Wednesday, May 27, 2020

#95 1977 Textbook Perfect Ad

Issue #95 — Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Posted by Denny Hatch

This 1977 Direct Marketing Ad Was Perfect.
It would work like gangbusters in 2020 in print, email or the Internet!

The two-page spread above was the result of millions of dollars of testing by myriad book clubs over a period of 41 years. The very first such club was Book-of-the-Month invented by Max Sackheim and Harry Scherman in 1928. 

BOM was an enormous success and quickly followed by Literary Guild, History Book Club, Mystery Book Club, Military Book Club, and a slew of others. In the 1960s and 1970s I ran the Peter Possum Paperback Book Club, Macmillan’s Lawyer’s Book Club and the Better Homes & Gardens Family Book Service.

You Wanna Successfully Market Books, Consumer and Business Products and Services—in fact anything—via email, the Internet, space advertising and/or direct mail? Here’s how to do it.

First Identify Your Prospects—Who’s Gonna Buy.
• “Success in direct marketing is 40% lists, 40% offer and 20% everything else.” —Ed Mayer

Hire a top list consultant.

Get a list of postal and email lists of people by name (not “Resident”) who:
• Have bought (or evinced interest in) your kind of product or service.
• Buy by mail order (over distance).
• Can afford what you are selling.
• Pay their bills.

If you plan to advertise, be sure to pick publications and websites where:
• Direct marketing ads appear regularly.
• Your competition has advertised on a repeat basis.

Get samples of your competition’s direct mailings, email offers plus print and digital ads to see if they jibe with what you are offering.
"If you want to be successful in direct marketing, see what your competition is doing, watch those efforts that keep appearing over and over again (which means they are successful and bringing in tons of money), and then steal smart." —Dorothy Kerr

Come Up with a Barn Burner of an Offer.
• Always make an offer. No offer, no reason to respond. Don’t throw money away.

• Doubleday's terrific offer: your choice of 6 hardcover books for 99¢.

“If you want to dramatically increase your response, dramatically improve you offer.” 
—Axel Andersson

Consider a Free Gift/Premium.
—Doubleday offers a Free Tote bag when you join.

Dick Benson on Premiums
• "A premium is a bribe to say Yes now.”

• “Dollar-for-dollar, premiums are better incentives than cash discounts.”

• “Desirability is the key element of a premium; the relationship of the premium to the product isn’t important.”

• “Two premiums are frequently better than one.”

Create a Powerful, Evocative Headline

• Doubleday’s copywriter did not say: “Take 6 Books for 99¢.” A book is heavy clunky thing of paper, glue and millions of tiny black symbols. Instead the headline says: “…indulge your fantasies this month.”

• “Your fantasies” might be:
—Thrilling reading experiences to liven up your life.
—Receiving six best-selling titles with colorful covers to be displayed on a bookshelf that will impress friends, family and business associates with your literacy and intellect.

• The 13 most powerful and evocative words in the English Language:
You - Save - Money - Easy - Guarantee - Health
Proven - Safety - Discovery - New - Love – Results

• The word “you” or “your” is used three times in the Doubleday headline. The ad is talking directly to you, the reader.

• “Headlines on the ad and teasers on the envelope are the hot pants on the hooker.” —Bill Jayme

“The headline selects the reader.” —Axel Andersson

“Headlines make ads work. The best headlines appeal to people’s self-interest or give news.” —John Caples

• “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your advertising dollar.” —David Ogilvy

“Headlines that promise benefits sell more than those that don’t.” —Ogilvy

• "Your headline should telegraph what you want to say—in simple language.” —Ogilvy

• "Readers do not stop to decipher the meanings of obscure headlines.” —Ogilvy

• "The more typographical changes you make in your headline, the fewer people will read it.” —Ogilvy

“Some headlines are ‘blind.’ They don’t say what the product is or what it will do for you. They are about 20 percent below average in recall.” —Ogilvy

“When you put your headline in quotes, you increase recall by an average of 28 percent.” —Ogilvy

Now, I spend hours on headlines—days if necessary. And when I get a good headline, I know that my task is nearly finished. Writing the copy can usually be done in a short time if necessary. And that advertisement will be a good one—that is, if the headline is really a “stopper.” —Claude Hopkins

• “The identical ad run with various headlines differs tremendously in its returns. It is not uncommon for a change in headlines to multiply returns from five or ten times over.” —Hopkins 

• In other words, never-oh-never spend many hours perfecting a career-changing email message and then slap on the first subject line that pops into your head and click "Send."

The Order Mechanism —Easy and Foolproof

“No response device, no response.” —Anver Suleiman

“Make it easy as possible for the customer to order.”
—Elsworth S. Howell

“The order form should be so simple a moron can understand it.       
—Malcolm Decker

• The order coupon above is a classic requiring just four lines to fill out:
­—Six rectangular boxes for the 6 ID numbers of your 6 chosen titles.
—Name line, address line, city, state and zip line.
—Stick it in an envelope and drop it in the mail.

• The offer—indeed the entire business model of the club—is described in the coupon in just 78 words:
—Any 6 books for 99¢.
—You will be billed.
—Agree to buy 6 more books (at huge discounts) in the coming year.
—Free tote bag.

• What I would add in 2020 to this 1977 Order Coupon
—800 Number
—URL for e-responses
—In other words, let the customer order in the most convenient way.
—Always put your address on the order device. If the prospect detaches the coupon and loses the ad, it's still possible to order.

• What is sweet about the old 1977 order coupon
—Send no money; bill me.
—The responder is not forced go through the nuisance of giving credit card info, which could hurt response. That says Doubleday trusts that you’ll pony up the 99¢ and therefore trusts you.
—Today’s marketer—in this sleaze era of “I got away with it” and premium bandits—would be nuts not to insist on credit card data.
—This would be an interesting test—w/wo credit card data. 

About Order Mechanisms and Coupons
• Never go live with a promotion until the ordering process has been tested and proven (1) that it works and (2) it's easy follow. 
• Recruit five people—strangers, not office mates—to go through the ordering process. If anyone has problems, you should be told at once.

• For example, with paper order forms, is there enough room for the customer to write everything?

Takeaway to Consider—The Old Rules
 Work Just Fine for Email Marketers.
• When email/Internet marketing began to catch fire in the mid-1990s, I was in my mid-50s and well-known for my iconic newsletter and junk mail archive service, WHO’S MAILING WHAT! And later as editor and publisher of Target Marketing magazine. Plus 7 business books.

• Throughout my career I was lucky to have had great mentors who welcomed my picking their brains. My first writing success came when I was 15 years old.

• Enter the Internet—a new medium. Every business, individual entrepreneur and design studio jumped on the bandwagon. Almost all had no idea what the hell they were doing.

• These hotshot tyros—who had never been mentored—hired young people to assist them.

• Think of Dean Swift (of Gulliver’s Travels fame) who wrote:
  Little fleas have smaller fleas
      Upon their back to bite ‘em.
  And smaller fleas have lesser fleas
      And so, ad infinitum.

• I intuitively knew that all the rules and techniques I had learned and written about over the years were applicable. This was marketing and sales—creating wants (not servicing needs). It’s headlines, copy, offers, design, fulfillment, finding the right people to market to. It's not about digital vs. print. It's about tried and true communications.

• Alas, these hotshots’ messages to me were: “Hey, ole-timer, the Internet is a new medium and a new paradigm. It’s a world of new rules and we make the rules now. So, buzz off.”

• Whereupon the Dot-com Bubble Burst and a ton of the hotshot (non-mentored) kids were canned and moved back in with mummy and daddy.
The dot-com bubble (also known as the dot-com boom, the tech bubble, and the Internet bubble) was a bubble caused by excessive speculation in Internet-related companies in the late 1990s, a period of massive growth in the use and adoption of the Internet.
Between 1995 and its peak in March 2000, the Nasdaq Composite stock market index rose 400%, only to fall 78% from its peak by October 2002, giving up all its gains during the bubble. During the crash, many online shopping companies, such as, Webvan, and, as well as several communication companies, such as Worldcom, NorthPoint Communications and Global Crossing, failed and shut down. Some companies, such as Cisco, whose stock declined by 86%, and Qualcomm, lost a large portion of their market capitalization but survived, and others, such as eBay and, also lost value but recovered quickly. —Wikipedia
• In short, this post is an attempt to show how the old rules of direct marketing—developed over 800 years—directly relate to the nascent digital age. Hope you find it helpful.

P.S. For the fascinating story of how a seasoned direct marketer used proven direct marketing know-how to catapult AOL into the Internet stratosphere and bring in 30 million members, check out my 2001 profile of the Direct Marketer of the Year: AOL and the Genius of JanBrandt.


Word count: 1625

You Are Invited to Meet Denny Hatch

At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.


A Note About Denny Hatch’s Marketing Books
When North American Publishing summarily shut down its little book publishing division, all my direct marketing and business books were suddenly gone from the market. Some were available as “collector’s items” at many hundreds—and in some cases thousands!—of dollars. I have made arrangements with a Canadian marketer to republish some of these as Special Reports or White Papers. Will let you know when they are available. Thank you for your patience.

About Denny Hatch’s Novels
Meanwhile two titles are available. They are:
How Mafia Marketed a Candidate
To Become Mayor of New York City

A Comedy About Breeding People 
 Kindle Edition: $2.99

Note to Readers:  
May I send you an alert when each new blog is posted? If so, kindly give me the okay by sending your First Name, Last Name and e-mail to I guarantee your personal information will not be shared with anyone at any time for any reason. The blog is a free service. No cost. No risk. No obligation. Cancel any time. I look forward to being in touch!

Google owns and this Comment Section. If you do not have a Google account, contact me directly and I will happily post your comment with a note that this is per your request. Thank you and do keep in touch.

Invitation to Marketers and Direct Marketers: 
Guest Blog Posts Are Welcome. 
If you have a marketing story to tell, case history, concept to propose or a memoir, give a shout. I’ll get right back to you. I am:

You Are Invited to Join the Discussion!


  1. NOTE: My first direct marketing mentor and boss, Lew Smith—who went on to be EVP and creative director of the Wunderman agencies—gave me the okay to his email in this Comment Section:

    Dear Denny,
    Here’s an addendum to your book club history. The Book-of-the-Month Club was indeed an enormous success - but not immediately.
    Scherman initially launched it as a positive-option club - with disappointing results. Max Sackheim then suggested that the club select the book-of-the-month and send it automatically... negative option was born and saved the day.
    Regards, Lew Smith

  2. Lew,

    Great hearing from you. Yeah, the negative option was brilliant. The offer: “This is your selection of the month. It will be sent to you automatically unless you send in the rejection form or say either “no thank you” or that you want an alternate title instead.

    Both Lew and I were alumni of Grolier Enterprises. 45 years after we left, Grolier got caught with its pants down and fined $710k by the Federal Trade Commission for not fully explaining the negative option system. The customers complained they were receiving unordered merchandise.

    The marketing lessons here: Always tell the truth about what you are selling and what the customer can expect. Our boss at the time, Elsworth Howell, used to say: “Always try to turn a disadvantage into an advantage.”

    Or, in the words of Lester Wunderman: “Always try to turn a marketing disaster into a marketing opportunity.”

    As entrepreneur/copywriter Malcolm Decker said: ”Times of adversity and screw-ups may be the only times when you can really show your customers how much you love them.”

  3. NOTE: UK subscriber Anthony Green okayed my sharing his email with you in the Comment Section. —DH

    Hope you are keeping well in these strange times. This is a great piece. However, I think that headline could be improved. You say it’s tested to death but if tested against mine I can’t believe it would win!!! It doesn’t hit the nail on the head and doesn't flow well when you read it. And why isn’t the work “BOOK” in the headline??? It would be interesting to know what other headlines it was tested against.

  4. Anthony,
    Always grand to hear from you.
    As I said in the blog:
    A book is heavy clunky thing of paper, glue and millions of tiny black symbols. Not a pretty image.
    The Doubleday copywriter did not say “Start with any 6 hardcover books for just 99¢.” He called them “any 6 best-sellers.”
    “Best-sellers” are sexy—an implied positive review. If they are best-sellers, people love reading them.
    Let’s say you’re pitching vitamins and you offer a FREE BOTTLE. It’s not the bottle (or the pills) that are important. The message: “Enjoy a month of glowing good health—FREE”
    Do keep in touch.