Famous Last Words: Desperately Needed: Old-Time Marketing Pros

The techie Web hotshots are screwing up big time. They say the right things and do the wrong things. Example:
To Marissa Mayer, the chief executive of Yahoo, fashion magazines like Vogue and InStyle have achieved the Holy Grail of advertising.

“The ads in those magazines are as interesting as the photo shoots and the articles,” she said in an interview last week at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. “I miss the ads when they are not there. I feel less fulfilled.”

This year, her goal is to start making the ads on Yahoo just as compelling and just as integrated with the news and information people seek on her company’s websites. —Vindu Goel, The New York Times

Spot on, Ms. Mayer! The great 20th century masters of advertising copy—John Caples, Claude Hopkins and Vic Schwab—all said people buy publications for content. If advertisers want to get attention, their ads must be as interesting and relevant as the articles readers paid for.

Chased Around the Internet
At one point I looked into buying shoes at Zappos. Thereafter, for weeks—in the U.S. and on a European jaunt—every website I visited had pictures of shoes from Zappos and its overseas affiliate.

These were not offers for shoes. They were simply pictures of shoes—men’s, women’s, conservative and wild—plus the Zappos logo. That ain’t advertising.

At one point I was so irritated, I went to Yahoo to see what was going on. Here’s the skinny from Yahoo’s website:

Ads served by Yahoo! may be customized to reflect your interests. To do this, Yahoo! may consider browsing activity, including the type of content accessed, ads clicked, and searches conducted or on related terms. Yahoo! may also use information about the ads you have seen and clicked on to improve the effectiveness of our Exchanges.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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  • John Schulte

    Enjoyed the article Denny.

  • Judy Colbert

    Good, as usual, Denny. I was looking for a new office chair several months ago. I checked Staples, Target, and probably a few others places, online, of course. I’m still seeing ads for office chairs. Someone should figure I’ve either bought a new chair (perhaps from them) or I’ve changed my mind. I’m still a good match for office supplies, so show me something else, something related. If I’ve had a chair long enough to need replacing, what else might need replacing? If I’m furnishing a new office, what else might I need? ::: sigh :::

  • Marketing guy

    You’re obviously not the target demographic for this ad. That’s why you don’t know who it is.
    Branding does not necessarily drive an immediate conversion. Besides, who would click on an ad about a TV show and buy something?? The ad is just there to remind (their target demographic) that the show is coming back on.
    If you did turn on your television and watch the show, that would be a conversion for them.

    Very disappointing editorial position here.


  • Peter Rosenwald

    Forgive the self- advertisement Denny but it sounds like these kids (and some of our fellow marketers) could benefit from ‘Profiting From The Magic of Marketing Metrics’ and ‘Accountable Marketing’. But as the author of both, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

    The fact is that most of the key math (now glorified as KPIs) can in fact be done on the back of a cocktail napkin and after a martini or two.

  • Robert Bly

    This may be of interest: http://www.dmresponsecalculator.com/

  • mikewrite


  • Bob Blinick

    Regarding Zappos . . .

    Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with a pigeon: No matter how well you play, the pigeon will knock over the pieces, crap all over the board, and strut around like he’s victorious.

    I’ve followed their (Zappos) stalking you around the internet as I, too, have experienced same.

    And now, here’s their strutting: (From a financial newsletter that I get that had an article titled, What Banks Can Learn From Apple, Zappos, Disney and Southwest)

    Galling, ain’t it…

    Culture of Advocacy
    Zappos has been named a “customer champion” by J.D. Power & Associates, creating a case study on what makes the company so unique. J.D. Power found that Zappos builds their brand on a “platform of core values and culture.”
    Zappos gets it right by hiring the right people, and then ensuring new hires share the company’s values and vision. Almost all new hires – from executives to accountants – must participate in a four-week customer loyalty training course. Company employees can then share the culture and the vision with customers. During the second week of training, an offer of $2,000 is made to new employees to quit. This litmus test weeds out employees that don’t share the company’s overall vision.
    Zappos strives to “deliver happiness” at work, which ultimately drives top-quality service by creating a culture of customer advocacy.
    According to Mark Miller, Senior Director, Contact Center Solutions at J.D. Power and Associates, “If you are better on the phone and you are servicing your customers better, you are going to experience higher retention and increase advocacy. Customers will be praising your brand, which makes it easier for your marketing efforts to work, reduces the sales cycle, and also protects your pricing power.”

  • http://MarkPilipczuk Mark Pilipczuk

    But Denny, don’t you know that “growth hackers” don’t need to know how to do math?

    I wish I had a nickel for every blank stare I’ve received when I ask “what’s the allowable?” to people who should know the answer off the tops of their heads. And I wish I had another nickel every time I show somebody those quick calculations and they respond to me like I’ve given them the Rosetta Stone.

    It wasn’t that long ago when numeracy was a required skill for direct response marketers.

    Thanks for sharing the Bob Hacker article. I remember that cover from when it showed up at my desk at International Masters Publishers, where we knew our math!

  • Judy Colbert

    I should mention, Denny, I’m also using DuckDuckGo.com for my search engine. They claim they don’t track users or sites. Seems to be true.

  • Ian Morrison

    Denny, Love your work. Marissa is a liar. "I miss the ads when they are not there. I feel less fulfilled." What a crock of sh*t! Please, please, please show me the issue in the last 20 years of Vogue or InStyle that is devoid of the ads she finds so ‘fulfilling. Nice try, those publications have never gone to press without ads. And that maroon Vindu Goel from the NYT just lapped it up. It just sounds so good. Give him a nice pat on the head…’Good puppy, now roll over and I’ll scratch your tummy."
    I vote for anyone who can quote Hopkins let alone having read him.
    My personal philosophy is "If you can’t measure it, don’t do it." Dovetails nicely with having to do Marketing Math…but wait that means work and it also means setting aside the ego. There should never be room at the table for ego. The numbers tell you what works. it’s that simple. It’s also a nice way to remove the HiPPO influence (That’s ‘Highest Paid Person’s Opinion’ for those of you who’ve never heard the expression.) from the decision making.
    But again, napkin or not, I personally prefer the backs of Chinese restaurant napkins – the ones with all the drinks on them – it requires fundamental math skills honed for marketing.
    Nice article Denny!

  • Richard Hren

    Nice article, Denny, but I think that finding one case of a mis-targeted ad isn’t quite the damnation it appears.Marketing should be driven by the numbers, and decisions made accordingly. This is not always the case.What I have found most troubling is that many of the new practitioners of marketing have not been taught those fundamentals, and so collective amnesia sets in.

    I have seen new digital folks in disbelief when faced with the fact the the words "Free", or "Limited time offer" can have a pronounced effect on response to banner ads. Imagine that!
    I saw a presentation just yesterday during which all kinds of interesting alternative marketing ploys were discussed, and not once did the speaker use the word "testing", which is what she was really talking about.
    But the most serious underlying problem is that the math still won’t help if you don’t establish a goal. What are you trying to do? What is the objective. Far too many marketing tactics have fuzzy or unstated objectives. How can you claim to win without knowing how to keep score?