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Statements such as "brilliant", "hugely perceptive", "what a splendid man" and "can I buy you dinner at the restaurant of your choice" are all greeted with glee.

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Why Theo felt aghast – the answer to a great conundrum

A copywriter asks why so much copy doesn’t even try to sell: here is the answer

Theo has been working in a job where he has to get sales. As he was pretty good at it, he thought he’d try freelance copywriting.

So like any intelligent person he did his research, to see what sort of copy people are running.

He was puzzled and wrote to me at AskDrayton.com with this question:

Hi! Is it normal to feel aghast to see ad agencies that seem to be more focused on winning awards or to see ad competitions done for “the most creative and strategic blah blah blah” with absolutely no mention of how much sales they brought in for their client? I almost feel like a fish swimming against the flow.

This is a slightly longer version of my reply:

OK, Theo, you have stumbled on one of the great truths – and ironies – of the ad business.

The only time most agencies worry about the results is if the client worries about the results.

In many large organisations people don’t. And if they do they may measure the wrong things.

Wondering why? Wonder no more.

Here is my favorite research over recent years, based on a survey of billions of $$$ worth of marketing, worldwide

90% of marketers are not trained in Marketing Performance & Marketing ROI
67% don’t believe marketing ROI requires a financial outcome
64% use Brand Awareness as their top marketing ROI KPI
58% place “Likes”, “Tweets”, “Clicks” and/or “Click Through rates” in their Top 5 marketing ROI KPIs
31% believe measuring audience reached is marketing ROI
“Every Tom, Dick & Harry is a Marketer” lacking scientific and financial knowledge.
—  Fournaise Marketing Group Global Marketing Effectiveness Program Report, 2014

What do Fournaise know? Well, they measure the effectiveness of over two and a half million advertising strategies each year all over the world.

KPI is the abbreviation for one of those pompous phrases that make marketers think they are doing something important. It stands for Key Performance Indicators. The only KPI you should care about is simple: does it make money?

ROI means Return On Investment. How much money you get back for the money you put in. The more you get back, and the faster it comes back the better you are doing.

The truth is that unless a client’s business depends on measurable results – money in, money out – agencies don’t care. They want ads that look good, or are clever. The kind that win awards. The kind they can boast about.

They never get round to learning about that really works in terms of ROI – unless their jobs depend on it.

Well, the people they deal with at their clients are also interested in their jobs. They tend to be most interested in getting promoted. And they get promoted if their bosses – who are as ignorant as them – see them running clever ads. So they end up running showy stuff that doesn’t necessarily sell.

You don’t want people saying “What a great ad”. You want them saying “What a great product – I must buy it.”


Congratulations to an idiot at the helm of an important business YOU are engaged in

You may not realise it, but this affects you – and it really upset a friend of mine

I don’t suppose you spend much time thinking about it, but everything that goes on in the world’s most pervasive and perhaps most powerful medium is based on direct marketing.

The medium is the internet.

Every communication on the internet is direct.

Either you write or talk to someone directly or they respond to you directly. 

That is how back in 1982 I defined what direct marketing is all about in Commonsense Direct Marketing– a book still selling today under a longer title with lots more pages and in lots of languages.

That is why what you’re about to read is important. It’s an email sent today by a very able copywriter called Andy Owen. Here’s what he wrote.

The Death of Direct Marketing

04 July 2016 09:36

In 1936 in the USA, Hank Hoke created a magazine that was to become the bible for the DM industry.

It was called Direct Marketing.

When I first got into this crazy business in the 80’s, I soon became aware of it and was an avid subscriber. 

It was a marvellous read and hugely educational, with most of the leading DM minds regularly writing for it.

A lot of them have become legends – Murray Raphel, Ray Jutkins, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jim Rosenfield, our own Drayton Bird – and many others

The Hoke family were trailblazers and led the way, in what was an incredibly fast-moving and inspirational industry.

I can still recall the buzz I got from it in those days. I still crave that feeling.

Well, as we all know, things have changed.

And quite dramatically in recent times.  Direct Marketing magazine officially closed its doors many years ago.

Now, I believe, the direct marketing industry has done the same.

I am in regular touch with Hank Hoke III, who is the grandson of Hank who started it all off.  He shared some information with me on Friday, that cut me in half.

As you would expect, The DMA USA had a huge library of DM material – a lot of it compiled from Hank’s Grandfather’s time, all the way through to some present-day material.  

It was priceless stuff.

Well, listen to this:

The past President of The DMA – Linda Woolley – decided it would be best to throw out all the history, before she left.  

So, she did.

Can you believe it?   Really?

Did that crazy woman lose her mind?  And why didn’t someone stop her?

I would have bought every item.  And I know a few others that would have been interested, too.

It’s a criminal act in my view.  All that wonderful history lost forever. 

But, it’s just another example of how no one cares anymore. Even a past head of The DMA USA – the biggest DMA in the world. 

What was a vibrant and inspirational industry, is now finished.  It’s dead in the water.

Of course, those of us old liggers that are still in it, know it died many years ago.

And the final irony is, that the work we all see these days, both traditional and digital, is the worst quality ever in our business.

It has never been worse.  Total tosh, most of it.

Today’s marketers, writers and creatives, could learn so much from the greats of our business. And a lot of that education was in those archives, that this crazy woman dumped.

The greats that are no longer with us, must be rolling in their graves.  Because, what they left to us, is as relevant now, as it was then.

And it will always be so.

How you communicate with customers and prospects to get a response, is an art.  And the same techniques that worked eight decades ago, still work today.

They will always work.  Because times change, but people don’t.

All of today’s marketers, writers and creatives, could learn so much from the greats of our business.

But, they have no interest at all. They’ll have even less, now that this valuable material has been trashed.

It is simply impossible for a simple boy like me, to understand.

For the handful of us left, that still have a passion for DM, it is very, very hard to take.

Another few years and all that will be left of this once-great industry, will be a Wikipedia page.

I feel sick…

Well of course, as I pointed out above, Direct Marketing lives on – and always will.

Truth is, the principles I apply every day online are identical to those I applied in direct mail and direct response advertising all those years ago.

But what crass, arrogant, stupidity of Linda Woolley – if this is true – to destroy such an important part of its history – that so many could learn from – but never will.

The Curse of the New and the Triumph of Ignorance.

Which marketing weapons do you use? And why?

The other day I went to SpecSavers to get new glasses. Outside the shop was a man giving out leaflets. They have someone there every day.

They also send me regular letters telling me it’s time for an eye test.

On my way there I passed a vet’s. A big banner on the front of their establishment tells people to join their Pet Health Club.

I must declare an interest; I’ve been involved in such a Club. And I can tell you that the way it is promoted to vets and their customers is via direct mail and the telephone. I can also tell you that perhaps the biggest marketing challenge is to get the vets’ phones answered intelligently when prospects ring.

SpecSavers are hugely successful. The vet makes a fortune. Neither are blinded or muzzled by the endless river of guff about social media.

This polluted river drowns one important fact.

You must use the media that work best for you. Not the ones that are most fashionable or most profitable for those who promote them but the ones that do best for you.

I’m sorry to disillusion those who think they just have to follow the latest fad, but this means you must think. Even worse, you must think what marketing tools might work for you – regardless of fashion.

This means you must understand what is available. Hardly any marketers do. In large organisations most are far more concerned with how to ingratiate themselves enough to climb the next step of the corporate ladder.

Besides the man handing out leaflets and the big banner on the front of the vet’s, here are the marketing weapons I listed a while ago for the seminars I do for the Marketing Agencies Association.

You should understand a little about all of them. Do you?

Point of sale
Sales promotion
Direct and interactive
Product placement
Word of mouth (viral, MGM)
Sales people
Pack design
Workplace marketing
Cause related marketing
Guerrilla marketing

By the way, did you notice I didn’t mention social media or emails?

ALL media are social. Emails (and everything on the internet) are direct and interactive.

Why do I mention all this. Because, as Mark Twain observed, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

You need to consider how and when to use many tools, not just the ones that are fashionable.

Simple stuff Ollie, my Plumber, can teach you

What makes people choose you rather than someone else? Ollie knows

The other day a lady called Raluca from Romania wrote asking me about marketing plans.

She runs a travel agency called BeyondDracula.com. They organise tours of Transylvania where Dracula came from. Isn’t that great?

I’ll tell you more about her in another post, but I told her this:

“Marketers think they’re professionals like doctors or lawyers. Absolute rubbish.”

I quoted an authoritative report which ends: “Every Tom, Dick & Harry is a Marketer” lacking scientific and financial knowledge.

And I added: “It’s a great business to be in because almost all your competitors are useless.”

This brings me to Ollie, my plumber.

For some time the boiler in my flat has been on the blink – no surprise as it should have been replaced about 10 years ago – maybe more.

Why haven’t I haven’t done so?

Because I’m as cheap as chips and I’m selling the flat

Ollie could probably have sold me a new one but he’s kept it going, sometimes without charging anything, as he did the other day. He just told me what to do on the phone.

Ollie is a better marketer than most of those with fancy titles, like Worldwide Chief Bullshit Officer.

When we move I shall always use Ollie.

He knows stuff far too many marketers don’t.

Your best prospects come from two sources.

  1. Your current customers. They are 3 – 8 times as likely to buy from you as identical people who aren’t customers.
  2. By recommendation from your current customers. I shall tell the new owners the boiler is f**ked and they should use Ollie because his prices are reasonable and his service is excellent.

Also he’s a nice guy.

That helps. Don’t you prefer to do business with people you like?


What Donald Trump understands that the others – including Hillary – don’t

You’re probably just about Trumped out … but you really can learn a lot from him

The reason why he’s done so well is that – unlike most politicians – he really understands people and the art of persuasion.

Here’s something he said :

“I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves but they can still get very excited by those who do.  That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration and a very effective form of promotion.”

 And here’s what he told people selling the Trump University – currently under legal investigation:

The first thing you really need to know about persuasion is that people make decisions on emotional grounds.

That is the first pillar of persuasion. We are driven not by logic but emotion. This applies to all our decisions, but those who find it hardest to understand often sell to businesses.

Almost everyone selling to businesses starts off thinking decisions are made for logical reasons. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many of us spend more waking time at work than at home.

Many of us work with people we don’t like, sometimes even hate.  Look at the following research I found a few years ago:

%age of UK people wanting to physically assault a work colleague in 2008:

–  41% in Wales

–  38% in London

–  38% in the North East

–  16% in the South East

–  50% of over 65’s

When you get down to it business is about money, and people kill for money every day. Right now people are being slaughtered in the Middle East not just because of religion but because of oil money.

The second pillar of persuasion is gaining agreement.

In the quote at the top Trump explains how he tells people something they want to agree with whether it’s true or not.

If I say something to you that you want to agree with, I’ve got you taking the first step way towards agreeing to buy something or do something.

All I then have to do is take you step by step to the order form.

Let’s look at Donald Trump’s appeal to voters.

Let’s assume you are in America today.

Let’s assume that you are out of work or you don’t have a job you like.

Let’s assume you see other people doing extremely well whilst you do badly.

Or let’s just assume you think the whole system is rotten.

This is bound to arouse deep emotions.

You look around for someone to blame, which isn’t hard because you will see others doing far better than you.

You see top executives are making millions, even billions – no matter how they perform. You think they are not working as hard as you. You may conclude the system is rigged (and you’d be right).

You may think they are doing unreasonably, unfairly well compared to you. You certainly won’t think it’s your own fault. It’s the system

Who is at fault? Who can you blame?

If someone can tell you who to blame they will gain your agreement.

You see the tide of immigration.

There are people prepared to come into your country and work for less money. I need hardly explain to you how that works.

Trump tells you you’re getting a raw deal, and the Mexicans are to blame. You can see how there seems a lot of logic to that.

Suddenly Trump’s got you to agree to something you feel very emotional about.

So there you are – two pillars of persuasion.

(And I might add that when Trump starts pointing out that Hillary – who seems to be evading the truth at every turn – is part of the system, things could get very interesting).

Appeal to people’s emotions and start by saying something that seems true to your prospect and you cannot fail.

It doesn’t have to be true at all, it just has to be what people want to believe.

I don’t know how interesting you found this, but I do know that very few people really understand the power of emotion and the power of gaining agreement.

I have found it infallible. If you’d like to put it to work for you, drop me a line.


How NOT to get a job. Lousy advice from “experts”

If you want to squander far too much energy and precious emotion failing to get a job, here’s where to start.  Or you can get my free e-book on the subject

Here’s a good joke I heard years ago from a friend in Management Consultancy.

“An expert is someone from out of town who knows nothing about the subject but has lots of slides”.

If you ever have to make a speech, just insert the word “Powerpoint” and it’s a good opening.

Here is a letter that some “experts” suggest will get you an interview. After you’ve read it I will tell you what’s wrong with it.

Cover letter: Standard
12th April 2015
Recruiting Manager
Bose Media
11a Main Street
W10 1AF
Job reference: Grad/15

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing with regards to the graduate vacancy advertised in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers directory. I am enclosing my CV for your information.

Having recently graduated with a BA in English Literature from The University of Manchester, I am now looking to apply the knowledge I have acquired into the workplace and the graduate role at Bose Media offers the perfect opportunity to do this.

I believe I meet all of the requirements outlined for the post. During my studies, I developed an excellent eye for detail and have significant experience of reading and interpreting large amounts of materials in a range of genres. I undertook a number of team projects as part of my studies, so I am very comfortable working as part of a team and am confident in my interpersonal and communication abilities. I have received feedback from fellow team members that helps to affirm this.

I am experienced in working to deadlines and accept that this would be an important part of the role. My abilities in this area are further demonstrated by the position I held as assistant editor at the university’s student newspaper, The Voice, during the final year of my degree. This role required significant responsibility and commitment in terms of time and effort – something I relished. It was also necessary for me to hone my prioritisation and multitasking skills in order to effectively carry out this role alongside my academic studies.

I would welcome the opportunity to explain more about my interest in your company and the skills and experience that I can bring to the position. You will note from my CV that I have a real passion for literature, media and current affairs and look forward to sharing this with you and contributing to the future success of Bose Media.

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future regarding my application.

Yours faithfully,

(Signed) Print name

Are you wondering what’s wrong? I mean besides the fact that it has no personality or enthusiasm and is full of dreary business jargon and cliche? But at least it says why the writer can do the job.

Let me tell you, then.

It breaks one of the principal rules of marketing.

It is written from the point of view of the seller, not the buyer.
It’s all me, me, me – not you, you, you.

God knows how many people I have hired over that past 50 years. But I can tell you one thing. I never thought of how much they wanted the job. I wanted to know what they could do for me that other applicants couldn’t.

If you’d like to know how to go about getting a job, send for my little e-book called – very creatively – How to Get a Better Job.

It is free. It is also the most popular thing I have written in the last ten years. I am not trying to sell you anything. I hope it helps.

Once again AdWorld’s greatest waste of time and money

Each year millions are flushed down American’s toilets

It’s years since I first learnt this, and the man who told me just put up another excellent Blog about it

Here we go again folks – the longest hour of the year is upon us. Some say this hour lasts 6 months given all the media hype, but for those who just watch NFL once a year, it fills most of a day.

This is the time when the single largest flush of the US toilet system occurs. It’s the same time every year – the first 2 minutes of half time in the Superbowl. It occurs because millions of television viewers rush to the loo to drain the gallons of Budweiser, Miller, Sam Adams, Coors, etc they have been chugging down during the previous 3 hours of the first half.

toilet bowl

It also happens to be the most expensive television advertising time slot on the planet, which means an awful lot of marketing money gets flushed down the sewer, as viewers relieve themselves rather than watch the ads.

To ensure people do cross their legs and watch in discomfort, the advertising break has become an event in itself, with leaks (excuse the pun) weeks before the ads are shown on the TV. Advertisers spend a fortune in PR to get people to watch their ads. You can read here the list of brands advertising this year.

Most interesting though, is the annual churn rate of advertisers from the previous year. Only about one third of advertisers return each year to advertise, as the majority of advertisers don’t believe they get value for money. Yet there are those who return every year, because it seems to work for them.

Interestingly too, is how this is always ignored by the advertising trade press, as they fall in love with the publicity and help fuel the promotion of the ads, rather than the performance of the ads. Though I’m sure we’ll hear about brands who establish Social Media Mission Control Rooms – or SMMCR for short.

These highly expensive executive teams spend their Sunday based in a SMMCR responding to Tweets, trying to create publicity around the fact they spend their Sunday in a SMMCR responding to Tweets. That’s a career highlight you’d want to share with your grandkids, hey? Though I suspect, as I’ve shared before, this will be the best use of much of their efforts:


I have written about the super flush in previous years. And I even put the theory to test with the Sydney Water Board during the Grand Final of the Rugby League, between Canberra and Penrith, in 1991. Sure enough, the single biggest sewerage flow of the year occurred in the first couple of minutes of half time.

Though I suppose one benefit of mobile devices is the ability to stream coverage onto them. So maybe the fans will be able to multi-task and watch the ads while they perform their ablutions? Though given the inebriated  state of some of the fans, I dread what will happen to their phones…


I wonder if you can insure for it?

You can see more from Malcolm Auld here.

Now that we have entered the wonderful new world of content …

Rather than the empty old one where there was no content, here’s something on how to produce it

An hour ago I saw a question put up by someone in a forum who is a “content navigator”.

I have no idea what the fuck that is, but he asked: Do you approach your writing with a consistent method? I was relieved that he didn’t use that silly word “methodology”.

Others gave their views. Two said they write whenever they have something to say. You may (or may not) be interested in my slightly edited reply, which follows.

I am always looking for things to say.

Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favours only the prepared mind.”

This means constant research. Not just into subjects obviously connected with my likely subjects, but everything I come across on the internet, in the press and in my walks most days – usually about an hour long.

I believe the best writing comes from the putting together of thoughts, facts and ideas which are not always obviously connected, thus introducing an element of surprise. This element of surprise makes things stick in the mind.

The process described in James Webb Young’s “A Technique for Producing Ideas” works for me (and I imagine for everyone).

The book analyses the methods of great creative minds and shows how you can apply them. Like Claude Hopkins’ “Scientific Advertising” it is agreeably brief and remains highly relevant.

I rarely edit anything of any importance less than 8 times – or so one of my old secretaries told me – though I am much more slapdash with quick things like tweets.

I have now been making a living as a writer for 59 years, so for what it is worth the approach I have just described seems to work quite well.

On the matter of editing, I edited this 8 times.

If you are wondering about James Webb Young, he was a creative director at J. Walter Thompson in the early years of the last century – as important to the writing of advertising, I believe, as David Ogilvy.

After his agency career he retired and made a lot of money in mail order. You can see some of his work in “The Hundred Greatest Advertisements”.

Just as good and short as “A Technique for Producing Ideas” is “How to Become an Advertising Man” – a rather odd title as the best creative director his agency had besides him was Helen Resor.

Mind you, she had the advantage of being the boss’s wife.

Heading: “The customer is not a moron, she is your wife” – David Ogilvy

A blast of commonsense from my old friend and colleague Malcolm Auld in Sydney.

Some of you may have seen this subject line recently. It’s a Newsflash so it must be important:




It’s from Marketo and it’s close to being the most insulting subject line ever written about marketers. Either that or it reveals the Marketo team is comprised of fools.

Hands-up all of you who thought email was dead or gravely ill for that matter? Who among you no longer uses email to communicate with customers, because you thought email was dead?










Were you as relieved as I was to discover from Marketo that “email is not dead“? I suspect very few of you even believed the headline. It’s the equivalent of saying “the atmosphere still exists around planet Earth“. Of course it does and of course email is not dead – what fool would make such a claim?



Here’s the supporting paragraph:

“Marketers are spoilt for choice when it comes to digital marketing channels. Programmatic, social, mobile apps… the list goes on. Despite all the latest and greatest, tried-and-tested tactics still have their place in any marketing strategy this year: when it comes to true audience engagement, email is still king.”

It’s true, marketers are spoiled for choice – and tried and tested tactics still have their place in any marketing strategy. And when it comes to true audience engagement (whatever that even means) nothing beats face-to-face selling, telephone, direct mail and then of course email – the science proved it years ago. So while email may not be king, it’s certainly close in the pecking order beneath the throne.

Curiously Marketo is addicted to email – it’s the primary way they communicate directly with subscribers. They certainly don’t call their subscribers on the phone – despite the obvious profits in doing so.







So let’s consider why they published such a headline.

Option 1 – They believe all marketers are idiots and stopped using email for marketing purposes. As you and I know dear reader, marketers have never stopped inundating inboxes with marketing messages and won’t stop any time soon, so it can’t be this option.

Option 2 – The Marketo team members are stupid, as they thought email was dead and they stopped using it for their marketing purposes, when every other brand in the world continued to use it. I don’t think they are stupid and they certainly haven’t stopped using email if my inbox is anything to go by, so it can’t be this option.

Option 3 – Maybe a junior with no experience wrote the headline? As you can tell, I’m grasping for explanations. There is no sensible reason for making such a nebulous claim – unless the Marketo marketing team is just plain lazy and decided to be sensationalist to sell their webinar? I’m leaning toward this option.

The problem with using a sensationalist headline, is it must be believable if it is to work – like the headline in this blog. And given most marketers, including Marketo’s team, don’t believe email is dead, this headline makes no sense whatsoever and insults even the most mediocre marketer.

If you are interested in catching up on the latest in email marketing then you may want to join the webinar. Dave Chaffey is well worth listening too – he’s a very smart marketer. Though I suggest he would have written a different headline. Here’s the link to the event – so my good friends at Marketo get a free plug:)

But the headline does reveal the number one truth of content marketing – any fool can type crap and sadly many fools do…

You can see more from Malcolm Auld on his blog.

The Great Western AdWank: a near-perfect example of the worst kind of wasteful marketing …

Money that should go on toilets (yes, TOILETS) flushed down the toilet instead – with a barrage of boastful piffle

Sorry about the poor quality of my photos – but I think you’ll get the message.

It is my unhappy fate to travel regularly between Bristol and Paddington.

This was once the best service in Britain, created by the greatest of rail engineers Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

You can see his statue in Paddington Station. If a statue could weep, I imagine it would.

For unless you travel when hardly anybody else does the first picture is utterly typical of what you have to put up with when leaving Paddington for Reading.

Besides the overcrowding you can safely assume some of the toilets will be out of order.

And just to rub your predicament in you can also assume there’ll be plenty of room in First Class.

Why this state of affairs?

Because whatever overpaid functionary purports to run the railway imagines money is better spent on one of the most infuriatingly complacent, irrelevant, incompetent and downright stupid advertising you can imagine.

To explain what’s happened, the railway was for some years called First Great Western sometimes referred to by us sufferers as Last Great Western.

Some fool decided that if they just changed the name back to Great Western Railway and stuck up a lot of guff everywhere saying everything had miraculously improved people would be happy.

Maybe some fast-talking smoothy at their ad agency sold them on the idea.

The staff (the only great thing about the service) must have been embarrassed. We travellers just thought it a bad joke.

The pictures tell the story. Just boastful piffle alternating with fatuous quasi-philosophical twaddle. Beautiful design; abysmal writing.

The idea behind it all reminds me how so many people running businesses fondly confuse talk with action and believe a lot of bilge about branding.

As David Ogilvy’s mentor Raymond Rubicam remarked many decades ago, “The only purpose of advertising is to sell. It has no other justification worth mentioning.”

What still puzzles me after 59 years in this business is why those in charge have never taken the trouble to study what marketing and advertising  are all about. First you improve what you offer; then you sell it. Not the other way round.

As one of the grand old ad agencies used to say, good advertising is the truth well told, not a pack of irrelevant lies.