David Ogilvy’s Guide To Direct Response Advertising Part 1

Whilst all copywriting is about selling, there’s one discipline that we cannot afford to miss, and that’s direct response.

In the early 1970s as a follow up to his famous “How to create advertising that sells”, David Ogilvy wrote a new ad called “How direct response advertising can increase your sales and profits”. 

His subheadline was “Even if your company has never used direct response, read what Ogilvy & Mather has learned from half a billion coupons.”

This is part 1 of my expanded version of his ad and why each element matters (it is just as useful today when seen through the lens of the 21st century and in particular, when trying to win new business).

The first element is a use case (“use case” is jargon borrowed from the software industry – in other words, it is used primarily to imply that the writer knows what they’re talking about even if they don’t – all jargon is like this – avoid unless you want to impress a prospective client – that is, a client who is easily impressed by jargon).

The ‘use case’ in element 1 is “product introductions”. It’s a perfect example of tight niching. That is, Ogilvy wasn’t trying to sell direct response to everyone (although he was), this first element clearly called out his audience: “if you’re about to launch a product, this might be exactly what you’re looking for”.

It’s easy to miss finer points like this (especially if ‘product introductions’ has no meaning for you). In other words, the meta language behind element 1 is a call out to the audience Ogilvy was looking for and targeting with this particular ad.

When writing any copy, no matter what the topic, audience, or anything else, it’s worth remembering that element 1 can be seen as the first step in a template on writing direct response ads – call out your audience as early as possible (don’t force people to read long ads if they have no desire for whatever it is your selling).

The rest of element 1 uses irrefutable proof to sell to its targeted audience (C suite executives with big budgets and expensive products – it’s actually another customer call out – not only do you need to be someone who launches products, but the products you launch need to be expensive – plus you need to be able to make large financial decisions).

It’s a great start to an epic ad, and makes a good start to my new series.


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