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.