was talking about. If you can’t stand what I’m saying, watch the video below. NOW.

While those of us in direct response are busy generating revenue, and being accountable, you guys in the branding world are “worshipping at the altar of creativity” (as Ogilvy so beautifully puts it) and wasting billions on advertising that fails to produce even a fraction of the ROI we in the direct response world can produce.

Want proof? Watch the Super Bowl ads again.


I'm a direct response copywriter. I specialize in providing direct response copy for the direct marketing environment for clients around the planet. I specialize in sales page copy, landing page copy and copy that persuades readers to pull out their credit card and buy. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here if you have a project you'd like me to quote.

I'm also a Dan Kennedy Certified Copywriter for Info-Marketers.


Disclaimer for the above.

The Dan Kennedy Copywriter for Info-Marketers Certification is awarded to professional copywriters who have successfully completed a course of study of preparation for such copywriting. This Certification has not been provided by an accredited education institution. It does not constitute endorsement of or liability for any individual copywriter by Mr. Kennedy or any companies or organizations affiliated with Mr. Kennedy. The client's relationship is solely with the individual copywriter retained via any agreement.