Richard Armstrong

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

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 phone 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.

Every weekend I receive PARADE as an insert in my Philadelphia Inquirer. Being a direct marketing junkie, I scan it for the bright, busy full-page coupon ads from:

  • Bradford Exchange: Disney and Elvis plates and figurines, coins and Thomas Kinkade artistic kitsch
  • Lenox: Sculptures and Christmas ornaments
  • MBI/Easton Press: Sports collectibles, die-cast model cars and leather bound books

These ads are colorful with powerful offers, great graphics and immediately involving copy. They are masterpieces of their genre.

It was with astonishment that I came across a black-and-white full-page ad in PARADE looking for all the world like a personal note from a member of the Johnson family that makes well-known household products—Windex, Ziploc, Drano, Saran wrap, Fantastik and Pledge furniture wax to name a few. The body copy is set in a courier font that looks like it was generated on an ancient office Remington. At the bottom is a faded snapshot—presumably of the author—that could be the product of Kodak Brownie Box Camera from the 1930s. 

You can read the entire text of the ad in the section titled "IN THE NEWS" to the right. And if you click on the illustration in the mediaplayer, you’ll see what the ad looks like.

Running a retro black-and-white ad amid PARADE's brash color is what they call in show business "casting against type."

The question: Is this a smart way for an advertiser to spend his money?

The dumbest thing I ever did in business was heed the dire warnings of the bloodsuckers I worked for in my early years, who threatened instant dismissal if they caught me moonlighting.

So I didn't moonlight and was fired anyway—often.

These are rough times. And we're all dependent on mediocre, unmotivated co-workers and potentially failing businesses, no matter how superb our own performances.

If you can get something going on the side, for God’s sake do it! This way, if you get fired laid off, you’re still working.

I stumbled across Randy Cohen’s column in that most dismal and pretentious of publications, The New York Times Magazine. It reminded me of a 1990 series in WHO’S MAILING WHAT! put together by one of America’s greatest freelance copywriters—and a splendid, perpetually upbeat human being—Barbara Harrison.

I hope you find it useful.

I am continually astonished at the number of mailings and ads I see that fail to contain testimonials from delighted customers. Testimonials are a strong lift element in a mailing or ad. Your claims are more believable and prospects feel good about doing business with you. In the words of the late advertising legend, David Ogilvy, “If one testimonial tests well, try two. But don’t use testimonials by celebrities, unless they are recognized authorities, like Arnold Palmer on golf clubs.” Ogilvy was talking more about spokespersons than testimonials from happy users. Customer Acquisition The generally recognized sequence of events in marketing is (1) find a suspect; (2)

Note: Denny Hatch personally replies to all correspondence. Readers Respond & Debate “How to Deal with the Media,” published June 22, 2006. “Beware of the taped TV interview. A suck-up reporter will show up with a camera crew and will ask a lot of questions that make you feel very important. The result will be a one-sentence sound bite taken out of context designed to buttress the producer’s biased agenda or be the one dissenting opinion amidst a blizzard of verbiage from the other side. Either way, you’ll look like a jerk. When asked to do a TV interview, I always reply, ‘I don’t do sound

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