March 17, 2024

Death is part of life…but you know that already. 🙁

But how do you/we make sure the people who pass are always remembered?

Well…by documenting the remembrance.

I’ve written numerous times over the years about my favorite children’s movie (that is really for adults…I love when that happens) …called Coco.

The premise of the animated feature is based on the Mexican holiday, Dia de Muertos (The Day of the Dead) …and it is anything but depressing or morbid.

If you want more details on how this movie became one of my favorites, click here.

As someone who also has as his favorites, Pulp Fiction, Midnight Cowboy, Amadeus, and It’s a Wonderful Life, you can add Coco to my eclectic (and weird) taste in movies. 🙂

The thesis of the movie is that when we die, we will never experience a “final death” if we are remembered by the living…and at a minimum, on an annual holiday, when we not only remember, but celebrate.

On the fourth anniversary of the death of one of the greatest copywriters of all time, Clayton Makepeace, I will celebrate him (fondly) today…with a recounting of our relationship and how he touched so many in this industry, even if you never knew him or heard of him before.

The purpose of this post is twofold:

To remember Clayton to keep him as far away from his “final death” as possible…and to enable many younger copywriters and marketers (well, younger than me) to know about the contributions he made to their careers.

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 four years…specifically by his star student turned mentor herself, 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.

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 Gene/Clayton-inspired-mini-course I’m teaching beginning March 19th.

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

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 almost three decades.

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.

Let me add a little more color to this special man.

As I mentioned already, 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 bad asses 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 forty years), 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.

All of the books by the masters.

He is also one of those “A Listers” who is extraordinary in all seven characteristics I have identified that are present in every topflight copywriter (and marketer)—and there are only a handful who excel in all seven (listed in this post).

Over the years, Clayton and I 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, cementing the concept of being a student of marketing and media to create the best copy:

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, with multiple components, 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 a note of 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 we affectionately called BBB) mailed over 16 million pieces over its mailing life…and gave us the confidence to launch dozens more magalogs with similar success, over many more years.

Here is the cover of that masterpiece:


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

It’s a swipe that many of you might have 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 an incomparable 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 the tenet of some of the best online marketers today.

They imitate it every day and in every way.

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).

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 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 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” (i.e. “playing”).

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 again, testifying before Congress on financial issues of interest, Clayton had a lightbulb moment.

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 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…tools that are being borrowed by copywriters and marketers today whether they realize it or not. 🙂



Warmly,



Brian



P.S. Let’s address the artificial elephant in the room.

Is it even worth learning how to put an advertisement together or…

…improve your copywriting skills or…

…study the classics like Breakthrough Advertising anymore if AI can do everything for you?



I had a version of this question come in from someone who’s thinking about signing up for the Breakthrough Advertising Bootcamp that kicks off this Tuesday, March 19th.

[Yes, time is running out to sign up…and if you are reading this after Tuesday, March 19th, there’s also still time to sign up since all of the live calls are recorded and you will be able to catch up quickly…]

Regarding the question of AI replacing copywriters, it’s a fair one…but one that has both Clayton and Gene Schwartz very upset.

They have both channeled me recently. 🙂

And it’s a question you may be asking yourself.

Here’s my answer:

Direct response marketing is more than just the words on a page.

I remember sitting with Gene Schwartz on his couch in the living room of his New York City penthouse, surrounded by his impressive art collection years ago.

He was working on a promotion for his small health publishing company, Instant Improvement.

I was helping him choose the right mailing list for his front-end offer.

This is something I did many times for Gene.

And during these meetings we never once talked about hooks or copywriting angles (or AI or Bots for that matter).

He was entirely focused on understanding the psychological makeup of the person who would best respond to his offer.

  • What were their secret desires?
  • Had they made past purchases that indicated they would be open to the kind of solution that Gene wanted to offer?
  • And what other types of offers were they receiving from other publishing companies?

This was the process that Gene used to figure out what his copy needed to do.

It’s a process he developed over many decades and documented in Breakthrough Advertising.

Compared to the time and effort he put into understanding his reader, writing the copy was the easy part.

And this is what I think a lot of people miss today when the topic of AI comes up.

Words are words.

And tools like ChatGPT can spit out a lot of them for you.

But words in the hands of an amateur who doesn’t have a process for getting inside the minds of their prospect is like handing a surgeon’s scalpel to a butcher and asking them to perform open heart surgery.

You must know how to find and apply the right words that will nudge your reader toward a buying decision.

My friend David Deutsch calls this process “Copythinking.”

And this is the secret of Breakthrough Advertising that I don’t think many people realize.

Breakthrough Advertising is not a book about writing copy.

It describes a process that you can use to quietly assess your market and see the marketing opportunities that others are missing.

It shows you how to make your offer stand out from all the cookie cutter and formulaic copy that everyone else is using.

And the great gift of AI tools like ChatGPT is that we can use them to gain a better understanding of our market’s desires, states of awareness and market sophistication.

That’s why inside the Breakthrough Advertising Bootcamp, we walk you slowly through Gene’s process and show you how you can supercharge it with AI.

“Will AI replace copywriters?” is the wrong question.

The better question is:

“As a student of direct response, how can AI help me understand my market and find the right words that will make my offer stand out faster?”

Now you can figure out your own process for this if you want.

Or you can follow the proven process that Gene developed and that students of Breakthrough Advertising have been using with great success for nearly 60 years.

Clayton Makepeace was one of those students.

On March 19, I’m kicking off the SIXTH Breakthrough Advertising Bootcamp for anyone who wants to learn and apply Gene’s system to their business.

It’s a two-week live experience including six calls with me and my co-author of the official companion study guide to Breakthrough Advertising, Chris Mason.

Chris has done the heavy lifting with the agenda…and even with this P.S.

Click here to hear from past Bootcampers and take a look at the topics we’re going to cover.

It’s only $197 or $40/call.

And if you don’t own a copy of Breakthrough Advertising, I have a special offer for you that I’ve never made before.

Understanding how the Breakthrough Advertising “System” works will give you better results and an unfair advantage from any AI tool you use because your inputs into that tool will improve dramatically.

All the calls from the Bootcamp are recorded so even if you miss a live call, you’ll be able to catch up quickly.

Here’s the link to join us.

I know without a doubt this is going to be the best Breakthrough Advertising Bootcamp we’ve ever done.

Please join us.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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