james kippax

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Sheepishly Bad Ad

I might have mentioned this before but I occasionally help out on my parent’s farm.

Whilst at the farm I was flipping through some farming magazines and I came across a pullout advert from the wool marketing board. The particular ad was an offer wool carpets for the home. I take particular interest in the adverts in farming magazines as it’s tough crowd to sell to.

The legendary copywriter Gary Halbert once wrote,”avoid selling to farmers as they just seem to help each other, and don’t like spending money to solve problems”. I grew up on a farm and know this to be very true.

Anyway, back to the story…

The ad pullout had a picture of a sheep with sunglasses with the title “It’s cool to buy wool #naturally”. The sheep looked funny, just the sort of thing you might find on a postcard from the Lakes.


I turned over the leaflet over and on the back are 5 money saving offers for wool carpets.

For me, this is an example of back-to-front marketing. Let me explain:

Everybody likes to save money. It doesn’t matter if you are selling to rich people or to other businesses. We all like a bargain. If you can make a good offer, you should make sure it’s easily seen in your adverts.

In the case of the wool board pullout I’ve mentioned, the offers were buried in size 8 print on the rear of the advert. I’d bet you one of my dad’s sheep that if you placed these offers on the front it would pull more sales/leads. Especially, if you are selling to farmers who have deep pockets and short arms.

Also, the size 8 print makes offers hard to see if you have bad eyesight. By choosing a small font like this you’re reducing your potential audience who can easily read your advert. You should never make it difficult for people to read your promotions because they’ll simply be ignored.

To make matters worse the headline says nothing too.

David Ogilvy, who was one of the best advertising minds of the 20th century, once said:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

A good headline is hard to create. It should be. It’s the most important factor in your advert. Without a good headline, chances are your advert will be ignored. And an ignored advert is like throwing money down drain.

One of the easiest types of headlines you can create are ‘offer’ headlines. Here are a few examples:

Offer 20% off… free voucher when you spend x… buy one and get one free (BOGOF)…and so on…

Now you might be saying, “But James, we see these offers like this all the time, they don’t stand out” – you are wrong. These headlines do work and they often sell more than ‘creative adverts’ when they are tested against them. Why? Because everyone loves to save money.

The legendary copywriter John Caples said in his classic book ‘’Tested Advertising Methods”, in 1932, wrote:

“the best headlines appeal to a reader’s self-interest”.

This works as well today as it did back then. After all, advertising mediums change but people’s emotions don’t.

So, if you’ve got a good offer make sure people can see it. Don’t hide it away in small print and behind some ‘creative’ ad imagery. You’ll sell more and you’ll waste less money.

If you need help with this just get in touch. I’ll help craft you an offer that’ll beat your control by a mile.

All the best


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