Yes­ter­day I was researching/browsing inter­est­ing and inven­tive print ads on the inter­net and came across this one:

25.creative-adsIf you can’t make out the print, it says “Extremely Fast Inter­ent” right next to the brand name and logo of what I can only assume to be some kind of ISP.

Clever, right? But will it drive sales?

Prob­a­bly not. And there’s two rea­sons for this:

1) No Call to Action

2) No sup­port­ing facts

Now, the call-to-action part is obvi­ous to any­one with any direct response copy­writ­ing expe­ri­ence what­so­ever. How do I find out more about this “extremely fast inter­net”? How can I tell if it’s offered where I live? In other words, how can I buy the darn thing, you’re sup­pos­edly offer­ing for sale?

If you want peo­ple to respond (usu­ally by buy­ing) it helps if you give them clear, easy direc­tions on how to do so. Sort of a no-brainer, that one is. But at the risk of draw­ing the ire of the DM crowd, I have to say that…

If I’m Inter­ested Enough, I’ll Find My Own Path to Buying

While I don’t want to dimin­ish the impor­tance of the CTA, I really think that the absence of sub­stan­ti­at­ing facts in this ad is, if any­thing, more harm­ful to its effec­tive­ness than the lack of any sort of Call to Action.  If you get me inter­ested enough in what you’re sell­ing, I’ll fig­ure out my next action on my own.  Google is great for that; I can just search “OI3 Netvi­sion” and see what comes up — IF, and only if, I’m inter­ested enough.

But I’ll never be inter­ested enough if you just show me the clever visual anal­ogy and think you’ve made your point. My nat­ural instinct in this sit­u­a­tion (really, anyone’s nat­ural instinct) is to assume par­ity. You say you’re fast, but you’re prob­a­bly no faster than my reg­u­lar inter­net provider. Clever ad, but it’s still an ad, mean­ing its mes­sag­ing is assumed to be self-serving bull­shit until proven otherwise.

Fac­tual Romance

And then there’s “Fac­tual Romance.” Fac­tual Romance is the term J. Peter­man came up with to describe his phi­los­o­phy towards prod­uct selec­tion and mer­chan­dis­ing, as used in this semi-famous quote:

Peo­ple want things that are hard to find. Things that have a romance, but a fac­tual romance, about them.” — J. Peterman

And what I believe the man meant by this was romance bol­stered by some hard truth or fact that pre­vented the log­i­cal mind of the buyer from dis­miss­ing the romance as so much self-serving BS.  J. Peter­man can romance the Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella as the “King of Umbrel­las” because it is, in fact, the umbrella of kings — the com­pany actu­ally has a Royal War­rant to pro­vide umbrel­las to the Royal Family.

Like­wise, it’s fine to romance the speed of Netvision’s inter­net con­nec­tion, but you’ve got to pro­vide a bit of fact to go with it.  How much faster is it than reg­u­lar DSL or the aver­age cable modem?  What does that mean in terms of down­load­ing a movie or talk­ing over a VOIP connection?

Imag­ine that ad with a big, bold, white font on the back of the com­puter screen pro­claim­ing “2X Faster than DSK.  Down­load High Def­i­n­i­tion movies in 3 min­utes or less.” Wouldn’t that make for a more effec­tive ad? Even with­out the CTA, it would at least get me inter­ested enough to research the company/claims, and maybe, just maybe, stick in the back of my mind, should I ever become dis­en­chanted with my cur­rent ISP.

Want an exam­ple of how to do this right? Check out this old Union Car­bide com­mer­cial for their high-tech insulation:

YouTube Preview Image

Yes, they’ve got the drama of the baby chicken. What a great prod­uct demo. But they also pro­vide lots of cool facts. Some stated plainly as facts, such as “it’s 25 to 100 times bet­ter than [any other insu­la­tion] we’ve had before.”  And some are stated in terms of con­crete, almost dra­matic exam­ples: “One inch of super insu­la­tion wrapped around a rail­road tank car can keep liq­uid helium at 420 degrees below zero all the way from New York to Los Angeles.”

The drama keeps you riv­eted to the screen in antic­i­pa­tion, and the facts let you know that it’s not BS. You leave con­vinced. And that’s what it takes for your ads, too — regard­less of whether you’re using print, radio, TV, or Web-based advertising.

Or, as my busi­ness part­ner, Roy Williams puts it:

  • Details and specifics add cred­i­bil­ity. Names! Dates! Prob­lems! Solu­tions! Any thing less is an unsub­stantiated claim and will be sum­mar­ily dis­missed by the customer.”
  • Always sat isfy the left brain when you can. It holds veto power when the right brain wants to do some thing that is obvi­ously dan­ger­ous or fool­ish. No, I’m not say­ing that logic trumps emo­tion. I’m say­ing only that lazy writ­ers too often try to work the heart because it’s eas­ier. They’re unwill ing to do the research and hard work required to sat isfy the mind.”


  1. Carlin on 11.06.2011

    Wow, what a great choice of videos to drive the point home.

    That’s one I won’t soon forget!

    Thanks Jeff for writ­ing these, I don’t always get time to com­ment, but I do read them!

    Car­lin in Edmon­ton
    (should look into that insu­la­tion, we’re gonna need it soon!)

  2. Jeff on 11.08.2011

    Thanks, Car­lin. I appre­ci­ate your readership : )

    And, yeah, that com­mer­cial is a bit old, but it’s bril­liant. I wish more of today’s com­mer­cials had that much cogency and clarity!

    - Jeff

  3. Tom on 11.09.2011

    Wow, that never seen this com­mer­cial before. Impressive.

    Hey Jeff, regard­ing the last quote, do yo mean to say ‘always sat­isfy the left side of the brain with enough logic so that your brain can ratio­nal­ize the deci­sion’ ? The actual deci­sion is thus still being based on emo­tion, but val­i­dated with at least some logic.

  4. Jeff on 11.09.2011


    Yes! That’s absolutely what I’m say­ing. We often need a fig leaf of ratio­nal­ity to give into what we really want to do in the first place. Many peo­ple buy lux­ury prod­ucts strictly as a sig­nal of sta­tus, but it still helps to show them how much nicer or better-built or longer-lasting the lux­ury prod­uct is. Give peo­ple a few log­i­cal facts to ratio­nal­ize spend­ing 3X more for the lux­ury branded prod­uct, and you’ll get far more cus­tomers shelling out their money, even though the real rea­son for the pur­chase has noth­ing to do with dura­bil­ity or build quality.

    - Jeff

  5. Tom on 11.10.2011

    fas­ci­nat­ing how our psy­che works! thanks for the response.

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