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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

How NOT to write copy. This writer swallowed the wrong dictionary - then vomited all over the page.

In my talks about copy I always suggest three pretty steadfast rules:

1, What you offer matters far more than what you say.

2. What you say matters far more than how you say it.

2. The headline matters far more than any other part of the copy.

What perhaps I fail to stress enough is that it helps if you can write English - and if you write badly enough you can unsell something

I was quite taken by the offer from Groupon this morning headed Overnight Break For Two in the Forest of Dean With Breakfast and Cream Tea for £63 at The Speech House Hotel (Up to 60% Off).

We don't live that far away from the hotel and the picture looked OK. What's more I'm as cheap as chips and a pig for cream tea.

But then, oh dear! the copy went into semi-literate orbit, in some weird copywriter's baroque - as follows:

While they make a lovely country getaway, some thickly wooded areas can be unexplainably prejudiced against numbers, earning them a reputation for being fourist. Stay indiscriminate with today’s Groupon: £63 for an overnight break in the Forest of Dean for two, including breakfast and a cream tea each at the Speech House Hotel.

I think "fourist" gets the Golden Turd Award, don't you? But there was more: a picture of the hotel, followed by:

Cuddled by a 27,000 acre forested duvet, The Speech House Hotel is a 17th century hunting lodge that oozes rustic charm fused with all the desirable facilities required to appease contemporary travellers. The auberge is well placed to offer an array of outdoorsy activities designed to leave guests well prepped for comfy beds and a view of Gloucestershire’s foliage. With food options including two restaurants and the casual orangery, the massive house treats wilderness wanderers to 21st century mini-breaking.

Will somebody please shoot that writer before he or she does any more damage?

Or, to quote W. S. Churchill: "Use simple words everyone knows, then everyone will understand."

Do you want to be cuddled by a forest? Do you yearn to be indiscriminate? Come to think of it, I wonder if whoever wrote that is a native English speaker. Hard to believe, isn't it? It reads as though written by someone from Transylvania.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

What kind of customers do you have? New audio series, Virgin's banking plans, Spain and Northwestern - and an old video

If you want to persuade people, you'd better understand them.

So here's a tip: read the correspondence.

Many years ago I wrote copy for a pain reliever called Cephos. The fact that people used put it in warm water to sooth their aching feet told you a lot about what they were like. We used strip cartoons in the advertising.

When I was working on American Express I was impressed by the fact that the top people - in the U.K., anyhow - used to listen in on customer calls.


Currently there is heated discussion on the Citywire site about a speech made by Nigel Farage, the UKIP man, about the European situation.

A man with the pseudonym "Dislexic Landlord" proves he's not kidding when he writes "the sooner we leave this curcus the better". But he is not alone. At least half the people writing in are ignorant and semi-literate. The other half are pretty well-informed and write well.

Schizophenia rules, I guess


I promised a week or so ago to start a series of audio seminars on creative and marketing.

It's amazing how long it took me to get round to doing it, as so many people like to listen to stuff in the car. Anyhow, having decided to give it a go I thought I might do it properly for a change and ordered a decent microphone.

This arrived on Thursday - but I was immediately thrown into a panic because my partner Al was rushed into hospital with a punctured appendix. He's O.K. now, thank God.

However, abnormal service will start this week.

I was not sure if I should have two separate series or just one. The reason is that I don't really think you can be much good at the communications if you don't understand the business. On balance I think one makes sense.

I will try and base it on my two books - Commonsense and How to Write. I suspect more people buy than read them.


I read somewhere that Richard Branson promises to shake up the banking industry the way he shook up the railways.

This is more of a threat than a promise.

For years Virgin Trains were a complete bugger's muddle. I remember having to spend a night in some dire hotel in the middle of nowhere because my Virgin train from Manchester to London broke down - and their fare structure is as impenetrable and outrageous as everyone else's.

What's more, as a friend pointed out the other day, the Virgin financial services, after a fine start, are now not much better than anyone else's - nor are their marketing messages. I believe that internally they have the same initiative-crushing deadheads running things as their competitors.

On the matter of the great Spanish copy day, we are looking at the end of March in either Alicante or Malaga. And someone in the U.S. suggested a second day for the determined.

Re: Northwestern University, that looks like taking place in January. I'll keep you posted about these two events.


Last, for a bit of light relief I just found this interview I did 30-odd years ago with Leo Toralballa, then a top banana at American Express in New York - and a very funny man.

I asked him for the secrets of success, and his reply was utterly unplanned and unexpected.

If you can't see the video above, try clicking here.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Another up his own arse show-biz loon gets carried away - this time in Sydney. And some thoughts about the BBC's betrayal of trust

Over here we have a man called Moyle (or Moyles - can't remember which) who gets paid far too much for blathering away in the morning on BBC radio.

His chief characteristics appear to be homophobia, anti-semitism, an ability to sink lower than even the lowest dregs among his audience and being employed by the BBC, whose desire to appeal to the moronic millions knows no bounds. Since none of the BBC bosses does what they are supposed to he has never been fired.

I often wonder if the people who run things at Broadcasting House ever stop to consider the difference between quantity and quality, and that getting an audience of millions of half-wits is not what good broadcasting is about and doesn't reflect their charter in the least.

You can plough through that charter if you like, though I don't recommend it as it is 48 pages of turgid stuff with many misprints clearly designed to discourage scrutiny, but the only bit that matters says the BBC should be:

(a) sustaining citizenship and civil society;

(b) promoting education and learning;

(c) stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;

(d) representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities.

I didn't make that up. That really is what they are required to do by Royal Proclamation, and they only do maybe half those things. More to the point it says a lot about the people who run this country that none of them, not one, seems to have asked anyone, anyone at all, at the BBC why they don't do their jobs. If I had a copywriter who didn't write or only wrote half time I would fire him or her. Why should they be different?

In fact every one of the top BBC apparatchiks deserves to be picked up and thrown violently on to the pavement at Great Portland Street without a pension for:

a) not even attempting to do the job they are required to do, with such clear instructions;

b) wasting too much of our money on people who have nothing to with broadcasting and paying them more than the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world an oaf called Kyle Sandiland on 2DayFM in Sydney has sounded off on air at some poor woman who didn't like his show with this barrage of fourth form wit:

“Some fat slag has already branded us a disaster … What a fat bitter thing you are, you deputy editor of an online thing. You’ve got a nothing job anyway. You’re a piece of shit … You are supposed to be impartial, you little troll … Yeah, and your blouse, you haven’t got that much titty to be wearing that low cut a blouse. Watch your mouth, girl, or I will hunt you down.”

Rare command of language amidst the megalomania - but it's got him in trouble with his sponsors who are all deserting him. The reason that made me laugh most was from Holden, who were Australia's biggest car manufacturer until Toyota came along and cheated by making cars that cost less and were more reliable.

They said they think the show is "no longer in line with Holden's core values." Ah! Dear old core values, second cousin to key issues and beloved of Chief Marketing Officers everywhere.

Incidentally, the show the lady criticised, which was on TV, started out with 1.4 million viewers - because it followed an episode of the X Factor - of whom 1.2 million had switched off by the time it ended. God, it must have been bad.

More to the point, he just may have betrayed 2DayFM's core values, which are to make as much money as possible in any way not actually criminal and never upset the advertisers.

I should say, by the way, that I find Australian talk radio utterly fascinating and have done ever since I first visited in 1971. It's amazingly outspoken and often extremely funny. Compared to the pallid stuff we get here for the most part it is far, far better.

That applies to Australian language generally, which reflects the national character and is tons more vigorous than what we trot out over here. But that's another subject.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

If they can't write English, how good d'you suppose they are on investment advice? Plus a bizarre sense of priorities that mystifies me

Eileen McCarthy of UK Auctioneers in Chester got a message from the Financial Times who wanted her to advertise.

It read, "As a number of global dynamics play out, investors are still airing on the side of caution and sticking to less volatile, safe haven stocks.

With only four IMA sectors making a gain in September, achieving returns is becoming ever harder. But never fear, as there are areas where investors are almost guaranteed to make a return.

Antiques is one of them."

I fear the journo who bashed that out is erring on the side of illiteracy - and for all I know, truth as well. That little word "almost" is usually a bit of a give-away, isn't it?

What is interesting is how some people involved in finance can get away with murder while others get clobbered left right and centre. Anyone encouraging people to save - generally a good thing - has their copy so slaughtered by the FSA that it's almost impossible to put forward a coherent argument.

On the other hand, those who encourage them to spend have for years got away with murder. Now, I see, the government is bent on stopping the credit card industry incentivising people to borrow. They are worried about people getting into trouble as a results of having to pay interest rates of 15 - 20%.

But what astounds me - and I keep banging on about this - is that they let Wonga, who charge as much as 4214%, to advertise everywhere from the internet to footballers' shirts. They have a specious argument that because you're only borrowing for a short time the interest rate is irrelevant. On the same lines I could argue that a quick, violent rape is not as bad as a slow, more gentle one.

When I say "criminal" I am not suggesting they are criminals. I suspect even the Mafia would be more reasonable. And when I say "astounds me" it astounds me that any set of people pretending to govern could be worried about 20% when that kind of stuff's going on. We know they're clueless about money, but come on. Can't they count?

Just a point of view, that's all.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A little self-promotion - and what the Bliar and McToad started, Cameron and Osborne look set to finish

I'll get to the bit all about Me, glorious Me in a minute, but the chief reason why I have to bray so loudly is because of what successive governments have done to me and lot of old codgers like me.

First, one of the most diligent architects of our present woes, G. Brown, in need of money to hire more public servants almost halved the value of the pension fund I'd been building for twenty odd years. Obviously necessary if I'm to subsidise the pensions of the people he hired.

More recently the Bank of England's been printing money to make sure that whatever I do get will be worth less when I get round to spending it.

And now there are rumours that the hopeless crew who currently mismanage our affairs are considering slashing the tax relief people get when they save for a pension and the tax free benefits when they cash in. The result will be to push the current abysmal savings rate even lower. If that isn't a dumb, retrograde idea I don't know what is.

Brilliant stuff, in fact. Only necessary because you have not, as promised, done anything to cut spending on jobs for the boys who sit on committees or indeed anything else. It would have taken a fair old leap of imagination to believe that anyone could be less competent than the last bunch of dead beats, but you've pulled it off. You're outspending them, so you need to out-steal them.

All this is the chief reason why I really must draw your attention, dear reader, to http://draytonbird.net/copydvd/. It's an opportunity to improve yourself in one of the few areas that can make you a lot more money without costing you a lot more money, which is copywriting.

There are some ghastly pictures of me in it, looking slightly pregnant (impossible, I know: you're either pregnant or you're not). But there is also a good video at the end which I put there because it's worth watching whether you want to buy anything from me or not.

Thanks for reading these maunderings. And thanks to all of you who send me comments. It makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Is a slum really the answer? And how to become a famous author, speaker etc., in two shakes of a lamb's tail

I took the picture outside Bristol Cathedral, which I walk past pretty much every every day.

They show the camp set up by the people who are protesting against the excesses of capitalism – something I too feel pretty strongly about. They have stated that they want to create a slum there, and are doing a pretty good job.

When young, I used to protest against things like the atom bomb – I was lucky not to get arrested.

We used to march and hand in petitions to parliament. We couldn’t go and camp out because most of us worked for a living, but sadly the jobs many of these people would have if they could be bothered were stolen by Poles and other foreigners who are willing to work hard.

I am not sure a slum is the answer, but it can be very uncomfortable. At 10. 50 last night on my way back from work I saw one industrious slum-builder riding a bike up Whiteladies Road, no doubt going home. He was wearing a jaunty top-hat with a feather in it, looking like a character from Barnaby Rudge.

The tactics of these people remind me of a story about the great Labour Leader Ernest Bevin. In the 1940’s, as now, many Labour politicians loathed each other, and on being told that Ernest Morrison was his own worst enemy, Bevin replied “Not while I'm alive 'e ain't.

Among the people currently giving me wry amusement is J. P. Maroney, the famous writer and public speaker you never heard of.

Since his name rhymes with baloney I have never been quite sure if he is an elaborate practical joke, but for a long time he was trying to turn me, no doubt in exchange for money, into a wildly successful public speaker.

As I’ve been practicing at that for 34 years now – though with not nearly the success he guarantees - I haven’t paid much attention. Now, however, he is pushing some scheme whereby, faster and more easily than I have ever dreamed possible, I can become a famous author.

Well, I’ve been trying and failing at that, too, since 1964, when my first published book, a novel called “Some Rats Run Faster", came out. Quite regularly people embarrass me by saying they have found copies on the internet

This magisterial work would, said one reviewer, make me “Britain’s next best-selling author”. He was wrong, largely because though well-written it had no plot to speak of. If people don't want to know what's going to happen next, they lose interest.

Anyhow, yesterday the wag Maroney put up some answers to the questions many of us would-be authors ask ourselves. A brief quotation is called for.

Q2: Are you going to teach me how to write a book?

I have a unique approach to author. You’ll want to learn it and use it. Put it this way, with my method, you can literally "author" a book in a couple of days if you wish.

Q3: Can you help me choose WHICH book to write?

Yes. I'll show you how to find out what your market wants so you can write the RIGHT book (and make the maximum mool-lah from it).

Well stone the crows! Have I been barking up the wrong tree, or what? The “moo-lah” has been pathetically inadequate. I’ve been taking weeks and weeks to write a book. Amateurs like Mark Twain used to take years. With Maroney's method you could bang out the Bible by Christmas. That's a real money-spinner.

What I needed all the time but never knew it was a secret weapon called semi-literacy. Also, I must stop trying to write, start authoring and splash a few redundant quotation marks around.

I don’t quite know why, but I get the feeling that Mr. Maroney can do to literature what Hitler and Stalin did to Poland.


Incidentally, on capitalism, Winston Churchill's definition of democracy comes to mind. "The worst possible system, except for all the others."

Thursday, 17 November 2011

This morning’s haul: an illiterate “holistic” miracle worker, another bloody legend and another sure-fire formula. Will it ever end? And does it work?

Someone clever once observed that if the tray tables on your aircraft aren’t clean you start to wonder how well they look after the engines.

In much the same way, I wonder about people promising miracles who can’t write decent English. This applies to a lot of the stuff I get which is written in what I call folksy-bollocks-language. But nothing beats the email I got this morning headed Women gives Money Luck....., You will Like This...!

I don’t actually want to get pregnant right now, but I am put off by an incoherent heading followed by PLEASE, NOT ANOTHER pregnancy GIMMICK!

This is especially true if it's immediately followed by, well, another pregnancy gimmick:

Now, I know many of you are saying, "Oh no, not another 'get pregnant in 7 days' program". To be totally honest, I thought the same thing. Rest assured, this is not the case. It is not a quick fix, or gimmick. Its 250+ pages of solid, clinically proven holistic information for getting pregnant. She starts from square one and teaches you everything you need to know. Doesn't matter what type of infertility you have and regardless of your age or lifestyle, you WILL learn something from this book.

The testimonial is priceless and reads: Dear Friends,

I found this information which of no use to me as a man, but I know by spreading this information
I can help other people's life. I believe in doing good deeds will bring back good karma to me,
abundance of wealth and happiness. We never knew with whose prayer we get success and abundance of wealth. Just keep doing good things in life, you will definately get abundance of wealth.
just Clik here, you will know what to do...,

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? How did the word holistic, beloved of phoneys everywhere, creep into this salvo of ignorance? But this may work for two reasons. 1. For every illiterate, demented and crooked promoter there is a horde of illiterate and desperate prospects, growing fast because of our broken-down educational system. 2. The words “money” and “luck” always attract readers.

This may also be true of the word “legend”. When I was 12 I read a book called Myths and Legends of Ancient Babylon and Assyria, written by the archaeologist J. M Breasted. Bloody boring, actually, but I was (and am) a history nut. Today there are more myths and legends than ever were in ancient Mesopotamia, especially in sales and marketing – and I see another has emerged in the shape of “Sales Training Legend Stan Billue”.

I have to declare an interest here, mind. People regularly call me legendary, to the point that occasionally I wake up and breathe on a mirror to see if I really exist. One person who does exist and is as legendary as they come is Jeff Walker who is busy promoting a re-packaged version of his Product Launch formula, with added bells and whistles on social marketing (surprise!) and the help of his many “good friends”.

A good friend, if you don’t know, isn't really a good friend. Did you know that? It is someone who hopes to make money by flogging your latest money-making scheme as an affiliate. A formula, if you don’t know, is something vastly overpriced that you fondly hope will spare you the pain of hard work and hard thinking. It won’t.

I'm not saying all these formulae are complete moonshine. They do work, for a precious few and up to a point. This one is really an elaboration of the system used by Hollywood for the last 80 years. You will learn far more from the way it is promoted than anything else.

What none of these people – not even the most celebrated – has ever done is work on proper businesses - big brands in the big wide world. Some are just dishonest. The best-known in this country was caught lying by the Advertising Standards Authority.

I wonder why nobody notices this. There really are a lot of mugs out there. That doesn't mean you have to join them.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

How the Greeks will solve their debt problem. An old, but good parable

It is a slow day in the little Greek Village.

The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

A rich German tourist, name of Merkel, is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner she wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

The owner gives her some keys and, as soon as she has walked upstairs, grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.

The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna. The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him "services" on credit.

The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note.

The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with renewed optimism. And that, gentle readers, is how the bailout package works.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

TBQ at the BBC, a cheeky little agency scam and other assorted hoots

Did I ever tell you about the time I was asked to join a BBC committee all about the future?

It was all about predicting what was going to happen in the 21st century. Total wankfest, as you'd imagine. One meeting was enough. What a shame they're increasing the TBQ (Total Bollocks Content) and cutting back on the things that make them good - like the World Service.

A perfect example of what's gone wrong in Broadcasting House is on their weather website, brought to my attention with a groan of despair by Crispin White. "We're building a new weather experience for you". WTF???? Are they going to arrange a heatwave on New Year's Day? No: just a new way to show the bloody weather forecast. Are they hiring failed ad copywriters to churn out this tawdry stuff?

The rot set in, of course, when Thatcher got rid of the last real programme maker to be Director-General and replaced him with a bloody accountant, followed by a man called Birt who spoke nothing but corporate jargon. Tony the Bliar, saviour of the Middle East - favourite Charity, Tony Blair's bank account - loved him. They probably used to sit there talking to each other about stakeholders and Tony's Third Way (which is up your arse, if you really want to know),

Anyhow, bit by bit the BBC made fewer and fewer of their own programmes, and bought more in from outside. Then they hired more and more people to buy the programmes. Net result, millions of our money pissed away and a man at the top called Mark Thompson getting paid nigh on a million quid to do a shit job.

Someone should remember the BBC motto: Nation shall speak peace unto nation. Cameron, or Bliar-Lite as we all realise, should stop giving aid money to kleptocrats in poor countries and give half to the World Service and the rest back to us.

It'd be a good idea, too, to fire all the corporate drones starting with the top man. Then they could use that money saved to hire people who will make BBC programmes rather than paying outsiders to do the job. Just like they used to.


On the matter of failed copywriters an agency called The Lean Agency (geddit?) has had a brilliant wheeze. Instead of just hiring freelance writers and so on they're offering "franchises" - the poor dupes are expected to pay a fee for the privilege of working for them. Anyone who falls for that one deserves what they get.

The agency's website tells you all you need to know about why they need good copy. Thanks to Iain Maclean for sending me this egregious example.


Thanks to the folks who sent me messages reading "Berlusconi". You have been added to the great list of masochists who get my helpful ideas, and my colleague Bill Fryer will contact you about the sundry ways we can help you do better.

Lastly news for those of you interested in copy.

1. I promised a free webinar on copy today. I did two versions yesterday and didn't like either. So I have redone this morning, and if the radiant Chloe has time to edit it will be up later. I do sound a bit hoarse, but it may interest you.

It is just under 30 minutes long, and covers something I will not be talking about in Spain.

2. On the matter of Spain, I am talking about arrangements with my client there, who is wisely busy this week doing his real job rather than doing favours to me. I will keep you posted.

3. The video of my Bristol Copy Seminar is now available and I will be writing about it later this week. The content will not be the same in Spain. I am working on something new to celebrate the spring.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

My dancing years with Jimmy Saville and the career I lost – plus a little vulgar commerce

The picture is for overseas readers who don’t know who the hell Jimmy Saville – or rather Sir Jimmy Saville OBE, who died a couple of days ago - was.

He was as you see the epitome of understated good taste and I once had a job interview with him. How my life would have changed if I had ignored his advice!

I first laid eyes and ears on him when I was 19 and used to go dancing every weekday lunch time and on Tuesday evenings at a ballroom in Manchester called The Plaza.

I was a pretty nifty terpsichorean by all accounts. Seven years ago someone I had not seen since those days sent me an email mentioning that people used to copy my moves. I can’t express how much childish delight that gave me – but that’s enough about that.

Jimmy Saville was the new manager at the Plaza, and when the band wasn’t on he used to play records with a commentary. The first time I heard him I turned to a friend and said, “That man is going to make a fortune.”

“Why?” my friend asked.

“Because he can talk non-stop about fuck-all and keep your attention.”

Yes, friends: Jimmy Saville was the first real disc jockey I ever heard. Others played records with comments about the people who made them, the music and so on. Jimmy used a twin-turntable (and had done since 1947) with minimal gaps between records. During the gaps he talked non-stop about nothing in the most engaging way with a bizarre semi-transatlantic phraseology delivered in a broad Yorkshire accent.

He became by far the most successful DJ in Britain - and certainly the only one to be knighted. He wore ghastly track-suits and gold chains, dyed his hair blonde, had a litany of catch-phrases, several of which entered the language, never married and did a prodigious amount of work for charity. The picture is of him with a local charity - when he was 80 years old.

All those years ago I was so struck by him that, having a love of music, a trivial mind and a burning desire to show off I got an interview with him. He was a very nice man. When I said I was married he advised me not to become a DJ as it would ruin my marriage. Ironic, really, as I managed that all on my very own.

One of my most interesting career opportunities in those years was being asked by a very attractive blonde dancing partner if I’d like to be her ponce. I declined, not on moral grounds but because I am a coward and thought the job might involve violence.

So there you are.

Meanwhile, if you are worried about whether the world is coming to an end I have five practical money-making ideas for you, most but not all to do with e-commerce.

I am emailing them to my list. If you are not on that list, just email Drayton@Draytonbird.com reading “Berlusconi”. That will help you remember one big fat crooked degenerate reason you’re going to need better ideas and also remind me to send you the ideas.

They do not include setting up as a disc jockey. However my friend Martin Chilcott is not only a is freely available for parties and excellent marketing advice. As I may have mentioned oh, three hundred times, four of my family are musicians and I know a lot more than Martin about soul, jazz and r'n'b no matter what he thinks, the poor young fool.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Very droll: another blinding glimpse of the obvious lurches out of the intellectual undergrowth - plus Ocado's marketing madness

Friends accuse me of mock-modesty when I say that any success I have had has little to do with my abilities but is almost entirely due to the sloth of many if not most people in the marketing game.

But I am absolutely serious and bring in evidence three instructive examples.

First, the advertisement shown here, which is about 90 years old. It is the work of Claude Hopkins, and a simple demonstration of what marketing is all about - besides illustrating one or two tricks that repay study.

Second, a relatively new online publication called Social Media Examiner which caters to fools in thrall to the latest silver bullet.

And third, why a company called Ocado that does almost everything right is not just shooting itself in the foot but enthusiastically cutting its legs off every day.

The Pepsodent ad shows how to acquire customers in any business. Offer a benefit, paint a word picture and give something away free that will capture customers. This is what you have to do on the internet, for example, though surprisingly few seem to know it.

The ad also forces retail distribution in a way most large firms today have never heard of. It sends retailers lots of people interested in Pepsodent.

The story of how Pepsodent became the leading toothpaste all those years ago despite being no better than any of its competitors is told in The Man Who Sold America. Please don't ask me about that because you should know of it and its subject already. Just read it.

Social Media Examiner is the brainchild of Michael Stelzner and good for him. His aim, I guess, is to enlighten people who a) think social media are the answer to maiden’s prayer and b) don't realise there is nothing new about how to succeed in these media. They are probably also under the illusion that a slogan is advertising and re-branding will save their witless little arses.

The latest Social Media Examiner offers a report called 4 Steps to Selling With Social Media. This tells you what Claude Hopkins knew 90 years ago. 1. Find a prospect. 2. Keep talking to them till they buy. 3. Keep them as long as you can. 4. Measure everything to see how you're doing.

Marketers who don't understand this should go and get a job growing turnips. If they did we would have lots more turnips, marketing departments would shrink by about two thirds and average return on marketing investment would double.


I have been studying Ocado, a very good home delivery service, for years. They don't understand one of the most important things in the process above, with disastrous consequences. I have manfully refrained from comment because I think they should pay me for this, but I can't keep quiet any longer.

Ocado are very good at finding prospects and making them buy. They do this by offering discounts. New customers go onto the database and they communicate with them regularly.

So far so good. But you know what happens next? They keep offering them discounts. Why? If the service is good (which it is) they don’t need to. They are training their customers not to buy except with a discount.

As my friend the late Professor Andrew Ehrenberg in the PIMS study run with the Ogilvy Centre for Research pointed out well over 25 years ago, this kills profits.

Whoever is responsible for this folly should have their brains surgically replaced with something more useful. Fish oil, maybe.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

This man was breathing money when I was on a mere $480,000. Here's why

My friend James Hammond, the Brand Doctor, sent me this (he studies everything and often mortifies me by producing stuff I never heard of).

It is written by Neil French. I don't know how you make it big enough to read. Get a magnfiying glass, maybe. It's worth it.

Neil was in charge of creative at Ogilvy Advertising around the time I was in charge of the direct side.

Naturally, advertising being more creative, he got paid tons more than me.

I suspect he deserved it. He produced the kind of ads that Raymond Rubicam said we should all aspire to – “that not only sells but is an excellent piece of work in its own right.”

Thank you James. And thank you Neil. We never met but I was always impressed by tales (apocryphal, I am sure) suggesting that my private life was downright tame compared to yours.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Some thoughts about banks - and how come people fall for all this second rate guff?

Over the years I have seen both sides of most of the big banks in this country. I’ve done work and had business or personal accounts with them and they are bloody useless in both areas.

Lloyds Bank is deep in the doo-doo again, and that Spanish chap who did so well at Santander has taken to his bed.

I’m not in the least surprised. Not just because anyone who thinks the famous financial genius Lewis Hamilton is the right face for a bank must be a bit simple, but because I’ve suffered as a Lloyds customer since 1977.

I only retain an account with them because I get a decent overdraft and can’t be bothered to move to FirstDirect who are, I am told competent. But I still can’t understand why Lloyds computer regularly refuses to give me cash when I go to New York – five or six times every year.

I have suffered from Lloyds as a supplier, too. I introduced them to direct marketing in the early ‘80s, and God, it was hard work. I wrote a ten point proposal in the cab going over - which now forms part of one of the early chapters in Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing.

I didn't mean it to be done in such a hurry - I thought my colleague had done one and vice-versa.

Lloyds' main problem was an utter inability to actually do anything. This was largely because they carefully created a bottleneck in their system. Everything we did had to be approved by one nitwit, ignorant of all marketing and, like most big company marketers, disinclined to learn. So progress was snail-like.

Years later I did a proposal for them for the launch of an internet bank. That project (nothing came of it) was being managed entirely by outside consultants, which brings a whole new plangent meaning to the phrase abdication of responsibility.

When I worked with the Bank of Scotland one executive said at a conference of financial marketers that everything we ever did for them beat what it was tested against – but they still kept the account with one big useless agency. It is astonishing that return on investment doesn’t matter to a bank.

The only bank client who seemed any good was with the Banco Comercial Portuges, but he stiffed me for £5,000 eventually.

My solution for the banks is simple.

1. Move your headquarters to somewhere much cheaper.

2. Fire half the people there at random and give some of the savings to the poor bastards who work in the branches.

3. Ban all meetings that a) last longer than 30 minutes b) where all present cannot give a good reason
why and c) do not produce a decision to act with a time by which that action is to be taken, and a person deputed to make sure it is.

4. Cease all marketing that cannot be proven to either a) get more customers or b) get customers to stay longer or c) get them to spend more - or is measured by means of qualitative research alone.

The banks are not the only people without a clue, though. A year ago I wrote about an insurance mailing that I swear will work, and am prepared to do a profit-sharing deal with any firm that will run it.

A few people replied including one from AXA who said he was there to “shake things up” and one from another firm who claimed to be keen. Nothing happened.

One reason nothing happens in business is because of the amount of useless bullshit, useless bullshitters and useless people who fall for it.

The other day a firm offered a report called Strategically Social: 5 Keys to Becoming a Social Business, so I replied out of curiosity.

The report was full of statistics and words like empowering and leveraging, but told me absolutely nothing anyone even half-well-informed shouldn't know, No wonder: the writer was a CRM expert: i.e. a specialist in busted flushes.

A salesman called Randy followed up three times – quite right: they want to take money off me.

He was “touching base … to get some general feedback. How is Drayton Bird Associates currently active in the social media space?”

So, clearly no research had been done, other than into all-purpose corporate cliché.

In the third follow-up he wanted to discuss “how Drayton Bird Associates is currently using, or plans to use, social media to achieve your overall corporate objectives."

I replied “The day I start having "overall corporate objectives" is the day I quit, Randy.

What I do is make money, and to help in that I post on blog, twitter and facebook plus send out emails totalling between them about 50 times a week.

It works just fine.”

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Politics and marketing: why I won’t shut up no matter how much it bores you

Two weeks ago one of the speakers at EADIM took me aside and made some helpful suggestions. One was that I should stop writing about politics – “I find it infuriating” he said.

He said I should stick to marketing, because that’s what I’m known for and what people want to hear about from me.

I respect his views so I listened, said nothing and thought about it.

He may be right but I don’t think so.

I believe a narrow focus on marketing stunts your thinking. We live in wider world; everything we do is affected by what politicians do. If you doubt it, consider the current chaos and ask who is responsible.

If you’re in Europe ask yourself, for example, how much European legislation - drafted by people you never voted for - affects your ability to use direct mail or to hire and fire. Or how much you personally will be paying to sort out Greece and other countries. Then work out how much your marketing results must improve to for you to afford the money.

Moreover how politicians market themselves - or fail to - teaches many lessons.

In the 1950’s the Eisenhower campaign was the first (as far as I know) to use tested direct marketing methods. They actually tested several messages to see which got the greatest response (most big firms, 60 years later have still not got round to this).

I worked on the Thatcher, Major and Blair campaigns. None of the people running them had a clue from a direct marketer’s perspective.

When I was working for the Tories I had chat with a friend who was working for the Socialists. He told me,"All they're interested in is 'what are you going to say about me." This is exactly the thinking that leads to the self-congratulatory bilge large marketers indulge in.

Obama ran the most sophisticated campaign ever, but is a telling instance of the fact that you should never over-promise.

As Bill Bernbach put it, “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.” I am not suggesting Obama is a bad product. I am suggesting his is a case of “No, you can’t”. Obama could never in a million years change everything. He is in a far, far worse situation than if he had made more modest claims.

But let me turn closer to home where some extraordinary marketing is likely to defeat the biggest clown to run Italy since Mussolini - and in some ways a worse man. Mussolini almost destroyed the mafia. Berlusconi was financed by them.

Italy is in a far, far worse state than it was before they started complying with European employment legislation which puts you off hiring people – even temporarily - because you can’t fire them. From having the fastest growing economy in Europe they have regressed to becoming a basket case – and it all started from the moment they started following the rules.

Many Italians thought that even if was a crook, Berlusconi was able. They were disappointed - which brings me to what is happening in Italy right now.

Michele Santoro, a broadcaster whom Berlusconi tried to destroy, looks like destroying him. How? Partly because he is the most popular broadcaster in Italy – but also by extremely clever marketing.

Berlusconi controls either directly or indirectly all the major broadcasting channels. He fired Santoro – twice. Santoro sued and was reinstated. Then, what a surprise, Santoro’s programme – the most popular in Italy with 8 million viewers- was cancelled.

So Santoro went out and made deals with all the small local independent channels so that people could see a programme untrammelled by state interference. In 48 hours he raised 230,000 Euros from private individuals in payments of 10 euros. Enough for the first programme to be filmed at Cinecitta, the famous film studios in Rome..

2 million people watched that programme. Nobody knows how many more watched on line but 200,000 people posted messages on facebook during the programme.

Santoro is a very witty man – and shows great stuff.

One example is a sequence showing a meeting of Berlusconi supporters. They would feel at home in the BNP. Another is a series of shots of Italian legislators in parliament all listening to their mobile phones. They are being told how to vote.

But one shouldn’t be patronising. Our own politicians are just so much lobby fodder.

Maybe this sort of thing doesn’t interest you and you don’t think it is worth learning from. I disagree. As John Donne wrote, "No man is an island". Nor is our trade.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Does this piss you off as much as it does me? Plus a great joke

I'll explain what the picture's about in a minute. First though, a moan and a warning.

Dodgy sales people for years used a technique called bait and switch.

They would offer you something free or very cheap to lure you in, then sell you something expensive.

The best known example when I was first a creative director back in the '60's was John Bloom who used this technique to sell washing machines, fridges, dishwashers and even holidays in Bulgaria. (I rather suspect a holiday in communist Bulgaria was no holiday - I visited Varna for a day in 1980. Great wine and that was about it.)

Eventually Bloom went broke and moved to Los Angeles, opening a very successful medieval theme restaurant called 1520 AD. I think he runs a piano bar in Mallorca now.

People on the internet use this bait and switch technique it every day, especially the phoney “gurus”. But the people who really annoy me are such as Norton and File Cure who offer you free help, then say there are hosts of nasty bugs in your machine, nearly all if not all of which are quite harmless, before selling you their programmes.

As an aside, Dr. Harlan Kilstein wrote this the other day about the people who promise to make you rich "automatically":

"Have you ever noticed that the gurus are out with a new program so often.

I was once in a guru meeting where someone explained it:

We launch a product.

We make a few hundred thousand.

We party for a few months and blow all the money.

We start all over again".

Don't say you haven't been warned.


Anyhow, here's the joke that goes with the picture.

The wife and I were sitting around the breakfast table one lazy Sunday morning.

I said to her, "If I were to die suddenly, I want you to immediately sell all my stuff."

"Now why would you want me to do something like that?" she asked.

"I figure that you would eventually remarry and I don't want some other wanker using my stuff."

She looked at me and said: "What makes you think I'd marry another wanker?"

P. S. If you signed up for EADIM by sending Bingo to me and you weren't just tire-kicking you need to pay the first installment by the end of tomorrow, or if you have a problem or question, please write to Chloe@draytonbird.com now.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

One simple thing you can do now that will transform your business – I guarantee it

I'll tell you what the simple thing is in a minute, but first some relevant thoughts.

25 years ago David Ogilvy sent me the notes for a speech he was to make at a direct marketers' convention, asking for my comments.

I had none, but the speech has stuck in my mind ever since. (And I learned a lesson: no matter how good you think you are, always get people to comment on your stuff).

In the speech he pointed out that we lived in two different worlds. One was the world of the general advertisers, who had no idea what results they were getting. The other was our world. “You know. You know your results to a penny,” he said.

He urged direct marketers to go out and educate the general advertisers. “Why don’t you save them from their folly?” he thundered.

This was somewhat optimistic, as general advertisers saw us as oily rags beneath their notice who sent out shit on paper.

Nothing much has changed – even today most corporate websites are rubbish because few of the people who commission or sign them off realise that everything on the internet is direct marketing.

But before making an incredibly naive suggestion that might help I would like to say that in a larger sense we live in two parallel worlds today. That of politicians and big corporations and ours, where we have to sell – or else.

The mindless ignorance of politicians was highlighted by Bill Bonner in the Daily Reckoning the other day.

The Euro-buffoons sent a man to Beijing to see if the Chinese would help with their financial shortfalls. No dice. They said “China can neither take up the role as a saviour to the Europeans, nor provide a ‘cure’ for the European malaise. Obviously, it is up to European countries themselves to tackle their financial problems.”

Then the man went to see the Japanese. This caused Mr. Bonner great mirth. “Asking Japan for a loan is like asking a starving man for a piece of chocolate cake. Japan already has more government debt than anyone. Its public debt- to-GDP ratio is up to 230%,” said he.

The truth is that after they have finished smiling for the cameras while doing nothing very much Messrs. Sarkozy, Merkel, Cameron and so on will retire gratefully to the great trough filled to overflowing for them by their pals and supplemented by their gold-plated pensions. The same applies to the union leaders, bankers and so on. They don't share our worries.

At the start of my career I lived in a little two up and two down house in Ashton-under-Lyne. I was better off than my neighbours for two reasons. First, although our toilet was outside like theirs we were the only house in the row with a bath. Second, my parents gave me a good education.

Even then I was infinitely better off than the billions of people in the world today who have neither bathrooms nor toilets nor luxuries of any kind and are fighting to get into our pampered domains.

The salaries of the fat cats who run big corporations have soared as their workers’ have dropped in real terms. This is because they are determined by other fat cats who sit on their compensation, or rip-off committees. They are no more interested in results than when David made his speech. They still think advertising is all about fatuous slogans and wind-baggery - and their advertising agents know no better.

When I flew in on Tuesday Heathrow airport had posters for DHL all over the place. They read, “Where there’s room for improvement we’ll find it.” Then they modestly stated "EXCELLENCE. SIMPLY DELIVERED. AXA/PPP Healthcare say “PERFECTION/REDEFINED”. Please note the creative use of the . and the /. To you they may be a mere slash or a full stop. But this is award-winning stuff, friends, agonised over in many a long, cash-burning meeting.

You may never have to move to a house with an outside toilet, but unless you too have cash to burn you’d better get a lot better at what you do than these people. To give you an idea, here is the ending to some copy that ran when times were much harder than now.

Let nothing, absolutely nothing interfere with immediate action. A change for the better justifies no delay. Don't watch others make money which you could make. Be up and doing now. Tomorrow may be too late. Place your order and application this very minute. Take the action now that means more money next week, independence next year.

If all you ever do is look at everything you run in the next year and ask if it has that burning desire to get people to act your results will soar. I guarantee it.

You may be relieved to see that I have not suggested that if you want to do better you come to www.EADIM.com next October. I will leave you to draw that conclusion without me banging you over the head.