April 2, 2022

I can’t believe it’s been two years since we lost copywriting superstar Clayton Makepeace. 

While he will no longer write a new magalog, or create a groundbreaking VSL or develop a kick ass email series that would knock anyone’s socks off (i.e., getting people to order barefoot), there is an archive of his copy and educational materials to last a few more lifetimes. 

We’ve seen so much of it shared over the past two years…specifically by his star student turned mentor, Carline Anglade-Cole…but there are surprises every day about a new swipe, seminar or course being released by Clayton as if he was still alive. 

And frankly, he lives on in all of us. 

Clayton Makepeace didn’t leave us just random “swipes” either: He was world class in executing copy but also world class in teaching others to execute just like him. 

And then there’s his bigger than life personality which anyone who has ever met him will never forget. 

It was always a party when you were hangin’ with Clayton…work or play…it didn’t matter because his work was his play. 

You know how there are some people, even if you have never met them in person, still seem to end up being your friend, mentor or coach from afar? 

It’s because of what they stand for throughout their lifetime—specifically what they did, how they did it and how they taught what they did. 

That is Clayton Makepeace in a nutshell. 

Many people tell me today that Gene Schwartz is their mentor (despite Gene having passed away before some of them were even born) …and the same is true for folks who never heard of Clayton. 

See the P.S. for a Clayton inspired mini-course I’m teaching beginning April 5th

I am vacationing this week near Clayton’s beloved Siesta Key (in Florida) …and while I was thinking of him (and also Joe Sugarman from last week’s tribute) I thought it would be a good idea on the two-year anniversary of Clayton’s passing to repeat my tribute to him this week. 

Clayton is remembered as much for his body of work, his courses, his teaching as for the comforting, supportive (and often extroverted) ways he expressed himself. 

In the spirit of the movie Coco, he will never die because he will always be remembered…and hopefully this post will allow many younger marketers (well, younger than me) to remember his contributions for a long time to come. 

The Buddhist proverb goes:

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”  

With Clayton we can rewrite that proverb:

“When the marketer/copywriter is ready the world-class copywriter/teacher will appear…probably on a Harley.”

He loved his motorcycles. 🙂 

Clayton was an “easy rider” who made copywriting look like easy writing. 

If you didn’t know anything about Clayton until today, believe me when I tell you that he is more influential on your career than you are aware of, whether you are a copywriter or a marketer and whether you work offline or online (or both). 

If you didn’t know him, or work with him directly (but have followed his work), and you can somehow chalk him up as an influential teacher or coach, you know how fortunate you are. 

If you knew Clayton, worked with him, or simply observed him, I know you loved him as I did. 

We were the very fortunate ones. 

He was my friend, mentor, coach and collaborator on so many projects over the past 25+ years. 

I was one of those students (i.e., marketers) who was ready when the teacher (i.e., world class copywriter) appeared. 

And we had so much fun in the process. 

If you did or didn’t have the opportunity to know him, work with him or observe him, let me give you a little more taste of the man. 

He was a larger-than-life personality, always cheering you on and supporting you with wisdom and encouragement; and the priceless stories and humor were like the premiums (i.e., bonuses) from one of his direct mail masterpieces. 

Here’s a picture from the American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI) Boot Camp a few years ago–some badasses in this photo (not including me)—can you name them all?  Clayton is the second from the left… 

Clayton not only wrote some of the greatest promotions ever, offline and online (over four decades), but he is a “professor” in the craft we call “copywriting.” 

He wasn’t Tony Robbins on stage—far from it—no dancing and prancing for Clayton. He was the anti-Robbins speaker…always seated at a desk or a podium on the stage, dishing out one priceless nugget after another, always professorial, always serving his audience in the best way he knew how. 

Dancing and prancing can be overrated. 

It’s also important to mention that he was no slouch in direct response marketing either. 

He is what I call a “doubler” because he studied marketing as much as he studied copywriting. 

He is also one of those “A Listers” who is extraordinary in all 7 characteristics that are present in every top flight copywriter —and there are only a handful who excel in all 7: 

  1. He was HUNGRY and knew how to “show” and not just “tell” …choosing the best words for the audience he was writing to at all times.
  2. He had INSATIABLE CURIOSITY, never settling for anything superficial in his research which showed up in his writing.
  3. He knew how to SEEK AND ACCESS FEEDBACK LOOPS for his copy and research…it didn’t matter that he was a master…he knew every piece of copy could always be improved upon. (See #6 below)
  4. He had supreme PASSION for whatever topic he was writing about…and he if he didn’t, he would get some (through total immersion in the topic) …or pass on the project.
  5. He understood DIRECT MARKETING PRINCIPLES and never simply “wrote for food”—he read Hopkins to Sugarman to Schwartz to Halbert to Ogilvy to Abraham to Cialdini to Kennedy…and every copywriter or marketer who had something meaningful to teach. I can’t remember a training or presentation he ever gave that didn’t come with a recommended reading list.
  6. He had HUMILITY and lived “confidence without arrogance”—which is rare–and the real test of being a master.
  7. And he has A BODY OF WORK that will stand the test of time.

He and I, over the years, hatched evil plans of all kinds which usually started with a creative idea from him…blossomed into a new promotion…and even new products.

This was never more evident than when he wrote our first “magalog control package” at Boardroom.

A magalog is a 20–32-page, self-mailer format that three other top copywriters tried and couldn’t create a control for us–but it was a successful format already for many of our competitors.

This caused lots of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and more importantly, FOLP (Fear of Lost Profits).

I remember going to visit my direct mail guru in 1993, Dick Benson, armed with our lackluster results with magalogs, and asking, “What are we doing wrong? Should we give up on this format?”

Benson read me the riot act big time:

The magalog format is perfect for your products…it is long form, enabling you to tell a story and a sales message about an unknown brand properly and completely

[Note: Boardroom’s books and newsletters were not household names]

It’s exactly what you need, Brian. You can’t give up.

Magalogs will eventually beat the pants off any envelope package, even one with a 12-to-16-page sales letter, if executed with precision.

You know my Rule of Thumb that states “self-mailers almost never work?”

That doesn’t apply to you.

And since you have so much valuable content in your books and newsletters, the magalog allows you to “give away some steak and not be all sizzle.” [More on that in a minute]

Also, since you pride yourself as being the best list guy in the world, [said to me by Benson with just a little sarcasm] it’s clear your problem is NOT with this dynamic new format…you have a problem with your choice of a copywriter.

Now that was a lecture worth acting on.

And the right copywriter to solve the magalog puzzle for us was Clayton Makepeace.

First mailed in mid-1994, his magalog for The Big Black Book (an encyclopedic, consumer tome) mailed over 16 million pieces over its mailing life…and gave us the confidence to launch dozens more magalogs with similar success, spanning almost three decades.

Here is the cover of that masterpiece:

As a “bonus,” click on the “play button” on Marty Edelston’s face above and get a copy of the entire promotion, 28 pages of glorious (and winning) copy.

It’s a swipe that many of you might have already in your archives– and I know you definitely have it if you attended the Titans of Direct Response event in 2014 (Clayton was invited but couldn’t make it).

And whether you have it or not, I suggest you study it now.

I don’t want to influence your opinion (well maybe I do), that it is a masterpiece of copy and design.

I dare you to click here and disagree with me.

And based on the results, you can’t disagree with me.

Notice the sizzle AND steak in the piece:

  • Fascination bullet points on the cover referencing pages inside the magalog (sizzle).
  • Then once you’re inside the maglog, a little steak (“pieces of the secrets” that are contained inside The Big Black Book) …with page numbers directing you to the “full secrets”.
  • That’s the “can’t live without sizzle,” leading you to the main course of all steak which you can only get by buying the book.

If you like this approach, there is a lot more where this came from…past and present…from Clayton and many others.

I also believe this magalog for BBB is a precursor of a tenet of some of the best online marketers today.

That is, “Give away your best content up front because there is always ‘more best content’ where that came from.”

While you can’t give away the entire store in direct mail like you can online, I believe we did what we could do with Clayton’s promotion and others like it (under the restrictions of paying for paper and postage)–and this was clearly the beginning of a new approach of content marketing in 1994, well before the Internet and email marketing really took hold.

Can’t you see the roots of everything we do today online from this long copy, fascination driven, magalog approach from the stone age of the 1990’s?

It’s where all of those babies (i.e. promotions) of the new millennium came from.

I have so many other memories of how Clayton pioneered his craft.

Here’s one that showed how detailed he could be with his methodology of writing, combined with his insatiable curiosity to go deep with research and his creativity:

I recall visiting Martin Weiss, a wonderful entrepreneur and publisher of financial newsletters, in the 1990’s–and lucky for me on that day Clayton (who was Martin’s top copywriter) was visiting as well.

Well, I was visiting…Clayton was “working.”

He wanted to develop a new promotion for Martin.

Martin was the “guru” behind the newsletter…and since Martin had previously (and was planning on) testifying before Congress on financial issues of interest, Clayton set the stage for that in Martin’s conference room.

With Martin on one end of a long table and Clayton at the other, Clayton asked questions of Martin that only he could answer (with incredible candor and competence) related to the newsletter that they were promoting (along with current events and related subjects).

Of course, they recorded it, took some pictures of Martin “presenting before Congress” (i.e., Clayton playing a Senator in this scenario) and the result was a brand-new control package, full of gems that Clayton plucked from Martin’s brain.

I thought this was a unique way to “get the full story” and it led to fresh, new and relevant content.

That was one of hundreds of tools Clayton had in his toolkit.

I’ll keep sharing if you will. Because Clayton is still sharing too.

Clayton G. Makepeace
April 13, 1952-March 24, 2020



P.S. This is your last chance to sign up for the upcoming “Breakthrough Advertising QuickStart Bootcamp” which begins this Tuesday, April 5th.

I decided to add 10 additional seats due to overwhelming demand…and the fact that we may not do another one this year.

In addition, we’ve got many students from my Titans Xcelerator Mastermind signed up for this Bootcamp (we made it an overdelivered benefit of their membership). 🙂

And since they have all been exposed to Gene Schwartz and Breakthrough Advertising through a “Breakthrough Advertising Study Group” inside the mastermind previously, they will serve as additional “faculty” for this upcoming Bootcamp.

They are Gene Schwartz scholars ready to share what they’ve learned with you…truly a bonus for all attendees.

The Bootcamp is 8 one hour coaching calls over two weeks with exercises, discussions, hot seats on your specific business or area of expertise and how Gene Schwartz’s classic can move you forward exponentially.

Take a look at this page.

You’ll read success stories from students who have been through previous Bootcamps…and the page also has all the details to register.

Again, we have less than 10 seats remaining (and still keeping it small enough for intimacy, maximum interaction and collaboration).

Sign up here and I’ll see you on Tuesday!

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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