The Irrepressible Joe Sugarman
One of the revolutionary direct marketers and copywriters in the 1980s and 1990s was Joe Sugarman, who changed direct marketing by introducing the toll-free 800-number.
What's more, Sugarman was the first to market a cordless telephone and a digital watch.
If you traveled back then, your in-flight magazine was certain to have one or more page ads for Sugarman's goodies and high-tech gadgetry. They were immediately obvious with bold, catchy headlines and long copy that grabbed the reader by the throat and would not let go.
These full-page ads—usually in black-and-white—were assembled into a catalog by Joe's company, JS&A ("Products That Think") which blitzed the marketplace.
[See the second image in the media player at right for a selection of early Joe Sugarman ads.]
They were so powerful it was very difficult for the viewer to say no.
Sugarman's print ad was a masterpiece (See the third image in the media player at right) with a simply terrific lede:
When I put on the pair of
glasses what I saw I could
not believe. Nor will you.
By Joseph Sugarman
I am about to tell you a true story. If you believe me, you will be well rewarded. If you don't believe me, I will make it worth your time to change your mind. Let me explain.
This is intimate, personal direct marketing.
- Note the byline. Few copywriters sign their work.
- He uses "I" and "me" (as opposed to "we," "us" an "our.")
- "The most important word in direct copy is not 'you'—as many of the textbooks would have it—but 'I,'" freelancer Richard Armstrong wrote to me. "What makes a letter seem 'personal' is the sense that one gets of being in the presence of the writer... that a real person sat down and wrote you a real letter."
Finally, Sugarman starts with a story.