The Mysterious Relationship Between Powerful Advertising & Eating Prunes

By Drew Eric Whitman, D.R.S.
Direct Response Surgeon "!

Copyright Drew Eric Whitman All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part is prohibited without prior written permission from the author.
 

Trash! Trash! Trash!

That's how I describe 99% of all advertising today. It's stupid. Boring. Weak. Not worth the paper it's printed on.

Am I angry? No. Realistic? Yes. But don't just take my word for it.

Look in your trash can!

How much of the nonsense that you get in the mail winds up in the garbage before you open it? How much of what you do open winds up in the same place before you finish reading the first few lines of it? How much of the mail that you read all of persuades you enough to buy whatever it's selling?

I rest my case.

THE BOTTOM-LINE
The Goal Of Advertising Is To Get People To Act!

Whether you want people to send in a request for more information, or a nice hefty check, it's action that makes the advertising pay off. You see . . . advertising is not journalism. Advertising is not news reporting. In journalism, your goal is to simply report what happened. You don't necessarily need people to respond to make your article a success. Sure, you want them to respond intellectually and emotionally. In other words, you want to move and maybe shake them up a bit. But your primary interest is that they are well informed.

When you write advertising, on the other hand, you want people to do more than just read what you write. You want them to do more than simply say, -Hmmm. . . hell of an ad! A fine writer this Drew Eric Whitman! And then dump the sucker into the kitchen trash on top of the cabbage scraps.

You're not writing to entertain! You want people to do something about it! Namely place an order or inquire for more information which is designed to persuade them to place an order. Hey, let's not kid each other. We advertise for one reason: To Make Money. Period.

Do know why most advertising today is so lousy? Okay, I'll tell you. It's because most people in advertising today don't know a damned thing about what makes people buy! Believe it or not - it's true. They like to be cutesy and clever. They like to win awards for creativity that do nothing more than boost their egos and waste thousands of dollars for their clients. Most advertisers (and their agencies) don't know how to capture peoples imaginations, and make them want to open up their wallets and spend money.

But I do.

And thanks to Collin Almeida,CEO, Success Strategies Inc, I'm going to show you how. Yes indeed, if you've always wanted to know how to write powerhouse copy, you've come to the right place.

Before I begin, let me first say: Some of the things I say may sound crazy to you. So please: DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT I SAY. Also: DO NOT DISBELIEVE WHAT I SAY EITHER. Why? Because belief won't put a cent into your pockets! What I DO want you to do is experience the results of the methods I give you. Experience how your business grows when you use the tricks I reveal. How? By putting these principles into action! In other words, reserve your opinion about what I say until you try it for yourself.

Okay, enough yakking - let's get on with the prescriptions.

Earlier we agreed that the ultimate goal of advertising is to get people to act. And the tool we use to create printed advertising (as opposed to TV and radio) is language, or words (as opposed to moving images). So, doesn't it logically follow that in order for our advertising to be effective, we need to use our words effectively? Of course! And using words effectively means that we must be able to write so our audience understands what we're saying. That's it! The key to all effective written communication:

WRITE SO PEOPLE CAN UNDERSTAND!

Listen: I'm going to teach you a slew of super ad-agency tricks to boost your response, right here on this fine Website. Some are 'sophisticated.' Others are so simple you may 'poo-poo' them. This article is about one of the simple ones. But 'poo-poo' not! Don't let the simplicity of this lesson fool you. It's the most important lesson you'll learn. It lays the groundwork for all the others. Because if you don't understand and apply the principles contained in this lesson FIRST, no matter what you do or say is doomed to fail. It's like building a house on a shaky foundation. No matter how good the walls and ceilings are, the house will surely collapse!

Let's face it: you could have the greatest product or service on the planet, but if no one understands what the heck you're trying to say about it, you may as well have the lousiest product or service. What's the difference? I mean, they're not going to buy in either situation!

Effective communication does not happen until the people you are attempting to communicate to, understand your message. Just having an ad in some publication does not mean you're communicating effectively. You are advertising, I'll give you that. But effective advertising does not begin until someone reads what you wrote and then UNDERSTANDS it! Otherwise, you're simply talking to yourself. And you don't need to spend a penny to do that. So follow the Doctor's Orders . . .

PRESCRIPTION #1: Use short simple words!

As I proceed to issue the following informational text, I would certainly hope that you understand that there is a vast majority of individuals who will, without question, proceed to issue forth a counter-opinion predicated upon the fact that their life experiences dictate just the opposite guidelines as those issued to them in good gesture. Unfortunately, in an atmosphere where educational disciplines are of utmost importance, I hasten to dictate the potential loss of data acquisition; however this is indeed the perceived and forecasted outcome of this quite burdensome situation.

Did you enjoy reading that last paragraph? Probably not. Why? Because it's terrible! It sounds as if it were written by a constipated Harvard law professor! Unfortunately, more people write like this than you'd believe. This is especially sad when the person is writing advertising! But there's a good reason why people write like that Harvard professor in search of prunes . . .

THAT'S HOW MOST PEOPLE WERE TAUGHT TO WRITE!

Believe it or not . . . it's true! We were always taught in school to write like adults. To talk with "big" words. So the word tired became enervated. Hungry became famished. Big became elephantine. Stubborn became recalcitrant. Evil became nefarious.

And so on . . .

But do you see what has happened to you and me? Since we were trained to write this way, we naturally tend to write like this WHENEVER we write. And unfortunately, that includes our advertising copy! What does this mean? It means that every time we write an ad . . . brochure . . . sales letter, we are, in effect, flushing our money down the toilet. Why?

BECAUSE NOBODY UNDERSTANDS
WHAT THE $@#!* WE'RE
TALKING ABOUT!

Ironically, it's not easy to be simple. Sound strange? It's true! It's not easy to write in a clear, simple fashion. But take heart! There are some simple rules that will greatly improve your ability to write simply. They're quick and easy to learn. And the best part is, they can help you make more money by making it easier for people to understand your copy! Your prospects will also read more of your sales message. And that means more sales. You've already proved this point. How? Check this out ...

When you first started reading Prescription #1, I bet you didn't get too far into the first paragraph before looking down to the paragraph beneath it for an explanation. In other words, chances are you simply couldn't bear the pain (Yes, pain!) of reading that tremendously dry conglomeration of words that some people would call writing. It's okay to write this way if you are a cryptographer - someone who creates codes for a living - but NOT an advertising writer.

Forget those annoying $10.00 words and phrases you were taught in school and business. You know the ones I mean: " ... and you'll enjoy same.", "... the aforementioned benefits are yours with ... ", "You can liken this to the blah, blah ... ", Herein are the reasons .... And any other of those tired, stodgy expressions. Just be clear, natural and simple!

PRESCRIPTION #2:"Theshorteryoursentencesthebetter!"

Isn't it easier to read short sentences? Sure it is! It's quick! Lively! Exciting, too, wouldn't you say? Chop your sentences down with a big old axe! You'll rivet people's eyes to your sales copy!

Here's a good rule of thumb: Never try to express more than one single thought in a sentence. Say just one thing, no more. Use your next sentence to say the next thing. Why? Because people can only comprehend and process only one thought at a time. And since everything you say is important, you want them to understand each of your sales points, don't you? Sure you do!

So use shorter words! Write shorter sentences! People will read more. The more people read, the better your chance of persuading them to buy. The more they buy, the more money you make. Any questions?

PRESCRIPTION #3: THE SHORT, SHORT PARAGRAPH TRICK!

Here's a great trick, used by today's top copywriters, to keep people reading and moving ahead at a quick pace. You simply ask a question, and then answer your own question in the next paragraph, in just a few words. Here's an example:

Dear Friend,

Would you like to know a secret way of making money by shaking peoples' hands?

I thought so.

Now let me explain . . .

Get it? Yes - it goes against everything your bun-headed 5th grade teacher taught you about what IS and what IS NOT a paragraph. But as advertisers, we're not interested in perfect writing. Only profitable writing. Copywriters break practically every rule of English usage in the book. Keep in mind that your writing is not getting graded. The only thing that matters is the number of responses you get - that's your only grade. (Regardless of what your blue-haired 5th grade teacher would tell you.)

Not only does this trick move your reader's eyes down the page, deeper into your copy, it also keeps the pace quick and makes your ad or letter look much more inviting. (As opposed to a big, solid page full of text.) Don't overdo this technique or your writing will look too mechanical. Limit your regular paragraphs to about four or five short sentences! Remember: A hard-to-read-looking ad or letter will usually not get read!

PRESCRIPTION #4:PUT YOUR WRITING WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS

Start to talk more simply too. You'll find that it greatly helps your writing. Why? Because people basically write the way they talk. I'm sure the author Joseph Conrad ("Heart Of Darkness") wasn't the #l speakers' choice among the nation's cracker salters. The man had a powerful command of the English language, but it is simply too heavy for the casual reader, let alone the reader of an advertisement.

What I'm trying to say is this: Be more aware of how you speak to others. Use smaller words to express yourself when communication, that is, understanding, is essential. You can have fun with this. I do. In fact, the other day I asked a friend, "Steve, would you like to have a great time this weekend? It won't cost you a cent!" (Sure it sounds like advertising, but Steve's my friend, so I can get away with it.)

If you want to impress someone, then you can use your constipated Harvard professor words. They might be impressed. Maybe. Whether or not they understand you is another story. Remember: it's more important to express, than impress.

The reason big words don't work in advertising is because your readers couldn't care less about your vocabulary. The only way you're going to impress them is by telling them what you or your product can do for them. Simply. Clearly. Interestingly.

PRESCRIPTION #5: YOU. ME. I. HE. SHE. HIM. THEY. THEM PRONOUNS.

Pronouns, like those above, are powerful little devils! Especially the word "YOU" and "I". Pronouns give your copy a warm, personal flavor that people will notice immediately. You can never, ever overuse the word "YOU." Generously sprinkle the word throughout everything you write!

Start sentences with it! End sentences with it! Blow it up in big type! Put it in your headline! Your coupons! On your O.S.E. (Agency lingo for "Outside Envelope", the envelope in which you mail your offer.) Ask questions and make statements using pronouns, "DO YOU . . . CAN YOU + WOULD YOU + SHOULD YOU + MAY I ASK YOU A QUESTION/FOR YOUR ADVICE/FOR YOUR OPINION + DID YOU KNOW + LET ME TELL YOU + I THINK YOU'LL LIKE THIS LETTER."

PRESCRIPTION #6:READ THESE BOOKS

  1. The Art Of Plain Talk

  2. The Art Of Readable Writing

Both were written by the famous language psychologist Rudolf Flesch, Ph.D. Dr. Flesch, best known in advertising circles for his famous "LEVEL OF ABSTRACTION" a formula that he introduced in the 1940's that actually determines the readability of the written word.

Most word-processing programs incorporate this feature in their software. Just push a button and it automatically analyzes your writing using the Flesch formula - in seconds! One of these software programs is Grammatik, by Reference Software International. Check it out!

The Flesch formula assigns points for specific word types i.e.: common nouns, names of people, personal pronouns, etc. and uses a ratio system to determine how many of the preferred word types appear in your writing. A percentage chart in the book gives you your "Level of Abstraction."

Here are two test paragraphs that talk about the same offer. Read both and see which you enjoy reading most. Which is easiest? Which is most clear? After you read both, I'll tell you what the computer analysis says about the following 2 paragraphs:

TEST PARAGRAPH #1

Do you want to know how to make $2,000.00 by starting your own newsletter? Then keep reading. Because by the time you're finished this letter, you will know how. In fact, I am going to spill the beans and tell you over 48 insider secrets that not one person in 1,000 knows! Any ONE of these secrets is worth the cost of this entire package!

TEST PARAGRAPH #2

If you want to acquire vast financial resources, please pay close attention to the following information. Numerous individuals in the newsletter publishing industry have for years kept closely guarded secrets that reveal the fast route to establishing yourself as a powerful newsletter publisher in a ridiculously short period of time. While they shudder to think about passing on such data to the general public, I am more than willing to relate this privileged information to you!

Here's What The Computer Said:

Computer analysis of Test Paragraph #1:

  • YEARS OF SCHOOL: 4 (Easy for most readers)
     
  • READING EASE SCORE: 88 (Less than 6th grade level)
     
  • AVERAGE SENTENCE LENGTH: 12.2 Words (Contains a greater than average number of simple words.)
     
  • AVERAGE WORD LENGTH: 1.26 Syllables (May indicate choppiness or lack of sentence variation. Try varying sentences.) (Doctor's Note: Notice the bun-headedness of the computer! It doesn't realize we are writing ad copy! Woe is me - us creative folk are always dealing with adversity!)
     
  • AVERAGE PARAGRAPH LENGTH: 5.0 Sentences (Most readers could easily follow paragraphs of this length.)

Hey! We did a great job with #1, didn't we? Now - (Gulp!) - let's see how #2 did!

Computer analysis of Test Paragraph #2:

  • YEARS OF SCHOOL: 15 (Difficult for most readers)
     
  • READING EASE SCORE: 35 (Above 11th grade)
     
  • AVERAGE SENTENCE LENGTH: 25.3 Words (Most readers could easily understand sentences of this length.)
     
  • AVERAGE WORD LENGTH: 1.73 Syllables (Vocabulary may be too advanced for most readers.)
     
  • AVERAGE PARAGRAPH LENGTH: 5.0 Sentences (Most readers could easily follow paragraphs of this length.)

So ... it's clear that shorter words and sentences help make reading easier. (Be careful not to use ALL three-letter words and super short sentences and paragraphs. Vary them so your copy sounds natural, not robotic. A good rule of thumb is about 70-80% of your copy should consist of one syllable words.)

In addition to word and sentence length, the computer also checks for what Flesch calls "Definite Words". These are nouns, proper names, pronouns, verbs and specifics. The more specific you can be, the less figuring your reader has to do in order to fully understand your message!

So don't say, "Become financially successful." Instead try, "Make up to $2,000.00 a week!". Don't say, "Do you want your entire body to look more attractive?" Instead try, "MEN! Do you want a rippling, rock-hard stomach? WOMEN! Do you want lean, luscious thighs?"

Whoopee! Those headlines would knock 'em dead!

Using the Flesch formula the manual, non-computer way is somewhat complex and time-consuming until you get used to it. But I suggest you familiarize yourself with it and use it- even just a few times. That will be enough to drive home what does and does not work when trying to write clear, understandable copy.

So, let's review what you learned so far!

You've learned that in order for your advertising to be successful, you must first be aware of the primary things that block you readers from understanding your message. All the sneaky tricks in the world won't work if you don't get this down first. If people don't understand what you're trying to say, it's just as bad (maybe worse) as not saying it at all.

You learned that it's more important to express than impress. That's because your reader doesn't care about you, as much as he cares about what you can do for him. That means you use shorter words, sentences and paragraphs and don't try to impress him or her with your great vocabulary and intelligence.

You learned that advertising copy does not have to follow all the rules of a college composition. Nor will a blue bun hairdo boost your bottom line. Your copy has one job and no more: to sell, Sell, sell!

You now understand how to use questions to draw people into your copy and keep them reading. You learned to use pronouns, like the words "YOU" and "I" to make your copy sound personal, especially in sales letters. You now know a practical way to determine if your copy is really readable or not by using the Flesch formula, either manually or on a computer.

You learned a lot here. And in 24 hours you will forget up to 90% of what you read. That's what statistics say. So I suggest you read this article a few times during the upcoming weeks until my next article appears here. Then you'll have the knowledge to move to the next step. And that's when the real fun begins ...

That's right! Just keep your eyeballs glued to this screen because next time I'm going to give you examples of actual ads that are running in publications when I wrote this article. I'll dissect each one - with surgical exactness - right before your eyes. I'll tell you what is right. And what is wrong. If the ad stinks, I'll tell you. (Boy will I tell you.) If it's terrific, I'll tell you that too. I tell you how to bring your present ads to life. And how to avoid making the deadly mistakes most dealers make, time and time again.

So until we "meet" again, I wish you health, happiness and prosperity!

P.S. Would you like to spend 4-1/2 hours with me and learn how to persuade people like an ad-agency pro? In my 6-cassette audio program, "How to Create Power-Packed Ads, Brochures & Sales Letters that Make Money NOW!" I teach you how! Come on... try it for ONE FULL YEAR risk free. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS!

 

PERSUADE LIKE A PRO... Network Like a Ninja... Create Killer Advertising Materials... Strategize Like a Military General... and Leave Your Competition... Choking On Your Dust. 11 Leading business experts teach you how. Click Here For FREE Details!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Drew Eric Whitman, D.R.S. -- is an outspoken, humorous and philosophical advertising trainer, speaker and columnist with 15+ solid years of hands-on experience. His newspaper and magazine articles teach thousands of business people how to use simple, but powerful techniques of Madison Avenue psychology to help them boost their advertising results.


He was a Senior Direct Response Writer for the direct response division of the largest ad agency in Philadelphia. He was also Senior Direct Response Copywriter of one of the largest direct-to-the-consumer insurance companies in the world. He created powerfully effective advertising for small retail shops, to giant, multi-million dollar organizations, including Faber-Castell Corporation, Texaco, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Automobile Association, Amoco, American Legion and many others.

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