The Curse of Know-Nothing Marketers

A profusion of ads with blind headlines and no headlines

What triggered this column was a full-page advertisement in The New York Times for Pradaxa, a drug designed to treat a heart condition called atrial fibrillation, which has just been cleared for launch into the marketplace.
The stakes are huge. One pharmaceutical analyst predicted that by 2018, Pradaxa will generate blockbuster revenues of $1.38 billion.

The headline of the ad and deck are shown in the IN THE NEWS box at right.

It is immediately obvious that Pradaxa hired rank amateurs to create its print campaign.

Clearly, neither advertiser nor agency nor creative people had a clue what they were doing. The ad breaks the most basic rule of advertising, which means that it was flat out missed by many of the very patients it was aiming to reach.

Direct Marketing Today: An Industry Relying on On-the-Job Guessing
At a dinner with Russell Perkins—founder of InfoCommerce and one of the savviest people I know in the communications business—we got talking about the twenty-somethings who were hired during the dot-com expansion years without ever having learned the rules of marketing, copy or design.

During that period, a vast army of new hires never had proper mentoring—either because the potential mentors were absorbed in other things or didn’t know the rules either.

As an example, Perkins cited a recent, heavily-attended marketing conference where the speaker described a remarkable discovery he had made.

He got the idea of testing two offers—one against the other—to see which was the better offer.

Splitting his test list into two equal sections, he called one half the “A group” and the other half the “B group,” he told the assembled attendees.

“Then I made one offer to the A group and the other offer to the B group. One was a winner, so we went with that.” He added, “I called my new discovery the A-B Split Test.”

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

Related Content