This advertisement is from 1919. Although it’s old, you can see that recent copywriters even follow this proven advertising formula. Here’s the ad (there’s a larger version further down this article):

I’m going to break the ad down — showing its formula to writing great ad copy.

First, you need to understand why I believe this pioneering ad is a model to follow:

  1. John Caples, in my personal view provides the best copywriting tips, mentions this ad first in his “15 Famous Ads” section in Tested Advertising Methods.
  2. Results were tracked — it’s a direct response campaign. Results were tracked so well in magazines, such as Popular Science, they knew where the ad should be placed to get the best results.
  3. Near perfect layout for eye path is used that has been proven for decades after: Image (top) + Headline (under image) + ad copy (under headline). Copywriters, David Ogilvy and Dr. Drew Eric Whitman, recommend this layout as well.
  4. Uses great audience appeal (according to The 100 Greatest Advertisements): “…man’s desire to get ahead, to earn more money, to be admired, to get the gal, and to keep in the running, is as changeless as the orbit of the earth.”

In my experience, these are the very fundamentals all reason-why ads should have in their body copy:

  1. Teasers – ability to arouse curiosity and keep consumer reading. Qualifiers work too.
  2. Benefits – emphasis on why it’s needed or will help.
  3. Credibility – demonstration, social proof, facts, etc.
  4. The Push – hard-selling copy that pushes the offer. Often times makes use of scarcity, reassures possible anxiety or friction points, and tells how to act.

Here’s the quick break down of the ad (look at the legend below):

Although there is overlap of the four ad copy elements, at first look, you might think there’s hardly any strong teasers. After the headline, that teaser has the most important job — to get you to start reading the rest of the advertisement.

Another part to notice is how the first set of benefits are essentially specific luxury benefits — things that aren’t needed. The next paragraph uses fear to tell you why you must read this. Those are need-based benefits.

Lastly, notice that after the value is shown, then it’s time to show social proof — and the push to close the lead.

In summary, this is a fantastic example of how to order the use of teasers, benefits, credibility, and push for the lead/sale.

Further reading: Are You Forgetting This Most Important Step in Writing a Headline?

Although it would take a lot of work, I would love to do this type of analysis for a dozen different direct response ads. Then I would get an average copywriting formula to use. Because headlines are the most important element of an ad, perhaps my next post will be on the formulas used in headlines. Click RSS or Email to get updated instantly when it gets published.

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