Scientific Advertising: Is Your Ad Always Closing?

Let’s answer the one question you’ve got about this series: “How can a book from 1923 help me with what I’ve got to do?” I’m giving you Helmut Krone’s answer, art director for Doyle Dane Bernbach who cut layout for Volkswagen’s “Think Small” ads with a razor blade …

 “I asked one of our writers recently what was more important: Doing your own thing or making the ad as good as it can be. The answer was: ‘Doing my own thing.’ I disagree violently with that. I’d like to propose a new idea for our age: Until you’ve got a better answer, you copy.”

That’s why I’m copying Claude Hopkins. I don’t yet have better answers. Before doing our own thing — even online — let’s read Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising. Not only did he make Americans start drinking orange juice, he worked with Albert Lasker and John E. Kennedy. They rocketed the washer that would become Whirlpool out of obscurity and moved their agency Lord and Thomas from earnings of $15,000 a year to $30,000 a month…in four months. If you’d like to learn more about that history see last week’s first installment.

This week’s chapter is called Just Salesmanship. That means advertising is only salesmanship. For Hopkins creativity is subservient to sales. It’s not the other way around. If you’ve heard of Leo Burnett who said things like “plan the sale as you write the ad” that’s just vintage Hopkins. David Ogilvy channeled Hopkins when he said: “It’s not creative if it doesn’t sell.” The book Scientific Advertising was in fact Ogilvy’s weapon. He said everyone must read it seven times for license to write an ad.

Hopkins begins, and the italics are his, “To properly understand advertising or to learn even its rudiments one must start with the right conception. Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship. Successes and failures in both lines are due to like causes. Thus every advertising question should be answered by the salesman’s standards.”

Joshua Bains is a Content Marketing Specialist at Atlanta, Georgia-based Eclipse Web Media, a digital media marketing agency. He can be reached at