Famous Last Words: Where Are the Copywriters?
The recent DMA2010 Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco was all about size. In the vast exhibit hall, you could fire a cannon in any direction and not hit anybody. It was the polar opposite of Digital Marketing Days New York (formerly known as Direct Marketing Days) at the Hilton, where the aisles are narrow and booths cheek-by-jowl. It's intimate and fun. You're in a giant human pinball machine, helplessly bouncing into old friends and making new ones.
Walk the interstate-sized aisles of the DMA2010 exhibit hall, and the booths are as sterile as the atmosphere.
Check out the signage as you wander. Company names and logos are featured in massive type, followed by what should be the unique selling proposition (USP)—a short, punchy burst or slogan that says what the company does, what makes it different from all the others, and who should stop by.
These slogans are the equivalent of the headline on an ad, the teaser on an envelope and the subject line of an email.
John Caples, father of direct marketing copy, wrote, "Now, I spend hours on headlines—days if necessary."
Why the emphasis on headlines? "The headline selects the reader," said direct marketing guru Axel Andersson.
"On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy," wrote David Ogilvy. "When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar."
The late Mel Martin was the world's slowest copywriter. He could spend two weeks on the teaser of an envelope. Yet his painstaking craftsmanship was responsible for turning Marty Edelston's Boardroom into a $150 million annual business.
Mel Martin's envelopes featured the USP of the book or newsletter Boardroom was selling. They were compelling. Three examples of irresistible Mel Martin teasers: