In the second part of our ‘The test of a great copywriter‘ series we looked at the work, primarily, of John Caples and his attempts to contribution rigour to the craft of copywriting. His 17 ways to test your advertising, Ogilvy’s 7 lessons learned and also whether and how you can apply old school copywriter skills to modern business and online marketing success.  Lots of unanswered questions and lots of great information to share. Let’s get on with it.

First things first. Before we look at Caple’s 17 ways to test your advertising – a must read for any copywriter – let’s go through the 7 gems that David Ogilvy took from Caple’s book Tested Advertising Methods. These are methods that he applied to his own advertisement writing throughout his career as a copywriter and as Ogilvy says: “constitute, most of what I know about advertising.”

David Ogilvy’s 7 copywriting discoveries

  1. The key to success (maximum sales per dollar) for a direct response copywriter lies in perpetual testing of all the variables.
  2. What you say is more important than how you say it.
  3. The headline is the most important element in most advertisements.
  4. The most effective headlines appeal to the reader’s self-interest or give news.
  5. Long headlines that say something are more effective than short headlines that say nothing.
  6. Specifics are more believable than generalities.
  7. Long copy sells more than short copy (does this still hold true for today’s online copywriter?)

Read these 7 copywriting commandments and commit them to memory. Hold them close and you will never find yourself too far away from being a successful copywriter. Nothing whatsoever in these ‘discoveries’ applies any less today than it did when Caples wrote them or Ogilvy chiselled them into his foreword of Caple’s book.

The Direct Mail Revolution

In some respects the white heat of the Direct Mail Revolution in which Caples and many of the other great copywriters forged their skills all those years ago has become an even more powerful phenomenon. The internet now offers a far wider range of opportunities for your copywriting to win business.

Online copywriting represents, in many instances, a very long form of direct response oriented marketing. As copywriter Brian Clark says: “concepts and words that ultimately result in a favourable action from the reader.” Clark adds: “Luckily, the same copywriting skills you use to conceive and create your content apply to promoting it as well.“ What he’s saying is that other forms of copywriting as well as advertising copy, including emails, blogs, articles, magalogs; content ‘too useful to be thrown away’ as copywriter Gary Bencivenga says, always has an audience.

Clark’s Copyblogger colleague Sonia Simone adds:”That kind of informational, beneficial content, content that really teaches people something interesting, and also relates back to the product, is not new. But it’s totally exploding.”

How do copywriters properly test our copywriting?

If you’re a copywriter interested in creating successful sales copy, be sure to check out the next post in the series. We’ll take a good look at the 17 ways that you can test your advertising as well as other testing methods for copywriters in the next blog in this series.

In the meantime…what do you think? Do Ogilvy’s discoveries still apply to today’s copywriter? What’s your experience of the new longer sales funnel, the new content marketing form of direct response. Does it make sense to run this ‘indirect response’ alongside more direct sales ‘advertisements’?

Until next time….

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