Thursday, November 24, 2011

Revisiting Advertising Principles

November 2011 Book Review  


Making Ads Pay

John Caples

© 1957 (2011 Reprint)

Sometimes you don’t need to turn to New York Times or Wall Street Journal’s Best Selling Business Books to find a valuable and insightful resource in advertising and marketing.  Some resources are timeless, as I discovered when reading this John Caples’ book from the fifties.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of authors have forged paths many marketers and ad men/women struggle with today.  Some principles never change and I’m glad the publishers of this book decided to reprint it.  It’s not as thorough as his Tested Advertising Methods book, but it’s still one of the better advertising books I’ve read. 
Caples prophetically writes about an advertising success formula taught to him from one of his first bosses in the industry (Ev Grady):
"I hope you will give particular attention to what Grady said because it is valuable advice!  He was describing a formula which worked 31 years ago and which I feel will work 31 years from today.  And I expect it will work 310 years from today.  This formula is based on human nature and human nature does not change.  It took millions of years to build human nature into what it is today, and a period of a few years added to millions of years is not going to make much difference.  Grady’s formula can be summed up in two words, namely, “Curiosity….Reward.”  Remember that formula and use it. Styles in advertising may change, but not the basic principles."
Obviously some of the material in this book is outdated (heavy focus on mail order advertising), but his principles remain sound.  He twists his experiences in the industry, professors he studied under, bosses he worked for, and tests he monitored into a comprehensive book on how to get the most out of advertising.
Caples' basic “Advertising Check List:”
  • Get attention.
  • Hold attention.
  • Create desire.
  • Make it believable.
  • Prove it’s a bargain.
  • Make it easy to buy.
  • Give a reason to buy now.
Caples also gives pointers on practices that can generate biases and priming in copy testing.  Things I’m not sure a lot of researchers are considering in 2011.  He even peppers in lessons learned in business success and his career.  He includes a great quote from Charlie Bower, a BBDO’s Board Chairman:  “Discontent and curiosity are two keys to success".…a quote that’s not just applicable to advertising, but to marketing, business and life.

The Fightin' Analyst Book Rating:

out of five stars