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Thursday, 19 July 2012

This is the end, beautiful friend, the end ...

Actually it's not so much an end as a new beginning.

You know, "The blog is dead.  Long live the blog" ...

Or something like that at any rate.

What you need to know is that the blog hasn't gone - it's moved.  To here:

Please click on the picture, or the link and bookmark the page.

Some of you have been clever (or is that foolish) enough to subscribe to my musings.

So - by invitation - my latest ramblings invade your inbox once a day.

You don't have to re-subscribe.  One of my pointy-headed colleagues has done battle with the technical and won - you're already subscribed.

And with that I shall bid you farewell from here.  And look forward to greeting you over there.



How are many firms dealing with the recession? Nothing seems a popular option. Why not take Sir Francis Bacon's advice?

What are firms doing about the recession? I suspect many are hiding under the bedclothes and hoping it'll go away. Or maybe they're like this deer.

I get this impression from one fact and one observation.

The fact is this.

Firms are sitting on big piles of cash and doing nothing with it. As Sir Francis Bacon remarked in an essay, "Money is like muck. Not good except it be spread."

It is a cliché that the best time to act is when all your competitors aren't.

That is the case in a recession. Your money will get you better deals. You will have a greater share of voice.

And so on. Boring, boring, boring - except that this simple lesson seems lost on those who should have it off by heart.

The observation I refer to confirms what the effects of the fact are.

The other day I went to a big do at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I shall write about when my hangover recedes and I am less mystified.

I spent a little time talking to a colleague who, like me, built a big direct marketing agency in the days back when and sold it for (I hope for his sake) loadsamoney.

I asked him how things were. "Tricky. Clients say they're going to do things but keep delaying and very often end up doing nothing," he replied lugubriously. 

Those piles of cash are losing value every day.

Put them to work.

REMINDER: I'd hate to lose you, but this blog is migrating (has migrated, actually) to Wordpress.

We are trying to move everyone with us automatically, but my experience is that in Cyberspace everything that can possibly go wrong will.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Mysteries of the universe: who on earth approves this sort of thing, and why?

The question I asked when I saw this was not "why not?". It was "why on earth?"

I saw it on the platform at Henley Station, just after I had finished interviewing Tony Laithwaite of Laithwaite's and goodness knows how many other wine businesses.

Tony is very modest considering how successful he is. It was only almost as an aside that he admitted he has created what is probably the world's largest wine merchants' business.

The question is, what is that glass of wine doing on the poster? Did they put it there as a subtle tribute to Tony, whose office is not far away?

Since they sell insurance was it perhaps a roundabout reference to the number of glasses of wine you should drink every day if you want to stay alive?

Was the red slash a cunning echo of their logo, in the fond delusion that would boost their sales? Couldn't they have found a more boring headline?

Is there even the slightest scintilla of a fraction of a ghost of a chance that it will do any good?

Tony told me that he gives his new people copies of my Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing. Like Peter Hargreaves, another successful businessman I have interviewed he has never spent a penny on image advertising.

What do they give new people at AXA and their agency to read? Alice in Wonderland?

Just as a reminder and because I don't want to lose you, I'm moving this blog to Draytonbird.com soon.

If you go there and think it's a bit of a mess: I agree. It has a huge amount of advice and other stuff yet to be plonked onto it.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

On Chinese charm, Ling the Unstoppable - and to hell with the internet experts

Is it politically incorrect to say this? I fear so.

I prefer women to men, always have.

They look nicer, are more entertaining and far more practical. They need to be, to cope with men.

It is probably even more politically incorrect to say I like Chinese women - but I do.

Before that gets me into further trouble I should explain this is nothing to do with sex. It is to do with personality.

Over the years I have worked with a few Chinese ladies. The first was Moy - back in 1958 in my first job in advertising. She was funny and charming in a way I can't quite describe, but she had a directness I loved.

The same applied to Alice, who worked for me about 15 years ago. I lost her because someone who also worked with me was a pain and lost me one or two good people including her - but Alice went on to do well. She too had this charm and directness.

But none could compare, as you will see, with Ling.

Yesterday somebody sent me to her site - http://www.lingscars.com/talks.php.

I was utterly transfixed. Especially when I saw a speech made by the master - is it OK to say mistress? - of that particular universe.

The site is the sort of thing that most marketers would find appalling.

It was voted one of the world's worst websites. But I bet that people spend ten times more time on it than they do on any site produced by people who think they are experts in building websites.

But none could compare, as you will see, if you go and watch Ling. This is 100% what you need when leasing cars. It is a living, moving example of a great car dealer's ad - but with the magic of Ling added.

The car marques build the brands: Ling shifts the metal. Great stuff.

Ling did very well on Dragon's Den, which I never watch as I see so many silly people on it. This is my favourite episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mmlx-e_u0i8.

Serve and volley - a profitable Wimbledon afterthought - and a reminder that this blog is moving

A while ago I confessed that for my first six years in this business almost all the copy I wrote was rubbish, but I sold it very well.
The best person I know when it comes to face-to-face selling is Andy Bounds. 
He has written a book you will often find on airport bookstalls called The Jelly Effect. Don't be put off because he mentions me at the start. It is a good book, and he tells me he is writing another.
Here's some advice he sent me this morning. It is good.
A powerful technique to help people think differently is to use what I call “serve and volley” – two questions that work as follows:
  1. The serve – a simple question that everyone knows the answer to; and
  2. The volley – a second, related question that provokes people into realising they need to change their mindset
For instance, I recently addressed a conference audience I knew hated networking.  So, I used “serve and volley” with them, asking these two questions:
  1. Do you feel uncomfortable when you are networking?  (90% of the room put their hand up)
  2. Do you think your discomfort is worse than other people’s?  (Again, 90% put their hand up)
I then made the point:  “Well, you can’t all be right.  After all, you can’t all find it worse than everybody else.”  Once people realised their feelings were similar to others, it was easier to improve their confidence, safe in the knowledge that they weren’t the “only one”.
Another example:
  1. Is your product good or bad?  (Everyone says “Good”)
  2. Given how good your product is, do you win as many sales as you should?  (The only answer people give to this is “No”)
Conclusion:  It’s not what you sell that’s the problem; it’s how you sell it.  So, let’s look at how you can win the sales you should be winning.
And another:
  1. Do you hate reading presenters’ wordy slides?  (Everyone says “Yes”)
  2. Do you use wordy slides when you’re presenting?  (If you do, you are doing to others what you hate people doing to you)
Conclusion: you really ought to take some words off your slides!
See how it works?  If so…
  1. Might “Serve and volley” help you change people’s perceptions?
  2. Do you think it’s easy to master, or not? 
Action point
If your answers to these two questions were “Yes”, then “Not”…
… Think of someone’s mindset you want to shift. Then work hard to identify two related questions you can ask to get them to see things differently.
As I mentioned the other day, this blog is moving over to Draytonbird.com - which at the moment looks like a building site.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Why this blog is not vanishing, but migrating to DraytonBird.com ... plus advice for someone intelligent on how to start a business

Do you find it takes a depressing amount of time to get anything done?

And that even when you've done it, you're disappointed?

Me too.

It is now several months since I got fed up with the "improvements" made by Blogger to the way you put things up here. They were a perfect example of how big organisations change things - but make them worse.

Anyhow, I've finally managed it, and you will now find my ramblings on a revamped Draytonbird.com. You will also find all my past blogs.

My publisher suggested the other day that we might put together a collection of the best ones - but that sounds like a pretty daunting task.

To be honest I am not yet entirely happy with that site - there's a lot of type floating around vaguely at the top. But it is in Wordpress which makes life easier, so I hope to have it sorted out in the next few days.

There are a great many features that Im going to incorporate, one of which has been on my mind for over a year. It is a listing of all the books, videos, e-books and courses I have created.

There are so many that I gave up going through them a couple of weeks ago. Serves me right for being a motor-mouth.


Last week a young man I know in Montclair N.J. wrote asking for my advice.

He has a good idea, and approached it in the best way: he has done his research and found a business with several advantages.

I am not going to tell you what the business is, but it is nothing unusual. You can see this kind of business in every town, everywhere.

Most people who talk to me about going into business do so just because they like the idea. Hardly any do their homework. He has.

He has looked at the total U.S. market and how it is growing based on the statistics in Forbes magazine. He has looked at his local area and found there is unusually high demand for what he proposes to sell because of a particular ethnic group. And he has found cheap premises.

He is also very realistic, with a goal.

"It is also relatively cheap compared to other business and I don't plan for this to become a multi-million dollar business. Just something to make a smaller income over time but more so the experience needed to run a much larger business."

This is what I wrote to him:

This is not a bad idea at all and you have started off by doing an analysis, which is the right thing.

You must now do more of the same.

Take a note of and study all the successful retailers you can, both on and off-line.

Try to determine what they are doing that makes them succeed, both in terms of their general approach and in specific things they do.

Read any books you can that seem helpful. Also anything on the Internet to do with start-ups.

I do not mean the kind of "I'll make you rich in 20 minutes" garbage. I mean stuff by people who have been there and done it with serious business - Tony Hsieh of Zappos is an interesting case.

Try to define what it is about your business that will make it better (it does not have to be different - just better).

Write a plan that defines how you will be different and better.

Work out the numbers. Never underestimate how much gross profit you need.

Define your customers. Why will they buy? When will they buy? What emotions will make them buy? How can you make them buy again? Remember, the first sale is not the one that makes you money. How are you going to communicate with them?

Be a customer. Look at what other people are doing and finish the following sentence:

Why don't they .....? Then finish it with something you think people could and should do, but don't.

When you get going, learn to live with failure and keep trying. But equally, don't persist in something that doesn't work.

One of the smartest entrepreneurs I know is an ex army officer who came and worked for me for virtually nothing before setting up his business, which he sold for millions.

So there you are. See you at DraytonBird.com, which is still like a building site, but we'll get there.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Why firms go broke - a mystery ... The blessing and curse of teams ... the astounding Mr. Ogilvy ... and a little luck for Friday 13th

Before you read another word, I am not going to sell you a damn thing. I'm just curious, that's all. No: bemused is the right word.

I was talking the other day to a friend who sells a way of finding business prospects on the Internet. I know it works because we tested it.

I have written about it before, so I won't bore you. However he reckons that for every prospect you now get you could get nine more. All you have to do is spend a little time - I mean minutes - copying and pasting to get it working for you.

So that's a potential 900% more prospects if you can spare a few minutes. And if you don't have enough prospects to chase you'll go broke. But you know what? Most of the people who've asked for a free trial can't be arsed to do it.

People go broke because they're just too damned idle. We had a client not long ago - a well-known firm in financial trouble. We proved that we could transform their business. They just had to give us two pieces of simple information.

It took them two months to supply the first - and so long to supply the second that we gave up and had to sue them to get money they owed.

So now you know why firms go broke. Sheer unmitigated sloth. As the slogan says, "Just do it".

I was talking to friend earlier about "teams". Many firms sign messages from "the team". I'm all in favour of team spirit if you're playing soccer. Good teams have it; bad ones don't. 

But I don't want to talk to a team if I have a problem. I want to talk to a person. And as my friend said, in business having a team all too often means this: if it's the team's problem it's not mine. They abdicate responsibility.


Among other things I am busy writing a brief memoir of my experiences with David Ogilvy. The more I write, the more I realise what an extraordinary person he was. Such was the power of his personality that I think I can recall just about every conversation I ever had with him.

Tomorrow on Friday 13th I shall be making a special offer. Just for that day. God knows we all need a little luck.

Lastly, and at long last, I am putting up a new DraytonBird.com website. Not before time as the present one is a shambles - and this blog will be migrating there.

Ciao for now.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Sodden and Gomorrah: a little trip back to hippy-ville - and how to get a job

Sorry about the dreadful pun, but it seems to have been raining forever and a day.

Having said that yesterday I visited Glastonbury, where the ever vigilant Chloe who tries to keep me on the right lines comes from.

The day was a joy for many reasons.

To start with, we witnessed a small miracle. The sun shone all the time.

By my reckoning this has only happened once for about ten minutes during this pathetic apology for a summer.

There was lots to look at in Glastonbury. The town is full of slightly dazed-looking folk wandering about in multi-layered, scrupulously mismatched clothes. I couldn't think what they reminded me of, then realised they look as though scooped up in Haight-Ashbury in the '60s and miraculously dumped in this little market town half a century later.

Every other shop is selling bizarre jewellery, fortune-telling, all-round wizardry and any number of loony religious outcrops. I never in my life saw so much mysticism in such a small area. I thought it only polite to get with the programme and in no time at all I was pushing Buddhism prayer-wheels round and making wishes.

Actually I rather like Buddhism. It seems the only major faith that has never thought that slaughtering the unenlightened is a good way to spread the word.

There was a pilgrimage (Christian) going on, too, which we ran into when we went to visit the ruins of the Abbey. The hymns were rather dreary, but you can't have everything. We climbed Glastonbury Tor, where they hanged the last Abbott half a millennium ago.

Perhaps the two best things in the town for a greedy-guts like me are gastronomic.

Burns the Bake sell all kinds of goodies including pasties that are twice as good and half the price of the ones the big chains offer.

A couple of hundred yards away is Knight's who have been around since 1909 and were recently named the best fish and chip joint in the west. We ate in a small sunlit courtyard. Excellent. Their haddock is the size of a small whale.


To change the subject radically, I got an email the other day from Alison in Australia, who wants to get into direct marketing after raising children for 13 years.

She told me she is 46 and a bit concerned that digital "seems like it's made to be the be all and end all".

Here's what I wrote back:

My God: I wish I were 46 again, Alison. That was almost 30 years ago, and I was about to make a great deal of money.

That is a tricky question, for two reasons:

1) The industry is full of semi-literate 23 year old muppets who know little but think they know it all (as I did at that age).

2) Everyone - 23 year old or not - thinks the solution to everything is digital. I happen to agree to a great extent.

Having said that, the beginning of a solution, as with all else in life is to do your research and have a clear objective.

You should make a scrupulous study of what is happening in marketing and an equally scrupulous study of yourself.

That is because your aim is to find out where you are most likely to be able to do well.

What are you good at; what are you not good at; where do you think you could make a difference?

Then learn about how to get a job.

95% of people haven't a clue on how to go about it - and that is a kind percentage.

A friend who has been looking for good employees has been depressed by the ineptitude and illiteracy of would be candidates.

But the bias against age is such that you must then be prepared for a lot of rejection.

For that, the only solution is to remember the remark of Calvin Coolidge.

"Persistence alone is omnipotent."

I was going to suggest she look at a report I wrote on how to get a job, but I couldn't find it. Now I have and you can see it if you know anyone who is in the same position as her.

There is also a video I made about three years ago that you may find interesting. By the look of it we must have a had a good summer when I made that.

Friday, 6 July 2012

A sexy social media ad for the oldest profession - and a helpful 5 point check-list

Back in 1980 I set eyes on the oldest ad I have ever come across in the ruins of Ephesus, in Turkey.

Carved in stone and up to 2,000 years old I guess it is the equivalent of a modern poster.

You could reasonably claim it is a helpful social media message as it gave directions to the local brothel. You might even see it as the ancestor of the kind and helpful emails I get every day from ladies who are just round the corner from my flat, horny as hell and dying for the touch of my manly hand

Those of you with strong views on such matters should stop reading now, but how encouraging to see the ancients advertising something more fun than Coca Cola, McDonalds or Tampax.

Either way, it was wonderfully simple and effective compared to almost all the posters I see today

You may wonder why I often discuss posters.

The reason is simple: it is very hard to devise a good poster. They are a tough challenge - just as banner ads on the internet or classified ads are. So studying them pays

You have to convey a strong, relevant benefit, be simple, dramatic, to the point, include the name of what you are selling and be very brief, as the average poster is only seen for seconds.

Virtually all the posters I see fail on all counts.

They fail to convey a strong benefit and are neither simple, nor dramatic, nor to the point, nor brief - perhaps because those who throw them together have never considered how fast they have to work. In many you can't see the name of the advertiser very quickly.

"We want to look after you well into the future" is the line on a poster near Bristol Temple Meads station.

It is just about possible that a motorist whizzing past might take in all those words, but highly unlikely that they would read the long sentence afterwards which explains why the advertiser thinks they can look after you - which is something to do with an obscure survey they keep topping.

The passing motorist might also be surprised to know that the advertiser - if they ever saw the name - is a power company.

Do you see your power company as looking after you? I think a nurse, or a husband or wife or at a pinch the lady in the Ephesus hospitality suite would be a much more likely candidate.

As it happens there is a lady in the poster wearing what looks like a motor racing helmet. I have no idea what she has to do with gas or electricity. Maybe she is Lewis Hamilton's cousin, lost on her way to one of those confusing Santander bank posters. Her only role is to mystify.

There are only five things to remember about a poster.

  1. Is it striking and hard for someone whizzing past to ignore?
  2. Is it relevant, with no confusing pictures?
  3. Does it offer a clear, credible benefit in a split second - that no competitor is offering?
  4. Does it display the name of the advertiser in a way you can't miss?
  5. Does it have less than seven words in total?
The only exception is if the poster is in a place where people have time to read - like a railway station. Then you needn't be brief.

Apart from that if you apply those criteria to every message - not just posters - that you run, you won't go far wrong.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

I have a better idea - only for people in the real world, with notes from Peter Drucker, and an announcement

This cartoon by the excellent and funny Tom Fishburne speaks for itself, but reminds me of a discovery I made recently.

I was talking to my PA the tenacious Chloe, who gazes each day with renewed dismay at my antics.

She has a degree in something I probably don't understand, but seems to know what she's doing.

The subject of mission statements came up and she told me they actually had a course at her university on how to write them.

I suspect this is pretty close to having a course in time-wasting.

A harsh and simplistic view you may think. But I cannot conceive for a second that any genuinely successful person ever wrote a mission statement. Steve Jobs? Branson? Gates? I somehow doubt it.

I suspect most had an objective - maybe even quite vague - and just got on with it as fast as possible.

The first aim in business - said Peter Drucker - is to avoid making a loss.

I think you are likely to manage this best by recalling another of his remarks: "There is only one profit center in business. It is your customer".

In October Howie Jacobson will be joining me in London, in an attempt to help anyone who is interested in that capricious source of revenue.

Howie will be helping you to get inside the head of your customers.

The better you can do that the better you'll succeed.

Why? Because the more you know about your customer the more you know about their wants, needs, hopes, desires and fears.

I'll then help you turn what you've learnt into copy that will persuade better.

Alternatively you could spend a few weeks writing - and having lots of long meetings about - a mission statement for the benefit of your colleagues, but nobody else.

Chloe can probably point you in the wrong direction.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The mystery of spasmodic idiocy: is my bank's computer drunk, or what? And a writing lesson from the Saiour of Tea

Do you remember GIGO - the acronym used in the world of data, computers and so on for Garbage In, Garbage Out.

I have decided that the computer at Lloyds Bank is fed nothing but garbage from morning till night.

Here's why.

I visit the U.S. about five times a year, and have done for the past 12 years or so.  I almost always go to the same places - where my son Philip and my daughter Chantal live: Brooklyn and Montclair.

I always need money, so I go to banks' ATM machines, mostly in Montclair or Brooklyn. And at irregular intervals my plea for cash is denied.

Has the art and science of feeding info to computers not reached the stage where they can recognise regular patterns of behaviour? The mystery is that this doesn't happen every time. Just occasionally.

How do banks manage to combine incompetence and rapacity to such an unnatural degree? It really beats all.


My regular correspondent Andrew Gadsden sent me this today

One of my jobs is to write descriptions of teas for the website, labels, leaflets, etc.  It is quite hard to think of something different to say about them after a while - I have 150 types.  A woman was in our new shop / trade counter yesterday.

Woman: What does "super...    lat...  ive" mean?
Andrew: Oh, you mean "superlative".  It means it's really good.
Woman: So why didn't you say so then?

Quite.  What seems obvious to us is not necessarily obvious to someone else. "Short words are best and the old short words are best of all". 

As a plug for Andrew, whose firm are the proud producers of the world's largest tea-bag you can

Friday, 29 June 2012

How to sell a car - or not, as the case may be - plus short-term retail profits

All eyes chez Bird are on Italy's progress in the football, but we did buy a second-hand car last weekend.  

I can't drive anyhow, but She Who Is Far Better Organised Than I Am had a plan, as usual. 

"I (that means we) shall go to the VW and Mercedes dealers and tell them both I am definitely buying a car this weekend and whoever gives me the best deal will get my business."

Good thinking. The car people must be pretty desperate; we were bound to get a good deal, right?

Not if you go by the man at VW in Bristol.

He gave us some nonsense about only having £2-300 margin to play with, and no deals. His patronising attitude alone lost the sale

Then it started raining and we ended up at the Nissan place. The man there gave us a coffee - and was quite charming. So much so he nearly sold us something we never planned to get.

The best exchange of the day:

"What's good about this car?"

"Well, for a start it's not Italian."

"If it was it'd be better looking."  

He was the right salesmen with the wrong car.

Next day at Mercedes they did everything right. Good coffee, pleasant salesman, no wasted time, a good deal. Sold! And when he delivered the car he brought a bunch of flowers.

People buy from people. But what if there are no people?

My daughter in law here in New York works in high end fashion. She was telling me hardly anyone in the shops knows how to sell. 

I remarked that it's almost impossible to find a sales person in any of the big stores. She says the reason is they've fired people to cut costs - the sales figures are actually ghastly.

You can't build a sound business on cost-cutting. That's one of the many ways the banks went wrong.

The  best store in the U.S. is Nordstrom - famous for their service - and they are finally going to open in New York. Those other bozos had better watch out.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Your money and the liars in charge - and a little example of why everything is going wrong: the triumph of drivel

If at some time in the next few years you wonder why you are working like a maniac just to stand still (unless you just throw up your hands and give in) here is a little edited explanation from a clever man: 

If you look at our coalition government, the one good thing they have done is somehow convince the markets that they are deficit reducers. In fact, there is virtually no evidence for it whatsoever.

“If you add in the cost of RBS and Lloyds, we have a debt to GDP ratio of 140%. We look absolutely terrible. You would have to put through £25 billion worth of cuts every year for the foreseeable future just to control the deficit”

That is Stewart Cowley of Old Mutual speaking on www.hl.co.uk/hltv three days ago. There is no sign of any such thing happening.

It is just one example of the broken promises made by the current set of pantomime horses. The one that galls me most is where they said they would sweep away all the useless committees to provide jobs for the boys and girls. No signs of that, either.

Of course the same thing applies to the U.S. but perhaps for a different reason.

The president's job is, I think,  utterly impossible. The country is governed by lobbyists - be they villains like Conagra which managed to get pizza classed as a vegetable, or the armed forces or the senator of this or that state who wants some pork-barrel deal. Keeping all these people happy requires an limitless flow of steadily depreciating $$$.

At the start of that excellent doorstop Commonsense Direct & Digital Marketing, which I see has been  in print for 30 years and is absurdly cheap on Amazon I quote Confucius:

"If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion."

Here is what I saw on a wall in Clifton Down station the other day next to some indifferently drawn but colourful pictures:

"Promoting sustainability through public transport the artworks provide a strong visual link for commuters between the station and Bristol Zoo."

I cannot complain about the drawings. After all, the Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy - an old bike called Tracey Emin - cannot draw, and the pictures were by school-kids.

 But can someone tell me what the hell the message meant?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ah! The gentle swish of creative masturbation. But why should you care?

This piece of half-baked lunacy appeared in a magazine on Sunday.

Doctor Johnson suggested, with regard to writing "Read through your composition and whenever you see something that seems to you particularly good, strike it out."

Davbid Ogilvy referred unkindly to people "skidding about helplessly on the slippery surface of irrelevant creative brilliance" - a fine piece of onomatopoeia.

I don't think we can say the above example is particularly good or brilliant. It is a particularly fatuous and round-about way of boasting - a bad habit in advertising as in personal life.

But why should you care?

Well, it is because there is a gap worth thinking about.

Although a small army of people who want to write copy that gets results has sprung up, they almost all fall into two camps.

They are either devoted to online media, as a result of the ability to measure what works and what doesn't online, or are rusting old relics of the palmy days of direct marketing - like me.

Meanwhile, there is a yawning chasm.

Ignorance is bliss in the big advertising agencies. Showing off is confused with selling. The golden price is an award, not a sale. Countless thousands of otherwise harmless young people are inextricably marooned up their own pink little posteriors.

I predict that as we all find ourselves working away to pay for the greed and folly of the bankers, speculators and politicians a new interest in advertising that gets measurable results will arise. I hope so.

Not before time.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Anatomy of a communications failure. What is a SharePoint architect? Why is an English translation necessary?

I got this email this morning. It is an unimpeachable example of total business bollocks.

Note the gripping heading. That'll have them foaming at the mouth for more.

SharePoint 2010 Implementation and Upgrade Super-7 

I have recently been working extensively with our key clients who undertaken SharePoint implementations and upgrades in a range of organisation of varying sizes within both the private and public sector. The overwhelming feedback I have received from the hiring managers has been that historically they have found it extremely difficult to find the necessary expertise to fulfil their business objectives. In response to this I have compiled a team of SharePoint 2010 experts who are available and willing to help you maximise the benefit from your SharePoint system. Whether you are looking at implementation, upgrade or maintaining your system – we can provide the expertise to meet your requirements. 

 I am currently working with experienced contract SharePoint Project Managers, Architects, Consultants, Developers, System Administrators, and Test Analysts and below are a selection of the screened and referenced candidates I am currently exploring new opportunities with. To book an interview with any of these candidates, contact me on 01628 771 811 – if you have another requirement that we can assist with, call me for a frank discussion as to how Ninesharp can help you deliver on your business objectives. 

Ok, after I wrote that, I went online to see if I could find out.

And, lo and behold, there is an explanation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s12Jb5Z2xaE.

This was given 11 years after the thing was first launched. A bit late.

I commend it to you not because it explains what SharePoint is, nor because of the astonishingly irritating voice used, but because of the very funny comments about the sexuality of the protagonist, an androgynous creature called Monique.

SharePoint is a Microsoft thingy, which may explain a lot - starting with the confusing name (I thought it was some sort of incentive programme).

But these comments illuminate the vast chasm between the people who make and sell these things - which are generally called "solutions" and the normal human beings they try to sell them to.

Having said that, here is a serious point.

If people fail to explain what they sell in plain English, they will either fail or do far less well than they deserve. A lot of very good ideas - this seems one - get buried alive beneath a suffocating mountain of linguistic garbage.

I cannot leave this subject without directing you (YAWN) to  http://draytonbirdcommonsense.com/b2b-letter-webinar - the free seminar I put up yesterday for anyone who is interested in how to sell complex stuff to business people.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

I love my cleaning lady, who is called Anya. She is Polish. Before her we had Kasia, also Polish. But here is a hilarious message to a cleaning lady who lacked their skills

This was sent to me by Richard Hanrahan in April on Facebook. I only just saw it.

That's because no matter how "social" Facebook fondly thinks it is, I read messages sent me directly every day - not ones sent indirectly, which I look at once every three months. It is a message from Werner Herzog to his cleaner.

I doubt if she appreciated it, but I do. And so will you if you like good writing. Though I think the second sentence in the last paragraph but one is a mess.

Rosalina. Woman.

You constantly revile me with your singular lack of vision. Be aware, there is an essential truth and beauty in all things. From the death throes of a speared gazelle to the damaged smile of a freeway homeless. But that does not mean that the invisibility of something implies its lack of being. Though simpleton babies foolishly believe the person before them vanishes when they cover their eyes during a hateful game of peek-a-boo, this is a fallacy. And so it is that the unseen dusty build up that accumulates behind the DVD shelves in the rumpus room exists also. This is unacceptable.

I will tell you this Rosalina, not as a taunt or a threat but as an evocation of joy. The joy of nothingness, the joy of the real. I want you to be real in everything you do. If you cannot be real, then a semblance of reality must be maintained. A real semblance of the fake real, or "real". I have conquered volcanoes and visited the bitter depths of the earth's oceans. Nothing I have witnessed, from lava to crustacean, assailed me liked the caked debris haunting that small plastic soap hammock in the smaller of the bathrooms. Nausea is not a sufficient word. In this regard, you are not being real.

Now we must turn to the horrors of nature. I am afraid this is inevitable. Nature is not something to be coddled and accepted and held to your bosom like a wounded snake. Tell me, what was there before you were born? What do you remember? That is nature. Nature is a void. An emptiness. A vacuum. And speaking of vacuum, I am not sure you're using the retractable nozzle correctly or applying the 'full weft' setting when attending to the lush carpets of the den. I found some dander there.

I have only listened to two songs in my entire life. One was an aria by Wagner that I played compulsively from the ages of 19 to 27 at least 60 times a day until the local townsfolk drove me from my dwelling using rudimentary pitchforks and blazing torches. The other was Dido. Both appalled me to the point of paralysis. Every quaver was like a brickbat against my soul. Music is futile and malicious. So please, if you require entertainment while organizing the recycling, refrain from the 'pop radio' I was affronted by recently. May I recommend the recitation of some sharp verse. Perhaps by Goethe. Or Schiller. Or Shel Silverstein at a push.

The situation regarding spoons remains unchanged. If I see one, I will kill it.

That is all. Do not fail to think that you are not the finest woman I have ever met. You are. And I am including on this list my mother and the wife of Brad Dourif (the second wife, not the one with the lip thing). Thank you for listening and sorry if parts of this note were smudged. I have been weeping.

Your money is under the guillotine.



From the sublimely droll to the boringly practical:

Tomorrow, all being well (which it may not be as I am off to London for some frolics) I shall put up a free 25 minute webinar on copywriting to sell to businesses.

You may find it helpful.

But then again, you may not.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

They don't make them like this any more; a flotilla of freebies; and some eager beavers

My friend Andy Owen sent me this. This man had the car for 82 years, and died at 102.

Something to aim for.

Andy said “They certainly don't make them like that any more.”

I heartily concur. I had a Rolls for about ten years. It was bloody useless. Now BMW owns the firm, I think. I am sure the cars are reliable but God, what great big ugly things they are!

That car has 1,070,000 miles on it, still runs like a Swiss watch, is dead silent at any speed and is in perfect cosmetic condition.

I wish I could say the same.

It is now in a museum. I have no desire to end up like that.


But enough of this frivolity. I am putting together a series of free seminars or webinars or whatever you like to call them.

At the weekend I recorded one about copy for business to business, which people keep asking me about.

I didn't like the way it was edited: made me look even more like a Galapagos tortoise than usual, so Chloe is re-doing it.

That will be up next week, and I have two more lined up. One on copywriting for charity, and one I found lurking on my computer called "The 10 best ads of the last 10 years."

But tonight at 2000hrs (UK Time - GMT+1) I shall be interviewing Daniel Levis, who is one of the best copywriters I know, and one of the few whose stuff I read.

He has made some very sweeping claims about the power of storytelling. Can it really overcome people's reluctance to pay you decent money? Will it really strengthen the bond between you and your customers? Does it really "vaporize buyer resistance"?

He makes one very interesting point: 

Doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling your profit margins actually has nothing to do with your product at all.

It's not about products. It's not what your products do that makes people value them.

Does a Rolex watch tell time 150 times better than a Timex? 

Well, you can join us if you follow this link.


Now that we've mentioned tortoises, how about beavers? 

Yesterday a kind reader bought me lunch. He said, "I know I can't afford your fees".

I replied, "I have a suggestion. I have three copywriters I have been training. If you like I will give one of them the job, and I will supervise, edit, rewrite and so on. I am quite good at that."

Those are the eager beavers.

The truth is, they usually come with ideas I never would have thought of. The youngest is incredibly fast. The oldest is very experienced - he's worked successfully as marketing director of a firm.

So there you are. 

Bird on the cheap. 

Kindly note that I resisted any puns at that point.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

I guess you could run a worse ad - but it would be hard

You might think that if there were one kind of advertiser really concerned about not wasting money it would be those involved with money.

But if ever I want to marvel at the largest possible quantity of bad, clueless, ugly advertising in one place I turn to "Money Week".

There, without fail you will see God alone knows how many thousands pissed away by people who should know better.

I featured this ad as a typical example in my recent Bristol copy day.

Nobody in the audience commented, nor did I notice, that the man leaping up is Jose Mourinho.

So here we have  case of stupidity redoubled.

Not just a bad ad with a silly headline and copy carefully reversed out to be hard to read.  It's a  silly picture, too.

Amazingly, when people see football being played they think an ad must be about football. But to compound the folly, can you imagine how much these witless squanderbugs must have paid to get The Special One?

I know he makes a lot of money. But ask yourself, even if the ad were not so bad: is a football manager an investment expert?

For that matter I have long wondered what tortuous logic led somebody at Santander to portray Lewis Hamilton as your best guide to where to bank.

But I always wonder how many millions of investors' good money is frittered away on this kind of bilge.

Is it entirely beyond the realms of reason for those who commission it, those who create it and those who approve it to acquaint themselves, however slightly, with the kindergarten basics of advertising?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pushing water uphill:: the Portas delusion; why everything "they" tell you is wrong; and the Gospel of Less

Mark Twain said the principal task of each new administration is to make the last one look good.

But that's enough about Mr. Cameron. Let us turn instead - if we can without laughing  - to his shopping "Czar" Mary Portas. She is the woman who calls herself the Queen of Shops - the one who's going to "regenerate the high street", remember?

Since this is impossible she has written a report. Like all these wretched people she has a vision. The vision will not help, because she cannot wave a wand and make three things vanish. They are the Internet, shopping malls and supermarkets.

I too have a vision, part of which came to me yesterday when I was walking down School Road - the high street in Sale, Manchester where I lived as a child. I remember walking down there on a sunny day, holding my mother's hand. I must have been about five. 

Just past the station the road becomes Northenden Road - and 30 yards on there's a Wetherspoon's pub, the J. P. Joule. If you ever want to see a heart-warming selection of eager strumpets go there on a Thursday night. But I digress, because in the pub are old photographs showing Sale before it was decreed that shopping is good for you.

You'd never believe it, but there were far fewer shops. People used to live in houses on each side of these streets, and there was a rather agreeable serenity as a result. I do not think it will be a national disaster if this happens again.

Nor do I think it will be a disaster if people decide there is something better in life than working harder and harder in boring jobs to make more money to buy stuff you can probably manage without.

If I were a preacher I would preach the Gospel of Less.

I think we need fewer laws - the ones we have had for centuries if carefully applied will do just fine. I think we need less government and fewer ministers with silly titles like Minister for Sport and Minister for Culture. Shakespeare, Dickens and Stanley Matthews did just fine without some ass presiding.

We need fewer enquiries, committees, consultants and money wasted by government. Which reminds me: we would get by with fewer broken promises from people like Cameron - sorry to mention him again, but he is such fraud.

I am sure we need less tax and lower top rates. But equally sure that my old boss Martin Sorrell doesn't really need over £16 million a year to rub along.

I also keep thinking it must be possible to reorganise one thing that seems insane. One part of the nation is working like mad in what they used to call private enterprise to pay the other half who work in what they call the public sector.

Many of these people hate their jobs. Many of the jobs involve managing all the other needless stuff that's been foisted on us. Take our tax system. Did you know it's the most complicated in the world? An entire department is devoted to explaining it. Can working at something so stupid be satisfying in any way?

Maybe people trapped in such ghastly jobs would like to migrate to our side of the fence. There would be fewer of them to pay and more doing useful stuff - so we would all have to work far less.

It makes sense to me, but there you are.

Who first said "less is more"?

To my surprise I see the poet Browning wrote it in a poem about the painter Andrea del Sarto.

But I bet someone in Greece said it earlier.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Excuse me, are you taking the ****? Or are you a genius?

She who is a damn sight smarter than me is a great fan of Harvey Nichols, so this postcard came to her yesterday.

It made me laugh out loud.

The line runs "Try to contain your excitement". Very clever.

I imagine it was put together by some young thing just dying to be creative and win an award from people who give each other awards for just that.

I then had a brief discussion with the radiant Chloe. "Do you think this is in extremely bad taste - or very good?"

We agreed that it is probably both, but she didn't have the benefit of actually seeing it.

When the aforementioned She who is a damn sight smarter saw it she said this, more or less:

"Harvey Nichols have a lot of  older customers maybe in their 40's who want to be on trend but are really quite conventional. They will hate this."

I'd add to that something just as important: the older customers are the ones with the money.

Chloe is only 23, and not rich (stick with me, kid) and it is almost impossible to shock me, so we don't really represent the audience.

The model is dreadfully thin, poor thing. And where has her derrière slipped to, I wonder?

Nevertheless I would be quite pleased to have come up with the joke. But wiser people than me - like John Caples - have commented on the dangers of humour.

What is really interesting is that no paper would run this ad, and the hypocrites who make millions from porn on the internet would never run it.

But that's another subject.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you” - 21 simple, stupid and amazingly popular ways to screw up your business

Do you do any public speaking? It's a nightmare, and it doesn't get that much better with practice, but I rarely refuse.

About six weeks ago  I was asked to do a talk for the Royal Mail. 

The money was nothing special, but the chap who asked me was an old Ogilvy colleague, and I thought, why not? And they agreed to do a video of the whole thing.

Then they moved the date forward and panic ensued - on my part anyhow. They whacked out a couple of emails and 150 or so creative people said they would come. I think this was largely because it was free, to be honest.

Most people tell you what to do, but I suspect that telling people what not to do may be more help. So I made a list of 20 dumb things I see a lot.

More panic. That wasn't nearly enough to fill the time. In the end I managed 149. My partner Marta said, "Why so many? Ninety nine would have been enough."

"The number just  popped into my head," I said. Idiot.

Anyhow, here are the first 21 that came to me.
  1. Ignore the lessons of the past.  Why do people assume they didn’t know as much 100 years ago? Education was certainly more demanding.
  2. Think you can pick it up as you go along. Marketing is infested with amateurs. Hardly anyone studies enough. Crazy.
  3. Try to be “creative”. It is almost certainly fatal to assume that what you think is wonderful will sell. You are not your customer.
  4. Have too many meetings. They are almost all a waste of time, there for idle people to fill up their time.
  5. Not try being a customer. As Jack Welch remarked, most people have their heads facing the chairman and their asses facing the customers.
  6. Hire a Marketing Director without looking at his past record. This is why so many are duds.
  7. Fall for the latest fad. Marketers are suckers for the silver bullet. CRM, SEO, PPC, SMS, Social media - they always think some new thing will substitute for the need to think.
  8. Believe human nature is altered by media or changing times. Human nature has not changed since men started walking upright.
  9. Assume business decisions are made logically. They're not. People are rules by their emotions, in every area of life.
  10. Get up your own arse over brand guidelines. This is especially true of typefaces which are rarely suited for letter, to take one example.
  11. Talk like a marketing person. You will bore and confuse everybody, including yourself.
  12. Try to make it perfect. You have to do it as well as you can in the time available, then let go.
  13. Believe anyone who says they can make you rich. They are almost all liars - especially on the internet.
  14. Assume your prospect is intelligent. Very few are; and even they are not thinking when exposed to marketing messages.
  15. Assume your prospect is stupid. They may not be brilliant, but they are not halfwits either, and resent being patronised.
  16. Read about nothing but marketing. It is a very dull, narrow subject and will limit your imagination.
  17. Fail to test. Perhaps the biggest and most common mistake around. Nobody has any idea what will work. Why guess when you can know?
  18. Imagine everything will be OK. Assume something will go wrong; it usually does. 
  19. Spend more energy imagination and money on prospects than customers. Madness. Your best source of profit is the customer you've got, not the one you want.
  20. Assume anything is always, or never the case. There are exceptions to all rules; circumstances alter cases, as the legal maxim goes.
  21. Fail to invest in your staff. They are the only ones who can make it happen for you. Train them. Be nice to them.
Well, there you are. I managed 149 in about 90 minutes. Here's a clip from the video. My faithful right hand, the radiant Chloe says it is very funny. You decide:


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

If a matter of life and death is "dull", where does that leave everything else?

Two kinds of charity raise money in this country no matter how inept they may be. Those devoted to cancer, and those devoted to animals.

I wonder how this will do? I think it is appalling. What about you? If a writer cannot find anything to say that is even vaguely involving about saving lives, what hope is there for people selling ordinary stuff?

And on that topic, in the weird and wacky world inhabited by those who give each other awards for things like Best Fart of the Week, I see that Tesco's Finest Pizza is winner of Manufactured Pizza Product of the Year - Indulgent Category.

Mankind cannot aspire much higher than that.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

I just love this picture

I have two problems this weekend.

First I have to edit some stuff about horses.

Second, being forgetful and busy I haven't got round to it. So I asked a colleague to remind me.

He sent me the picture.

Friday, 1 June 2012

And the award for the most witless, moronic, embarrassing, up-its-own-arse e-mail goes to ...., well, try a firm that's gone broke

It would seem that there is a new marketing magic abroad.

It is called Depersonalisation.

There is an example at the top.

Let me explain.

Quite rightly nobody but me, my close relatives, friends and a few kindly folk in Help the Aged gives a hoot that in April I got another Lifetime Achievement Award - this time at the Caples in New York.

But anyone who marvels at the manifold stupidities of large corporations will enjoy the email that the Xerox company just sent me about this.

They never bothered to de-duplicate those who had won. But to experience the full richness of this appalling message you have to experience it.

Phoney, agency drivel to the last degree, right down to the politically correct black guy - yet they have a good offering. No wonder they just went broke.

Come to think of it, this email may be up for an award, because (incredibly) the Caples Awards - despite being named after the man who developed the art of testing to see what works are about "creativity" not results.

You have to click through to see the most ghastly, phoney part.

Friday, 25 May 2012

How we all got screwed – and who did the screwing

For some time I had heard people say Robert Peston of the BBC was an extremely irritating individual.

He did a programme early this week about the great European catastrophe, and I can  see what they meant.

As he strode about the ruins of Rome in an ill-fitting overcoat (why can't these buggers keep still?) he gave out a sort of spurious enthusiasm which did jar a lot. He combined this with the common habit among TV presenters of emphasising certain words for no good reason. But the strong temptation to switch off was more than offset by what he revealed about the mess we're in.

Many people have pointed out the flaws in the European experiment - that a common currency is a straight-jacket; that the various countries are almost uniquely ill-suited to be yoked together; that economic union can't work without political union and so on.

But for the first time he showed in simple language how the politicians deliberately sidelined the safeguards originally built into the Euro experiment.

To get more nations involved and make things look better than they were they relaxed or even removed the good housekeeping requirements. Countries were allowed to get into more debt than they should have; they were deluged with cheap money.

And who connived at concealing what was going on? The banks. They invented derivatives that enabled countries to hide how deeply in debt they were by delaying the need for payment - in effect taking the rubbish off the books for a few years.

Well, here we are. In the shit. The culprits are exactly who you thought they were.

The people who will pay are exactly who you thought they were. too. You and me.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

This will get you better results - but don't throw the baby out ...

Years ago I did a banner ad to promote racehorse ownership which had a horse galloping across the screen pulling a message. Worked like a charm.

Anyone who knows anything about online advertising is aware that ads with things happening tend to work better than ads where nothing happens.

Large corporate clients tend to hate this sort of thing. Too vulgar. But I recall simply making the prices flash for a posh wine merchant boosted sales over 10%

Here is some more detailed research about the subject.


However, one bit of that article got my goat a little.

"The days of solely measuring online campaign success on a cost per click or lead-generation basis are fading, with these measures indicating engagement with the ad itself rather than its success in improving brand metrics."

All attempts to stamp out phrases like "brand metrics" are to be vigorously encouraged, because they usually indicate an attempt by an agency to avoid being measured on anything more concrete.

At the start of that magnificent all-purpose door-stop, "Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing" I quoted David Ogilvy's mentor (yes, he had one).

"The only purpose of advertising is to sell. It has no other function worth mentioning" - Raymond Rubicam.

I once did a talk to the Marketing Society called, "The research said it would sell. So how come we went broke?"

So I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet. Whilst measuring on pay per click is a waste of time, measuring on cost of leads, whilst not as good as measuring on cost per sale is better than things like "engagement with the ad". This nauseating expression should be swept into outer darkness, along with brand metrics, core values, mission, vision and almost any phrase including the word strategic - especially if it is a job title. If that title also incorporates the word officer, sudden death should occur.

P.S. If you want to know why ads don't work and how to create ones that do, I still have space at my copy seminar in Bristol a week from today.

I will start with an analysis of 21 ads and posters I saw yesterday. Only one was any good. The rest varied between vaguely OK, useless and pathetic. Many were incomprehensible, most were wasteful, in many the layout actively discouraged readership.

I cannot think of any industry in which so few people are utterly clueless about what they should be doing.

What an opportunity for anyone who does!

And judging by what's happening in Europe, this is a wise time to start doing better. A lot better.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

My lost pornographic career. A little bouquet of obscenities - and what have I done with my life?

I just wrote to a friend asking why she seems to be forever having holidays in exotic places.

She replied with three words. “I have tits”.

Years ago when I was young and – relatively – handsome, I was asked to pose for pornographic photographs.

If the thought leaves you torn between nausea and disbelief, I quite understand. Read no further.

I had no objection to the idea in principle – I was quite flattered. But I felt I could never rise to the occasion and refused.

Which leads me to ask: have you been following the big debate about barring porn on the internet?

I bet this would be about as effective as banning prostitution, alcohol or drugs – i.e. create a wonderful new playground for criminals. Mexico is a good example of what happens.

The only research I have seen on the effects of porn suggested that it led to fewer sexual crimes. I can’t find the research - don’t think I downloaded it. But doesn’t it make sense? Porn is a substitute.

However, moodily reflecting on this lost career opportunity, I started listing matters far more obscene.

Children in one part of India starve whilst food is left to rot in another after a bumper harvest. The Children of the Lord in Africa run amok raping and slaughtering their own parents and it takes years and millions to bring the culprit to book. An Italian father jumps off a balcony with his two children – in despair.

On a lesser scale the man who led Aviva down and down is rewarded - with £1.75 million just to leave. And so on.

Yesterday I went through two magazines tearing out examples of appalling advertising to comment on.

How can I possibly be enraged by lousy ads? I have no sense of proportion.

What have I done with my life?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

"Stupid is as stupid does"

My colleagues often chide me for announcing stuff, asking people to pay for it, then being astoundingly coy about what they will get in return.

Quite unforgiveable - which reminds me of the headline above.

I saw it in a full page ad which also showed a child's face.

Have you any idea what the headline could be about?

I have yet to read the copy, which is carefully reversed-out to make it hard to read.

But this is one of the many examples I shall be discussing, with barely controlled fury, on my copy day in Bristol.

I shall analyse all kinds of copy in all media and try to explain what makes it work (or not).

In the case of "Stupid is as stupid does" what makes it not work, I imagine, is a total disinterest in what makes good headlines.

My friend Steve Harrison and I will also work with you in your copy for an hour and a half.

And he will be talking with his usual dry wit about the genius Madison Avenue never got hold of - who was fifty years ahead of his time.

You can bring stuff in for comment if you like, and we will be helpful - as we have for many of the world's biggest (and smallest) brands.

Between us I hope we can keep you entertained - and do a pretty good job for you.

In times like these, people tend to batten down the hatches and hope the storm will pass.

It won't, for years. We can help you get more out of your copy.

Friday, 18 May 2012

How to write better in under 8 hilarious minutes - it frightened me to death. Plus a rueful smile for the weekend

I know a lot of you read this because you write, and want to write better.

Go and have a look at this: http://tinyurl.com/bqz5zw8.

John, the speaker, is one of the best writers I know. David Ogilvy thought very highly of him.

I shall be doing seminars with John in October in Australia, all being well. He is so damn good I am downright frightened at being compared to him.

If you either a) are unlikely to be in Oz then or b) can't wait that long to write better - well, here's a suggestion.

David Ogilvy also thought highly of two other writers who are running a copy seminar in Bristol in a couple of weeks.

I think I may have mentioned that before.

On the day I shall be analysing all kinds of copy and trying to explain - maybe not as well as John - what makes it work (or not).

And Steve and I will work with you in your copy for an hour and half.

You can bring stuff in for comment if you like.

Between us I hope we can do a pretty good job for you. It will certainly do you a lot more good than the Jubilee which follows immediately afterwards.

Just click here.


Meanwhile, Paul Dooley sent me this. It is called the Dead Horse Theory. I'd seen it before, but a surprising amount of the content reminded me of the current Euro chaos.

The Dead Horse Theory

The tribal wisdom of the Plains Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount."

However, in government more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Getting a stronger whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.

6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.

9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse's performance.

10. Employing consultants to do a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And, of course...

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position

Friday, 4 May 2012

Half a conversation: The difference between talking about it and doing it; why I nearly fell off my chair - and a few little freebies

A friend manages a business that turns over a few billion, and is the leader in its field.

They do it by charging less, delivering better service and marketing a lot more than their competitors.

The other day he had a phone call.

I have no idea what the caller said so I can only tell you his end of the very short conversation.

Caller: ?

My friend: No, we don't use management consultants.

Caller: ?

My friend: No. We just get on with it.

Over the years I have noticed that the larger the organisation the worse they tend to be at getting on with it.

Also, the people who get to the top become less and less interested in reality.

Don't imagine that the recession changes things.

I just discovered that a client for many years has been paying an agency £750,000 a year in fees to give "strategic and planning advice" and do their advertising and direct marketing.

I nearly fell off my chair. We used to do their direct marketing for under £100,000 a year - and we were never beaten in tests over a seven year period.

The media planning is done elsewhere. So is the digital stuff. They produce one TV ad a year. The direct marketing results are way down, because they can't write letters.

But they are very good at playing golf.

The Marketing Director (a fine golfer) has left for leafier climes; the Managing Director (still working on his swing) has departed.

The reason? Not enough profit.

Anyhow, to depart from these high strategic realms, I just found a 15 minute video of money-making ideas on my computer.

I actually made it immediately after last year's EADIM (that's the little business school I run every year). The picture quality is shocking - but there aren't any pictures anyhow, and why would you want to look at my wrinkled face?

You can have an audio version - free.

By the way, if you want to see someone who can even make people laugh in Greece, check out my latest email.

You'll also get the results of two tests, one of which would ruin me if I didn't stop it.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

What is the difference between public “service” and private enterprise? With a gloriously funny letter.

Once upon a time people used to write letters to each other, and some of the finest writing I have ever read resulted.

The email has put a stop to a lot of that.

But to stamp out any lingering inclination to do so, the Royal Mail has put the price of a stamp up to a vertiginous 60p for first class (first class means it will probably get there the next day) and 50p for second, which means it certainly won't.

60p equals about 90 cents US and compares with 44 cents for first class in the U.S.

So, as is so often the case, while private enterprise seeks to do more and more for less and less, public service does the opposite.

To make the point, here is wonderful letter apparently sent to the U.K. passport office, whose "services" are - as you will see - not only useless but bloody expensive.

Dear Sirs,

I'm in the process of renewing my passport, and still cannot believe this.

How is it that Sky Television has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a bleeding satellite dish from them back in 1977, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was bloody born and on what date.

For Christ sakes, do you guys do this by hand? My birth date you have on my pension book, and it is on all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 30 years. It is on my National Health card, my driving license, my car insurance, and on the last eight damn passports I've had and on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off the plane over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms.

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother's name is Mary Anne, my father's name is Robert and I'd be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and when I die!!!!!!

I apologise, I'm really pissed off this morning. Between you an' me, I've had enough of this bullshit! You post the application to my house, THEN you ask me for my bloody address!!!!

What is going on?? Do you have a gang of Neanderthals workin' there?

Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I don't want to dig up Yasser Arafat, for Christ sakes.

I just want to go and park my arse on some sandy beach somewhere.

And would someone please tell me, why would you give a toss whether I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days? If I ever got the urge to do something weird to a chicken or a goat, believe you me, you'd be the last people I'd want to tell!

Well, I have to go now, 'cause I have to go to the other end of the poxy city to get another bloody copy of my birth certificate, to the tune of £30.

Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day??

Nooooooooooooo, that'd be too damn easy and maybe make sense. You'd rather have us running all over the sodden place like chickens with our heads cut off.

Then I have to find some idiot to confirm that it's really me on the damn picture - you know, the one where we're not allowed to smile?! (bureaucratic morons).

Hey, do you know why we couldn't smile if we wanted to? Because we're totally pissed off!


An Irate Citizen.

P.S. Remember what I said above about the picture and getting someone to confirm that it's me? Well, my family has been in this country since 1776 ...... I have served in the military for over 30 years and have had full security clearances over 25 of those years enabling me to undertake highly secretive missions all over the world. However, I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am - you know, someone like my doctor -


Thanks you David Looke for sending me that. Even if it is made up I can confirm its truth as I just renewed my passport.

In this country public servants get better pay on average than those of us who toil to pay their salaries.

On top of this, many are planning to strike this year because the government wants to bring their pensions (which are far greater than those in the private sector) down a little - but not as low as ours.

I wouldn't mind, but the buggers don't even put in the hours. Yesterday I had to go and pick up a package from the Royal Mail here in Bristol. They close at 12 noon - and that's it. Why?

While I'm on the subject, one of the chief reasons for the problems in Greece and Italy is their colossally bloated and dysfunctional public sectors. Though we mustn't forget that the Greeks are the fourth highest arms buyers in the world - most being sold by Germany and France.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Unfair to Men! And can even one of the world’s best copywriters get better? This was a surprise for me

My correspondent Andrew Gadsden who flogs tea to the discerning regularly sends me droll stuff.

For example today he emailed me saying that in his LinkedIn updates he found that:

"Someone has joined a ladies' group. This is how it's described:

Damsels in Success is where magic happens. It's where amazing, passionate, like-minded women get together to learn, laugh and grow."

To be honest those two sentences make me want to throw up violently, but never mind that. As Andrew observed:

"For goodness's sake.

One day I will start up a club just for men. No, hang on, they used to have them, but they were forced to admit women..."

Well, I guess that will lose me a few readers.

Meanwhile my day was brightened by an e-mail from David Garfinkel, who - as I have mentioned before - is running an event in California this week.

I have never met David. I think the only thing we have in common besides scribbling for a living is that I think, like me, he used to work at Ogilvy & Mather.

He is one of the best copywriters in the U.S., though. He wrote one letter for a firm called Abacus that pulled in $40 million. And like all good people he studies. I follow his stuff, and he follows mine.

The question is, can someone who is among the best get better?

David seems to think so, because today he wrote this to me:

"You taught me how to write a completely new kind of email... and I just sent this to my list."

Then he attached this:

I used to love stories my parents told me when I was a kid.

One day my dad told me a story I've never heard before and never heard since.

It was mid-summer in humid Maryland, the fireflies were out.

I asked him why they lit up the way they did.

Always trying to provoke me to think, he said,

"David, why do you think garden slugs don't light up at night?"

My dad loved cars. He grew up in Detroit, and he used to invent big, vacuum-tube computers to time drag-racers and even once, they used one of his machines at the Daytona 500.

I told him I didn't know.

"It's because," he said with a slight grin, "the fireflies move so fast, and the slugs barely move at all.

"So as a reward, the fireflies got built-in tail-lights so they could zoom around at night."

And then, the knockout punch:

"If you learn to be really fast, David, then maybe some day you will have lights of your own."

I never quite knew what Dad meant... was I going to grow light bulbs out of my body?... but I did get the message, that getting things done faster could make a difference in your life.

Now it turns out that we still have a few seats left at our High Speed Copywriting workshop this weekend.

Brian McLeod and I will walk you through my method to create a full sales letter... or sales video... or magazine ad... in two days or less.

Craig Eubanks will share with you how he writes irresistible emails in 25 minutes.

Is this something you should attend?


Firefly or slug?