Successful direct response ads don’t fail because there is something wrong with the copy, they fail because the reader doesn’t follow through.
So says David Ogilvy in element 13 of his direct response ad to end all direct response ads (and he should know because he was the king of direct response ads back in the day).
He tells us that two thirds of people who intended to buy through a direct response ad fail to do so because the ad doesn’t follow his 4 point checklist.
He doesn’t of course tell us what those four points are, but hey, we’re reading his direct response ad right now, so it should be obvious (I realise that’s a bit meta, and you’re not reading his original direct response ad, but just bear with me).
Before we look at those four points, just think about what he’s promising. To paraphrase, it’s this: “work with Ogilvy & Mather, and we’ll reveal all the secrets – oh, and make you heaps of money too”.
The caveat is trust. You need to believe what you’re reading, and to do that requires a LOT of proof. And that means a LOT of words.
Ogilvy’s stories are legendary, not least in the direct response space because, as he said in his books “direct response was my first love” – the only reason he was able to grow his agency so fast was because he was prepared to champion it and stand out from the crowd.
So point number 1 was the headline. We all know why. Bad headlines = no interest (forget the Attention part of AIDA for a minute – grabbing attention is easy – but it’s pointless if it’s the wrong type of attention).
Point number 2 was about length. If it’s not long enough to build desire to boiling point, then you’re not going to get your cup of tea.
Point number 3 was the coupon. Unless you knew EXACTLY what to do next (and you made that part easy), no one is going to make the effort to find out (except a few diehards).
And point number 4 was the incentive. The close. The “why should I fill this in right now instead of after that nice hot cup of tea?”
The only difference between my interpretation of this element of Ogilvy’s ad and the ad itself is that I just gave the game away. The cat is out of the bag. The pigeon is on its way home. Cinderella is now married to the prince and living the life of Ogilvy.
Click below for part 14.