Reflections on John Caples’ “How To Make Your Advertising Make Money”
About John Caples
John Caples was a popular copywriter whose vast mail-order advertising skills won him a place in the history of publicity. David Ogilvy once called Caples, “[O]one of the most efficient copywriters ever been there.”
Caples will be remembered for a classic commercial that he made for the U.S. Music school, in the 1920s. It started, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started playing…” It brought in a record number of coupons when it first ran in Physical Culture magazine. The ad was so successful that it ran for several years in other publications, and was imitated by a lot of other copywriters.
I recently read his book, “How To Make Your Advertising Make Money” and here’s what I got out of it.
Headlines make advertising work. The best headlines draw the self-interest of people or offer news. Long headlines which say something take out short headlines which say nothing. A headline has one job: to halt consumers with a convincing claim.
Simple words are potent. And note, that's important to every word. For example, “How to fix vehicles” beats “How to repair cars,” by 20%.
Print out more copies than you need. Write 2,000 when you need 1,000 words, then slim it down. Ads containing lots of facts are effective. Customers can read all the copy you send them as long as it's interesting. When it's dull, you can't save it by short copy.
Clear writing exceeds cute writing. Get right to the point. Don't save the best of your rewards for last. Lead on with that. And do not mention merely the benefits. Tell them what they are going to miss if they do not act. Break down the copy into three actions: start, middle and end.
Take note that advertisers get sick of their ads before the public does. If it does work, don't change it. Just try to make even better ads and get even.
About the Audience
Times are shifting but people are not. Words have the ability to make people feel things and that’s not going to change. Words are just as important as ever. Ads that deliver news or appeal to people's ability to change themselves still work. And will always work.
Test it all. By running the best ads in the best positions in the best media at the best time of the day and in the best seasons, you're going to stretch every ad dollar. Also, after testing a lot of different ads, see what the winners all have in common.
Words Used in Successful Headlines
Here are words that are used most frequently in successful headlines:
Basically, the words ‘you,’ ‘new’, and ‘how’ stand out. Make your ads all around them.
Some of the most persuasive advertising words are:
A skillful copywriter should not rely on the reader's imagination to imagine all the possible benefits of various product features. The writer can elaborately imagine all possibilities instead. He creates a written picture which makes the specific advantages of each function crystal clear.
If you've got a good headline, then you got a good ad. If you've got a bad headline, you missed it before you started – the copy won't be read. The best headlines are those that sell in the simplest terms of ideas expressed. Few adjectives, few frills, no cleverness.
Every good author should write a reason for why the ad is reasonable to him. Simply state the arguments for sales in proper sequence, in plain English. Yet writing “story copy” takes an outstanding writer. The story must come from the heart, not the brain. If you can skillfully mix the reason with the plot, you're going to be making serious money.
How To Write Headlines
Note, overwriting is one of the best ways to improve your prose, and then trim the fat. Start stuffing your brand name into the headlines of successive advertisements in order to win over even “glancers.” Believability- evidence of claims -should be included in every sales letter or ad that you write.
Include a clause for escape. We like an easy route out.
For example: “If you don't love the first issue, just write' cancel' on the bill.” Experienced advertisers keep hammering away with ads that do. Those are the ads that generate abundant and profitable sales. Carefully study such repeats and note down anything they can show you.
Direct-response advertisers have found that using straight sales talks that don't try to be clever, adorable or funny, they get the best results. It is a serious business to convince a prospect to spend money. This is because attention spans are low and distractions are easier anywhere you try to sell a single idea.
In the minds of your prospects, there are two forces at work: skepticism and the will to believe. Do 'em a favor by giving them evidence that what you say is true. Advertising (max sales per dollar spent) is the key to success. It lies in perpetual testing of all variables.
Keep a positive outlook on running a new ad. It either wins or something you learn.
Be fair to your clients. If a one-fourth page ad is more cost-effective than a full-page ad, put it that way. Yeah, in the short term you'll be earning less. But in the long run, the client's going to stick around longer and refer others and you're going to come out ahead. That is the right thing to do, especially for the long term.
Overall, enjoy the jobs you find. The secret to happiness is to enjoy work and support others in the same field.
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