Shortly after leaving Boardroom in 2015, I was offered an opportunity to co-write and edit a book with my friend Craig Simpson.
I was already considering my own book (which became Overdeliverin 2019)–but when Craig told me about what he was planning, I couldn’t say no…it was too good to pass up:
“We are going to explore in depth the groundbreaking work of six Legends of advertising, marketing, and copywriting and bring to life some of their most important techniques and concepts, many of them implemented almost 100 years ago. The thesis will be that what they invented is actually the foundation all marketing is based on today. If we want to work most effectively, we have to go back to the source.”
I believe that Chapter Two of Overdeliver on “Original Source” was the continuation of the book Criag described above, The Advertising Solution.
After all, you gotta know where babies come from…
I have talked about my life’s mission to be the bridge between all of the eternal truths of direct marketing of the past and how those truths can be applied to everything we deem as state-of-the-art in the multi-channel marketing world in the present…and on into the future.
And it’s amazing how much the six Legends profiled in The Advertising Solution realized the importance of measurability, testing, and what makes people tick (and buy) without a computer, the Internet…or yes, even Facebook.
It’s funny (not “ha ha funny”) that most of the people I grew up with in direct marketing in the 80’s and 90’s sort of gave up when the Internet came along…too much to learn and too much to adapt to…and a traditional “retirement” looked more attractive to many.
And as I have said in the past, too many of my mentors (the teachers I grew up with) are dead.
That is, when I was in my 20’s and 30’s I gravitated to folks in their 60’s and 70’s (because they had all the accumulated wisdom)—but unfortunately they are no longer with us.
It was those people who would never have given up and they would have embraced the Internet…but unfortunately they ran out of time.
I see this whole “Internet thing” differently since I am still a young man…and I believe it will catch on. 🙂
The Internet is the ultimate direct response medium—with infinite possibilities which can give us immediate feedback and tons of applications.
But I needed much more education.
Lucky for me, the education I had gained during the first 20 years in the business was all applicable to everything I would learn over the next 20 years…and beyond.
And that initial education was my golden ticket into the rooms where it’s happening now.
I just needed to connect the dots.
I also re-defined “retirement” in the words of entrepreneur coach Dan Sullivan:
I am retired from all of the things I’m not good at and I’m retired from all of the things I don’t like to do; and I am retired from people I don’t want to hang out with anymore.
I may not be good at online marketing but I do like it a lot—so I realized I need to never retire from being a lifelong learner (i.e. student).
And that’s a big reason why I said yes to The Advertising Solution.
I found it fascinating once I dug in how much these six legends understood, clarified, and demonstrated principles that have become the lifeblood of all we do in marketing today—both offline and online.
What that means is, regardless of what type of promotions you are doing today, whether it’s direct mail, email marketing, blogging, social media or anything else, these are the principles you must understand—and use.
They are as vital and practical today as they were when they were first put forward.
But then you must put them into practice through all the marketing channels available today. I am on a lifelong quest to convince everyone that this is true. I’m getting there.
I am a student in one way or another of these six incredible men—true heroes to me (and so many others)—and now I am a student of everyone who is inventing and creating today as well.
* * *
I think there’s a theme here worth noting about the six “old timers”:
The universal truths they wrote about are timeless.
Yes, some things will sound and feel outdated since they are not talking about social media or anything digital, but consider how much of their work has stood the test of time—it transcends technology.
One of my favorite quotes is from one of the great advertising men of all time, Bill Bernbach (which I quoted in both The Advertising Solution and Overdeliver):
“Adapt your techniques to an idea, not an idea to your techniques.”
It’s not “I want to advertise on Adwords or Facebook”; it is “I have an idea—what platform or medium is most conducive to working for that idea?”
I don’t want to get too dramatic here, but these six guys are the “builders of the pyramids,” creating something incredible without the use of modern technology.
And I am not going out on a limb to say that if these six Legends were alive today, they would see the Internet as the ultimate direct response medium (as they should).
They would have a field day applying their genius to marketing online (especially because they would not have to pay for postage).
I admit that the books and newsletters that these Legends left us can be a little difficult to get through–they were often written in a style that sounds a bit foreign to us today.
The Advertising Solution takes the essence of each of these greats and makes it easy for you to understand, assimilate, and start applying in your own work.
Basically, we created, in one volume, a way for you to access these Legends without having to read everything they wrote.
A checklist for the ages.
And if you want more from any of them, their writing and wisdom is readily available.
P.S. Below is a quick synopsis of why Craig and I chose these 6 Legends…as an addendum:
Claude Hopkins “invented” Scientific Advertising; and knowing that he wrote his masterpiece in 1923 and that it still holds up to this day tells you a bit about how influential he was then…and now.
His book is one of very few on a short list I recommend to anyone beginning a marketing career today.
(Note: You can get a free PDF of the illustrated and annotated version of Scientific Advertising at the resource page for The Advertising Solution—along with swipes and videos from the Legends.)
In one of the later editions of the book, it was said that, “Hopkins is hopelessly out of date, and amazingly current.”
And I admit, as did the writer of the foreword of that edition, there are things that Hopkins wrote about that have been disproved in various ways, but the fact remains that he was all about “scientific advertising” in a time when there was very little “science” available (i.e. the ability to track and create automated metrics wouldn’t happen until decades later) is astounding.
Robert Collier wrote the Robert Collier Letter Book in 1937—a dense read—with lessons in writing sales letters for a lifetime.
While it is not talked about as the “must read” as often as the masterpieces from Ogilvy, Caples, and Hopkins, Craig and I learned as much studying how Collier dissected the construction of the sales letter.
One of the most exciting things about what Craig and I have done with Collier’s opus, a somewhat forgotten classic, is that we were committed to distilling the gems into usable advice and techniques for anyone writing sales letters today.
Collier, despite being relatively unknown (and less read), might have been the premier sales letter copywriter—ever. It is so satisfying to expose Collier’s wisdom to a new generation.
John Caples was probably the first person to understand direct marketing measurement, metrics, and testing methodology. Tested Advertising Methods is in its fifth edition and is still a must read for anyone who writes copy or promotes anything in any medium. The fact that this “bible” of proven advertising techniques has continuously been updated to reflect all of the changes in marketing today tells us that Caples was clearly on to something.
David Ogilvy was a direct marketer trapped in a general advertiser’s body. He was a true creative genius and pioneer who understood “direct marketing” before it was ever talked about separately from “advertising.”
He did not, however…
“…regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
Gary Halbert is a Legend in this book who I had the pleasure of meeting, and his influence has expanded even many years after his premature death. We lost him way too early.
Over the years, I have met dozens of copywriters he mentored, some of whom are the best copywriters in the world today. Through his writings and interviews he continues to influence the marketplace in a major way.
When I started in the newsletter business in 1981, I read a Halbert quote that guided me and helped me grow one of the largest consumer newsletters ever, Bottom Line/Personal.
He simply said:
“People subscribe to your newsletter for what they think you will do for them; they re-subscribe because they like you.”
That shaped the way I acquired new subscribers and how I renewed them…sort of like “they come for the information and stay for the inspiration.” And renewals are everything.
I know Halbert influenced everyone he touched.
I don’t know of one great copywriter working today who has not studied Halbert in some form…learned from him…and continuously re-read the incredible body of work he left behind in swipe files readily available to everyone.
Gene Schwartz, the one Legend I knew well and someone I can call a mentor, was (and still is) as influential as anyone who has written copy or marketed products in the history of advertising.
Schwartz was a true Renaissance Man, as well-read as anyone I have ever met, and someone who really understood what made people tick—and buy.
Schwartz was able to get into the psyche of all the audiences he wrote to…and the clients he worked with intimately.
His landmark book, Breakthrough Advertising, is considered the most important book ever written on copy, creative…and human behavior.
Written in 1966, not one word has been changed in the current edition…and it remains 100% relevant and is considered a masterpiece and a must read for anyone in m effectively. I know many copywriters today who follow Schwartz’s methodology almost like a religion.
As I said last week, Gene Schwartz didn’t write copy—he assembled it. The copywriters who say they learned their craft from him (and from Breakthrough Advertising) are some of the best writers our industry has ever seen. And they tell their students and followers to read Breakthrough Advertising (and The Brilliance Breakthrough) before embarking on their career.
P.P.S. Oh…I almost forgot…
If you want to buy The Advertising Solution with all the free resources go to: