David Ogilvy’s Guide To Writing Ads Explained Part 34

Element 34 is almost a throwaway element in Ogilvy’s ad. It’s just 20 words long (the average element length in his ad is 50 words), yet it represents the basis on which just about every successful sales negotiation has ever been conducted.

So why did he chuck it in so blithely? Probably because he was getting bored by this stage and started scraping around the barrel of his notes to come up with something new.

What is element 34? Ogilvy called it the ‘before and after advertisement’. You’ve seen it countless times online and in print. It’s used most often in the diet and health industries (before and after weight loss photos, before and after six pack abs etc.).

But that misses the point. What the before and after strategy really does is remind us what we could be. It’s there to do the number one thing all ads need to do: build desire.

Before and after images are just the tip of the iceberg of this great selling technique though.

The ‘before’ side of the equation is there to describe our current way of life (too fat, too thin, unhappy, angry, lethargic, lazy, poor, ugly, unhealthy, weak). The ‘after’ side is the reverse of whatever it is we don’t like.

The ‘before’ side is the unhappy side. The ‘after’ side is the happy side. This dichotomy is used in professional sales conversations everywhere (eg., “Remember how bad things are? Well this changes that forever.”).

It’s used in webinars (eg., “This was me back then, just look at me now!” – image of someone by a jet, Lamborghini, superyacht, mansion, etc.).

It’s used in news reports, PR, and political speeches (eg., “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – before = hard, after = easy).

In short, element 34 is the powerhouse of all elements.


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