At first sight, Ogilvy set himself a difficult task coming up with 19 different ways that direct response ads can benefit advertisers – especially when you consider the one thing that all long copy ads MUST do – keep the reader hooked.
This is one reason we need to read between the lines when we see any ad. That is, we need to understand what it is we are really looking at. And what we have in this series of Ogilvy’s 1970 ads are listicles.
Listicles didn’t exist when Ogilvy wrote his epic series of numbered bullet-point ads. Well, that’s not strictly true, they’d been around for a thousand years (according to a Google search, the first ‘listicle’ appeared in the 11th century), but the word itself wasn’t invented until 2007.
Which just happened to be the same time that search engine optimisation experts realised they were on to something (from a content/traffic perspective).
Ogilvy didn’t know that of course, but he did know that bullet points worked, so instead of adding a few here and there, he bulleted the whole ad.
It’s a great example of taking something familiar and reinventing it as new (in fact, it was revolutionary, but not in a way that would scare prospects).
Element 6 targets the travel industry. You may think that would turn off those readers who had no interest in travel, but Ogilvy had figured that objection out long before his final revision.
His counter was to use proof. He talks about a 4x return for Cunard and mentions his agency (just in case we don’t yet realise he works with first class businesses).
He then throws in the British Tourist Authority to ramp it up another notch (who wouldn’t trust an agency vetted by the British Government?).
And just to polish off this particular bullet point, he chucks in a secret about mail order direct response ads (never send an expensive brochure until you’re certain the person wants it).
By this time, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to know what the rest of these elements are all about. Well, that’s all coming over the next few weeks. Watch out for each instalment (and sign up to the weekly Science of Copywriting newsletter if you don’t want to miss a single issue).