Do the HOMEwork too!

When it comes to Advertising, Marketing, and Persuasion, are you a student of what’s come before you?

  • Do you know the history?
  • Do you try to learn from the greats by reading their books and studying their works?
  • Do you look at all of it?  Or just a narrow slice?

If you didn’t answer Yes to the main question and the first two bullet points, you can stop reading now. Really. There’s no hope for you.

But I find that quite a few serious copywriters get hung up on the third bullet point.

These copywriters have studied the direct mail lineage — Hopkins, Caples, Collier, Schwartz, Halbert, Kennedy, et al — but haven’t looked at any of the giants of Madison Ave style advertising beyond, maybe, Ogilvy.  And vice versa for broadcast advertising guys who’ve never studied Direct Response marketing.

Or they’ve never thought that the Theatre Arts or Rhetoric or Comedy Writing or Sales Training or even say, Comic Books had anything to teach them.

In other words, they dismiss stuff that’s not directly in their field or that they don’t “get” right away. Big mistake.

So today’s lesson: be a student of the game — the whole game.  Learn what’s great from the past. Study it.  Note that “study” doesn’t mean passively reading it. When in doubt, figure out what other great talents that you DO like see in the “greats” that you don’t get.

And here’s two great links to get you started on the path:

  1. This New York Times article on Ed McCabe [hat tip to The Escape Pod for turning me onto this article]
  2. This Invisible Ink post on learning from legends you don’t “get” at first contact.

P.S. That NYT article mentions the same Volvo ad I used as an example in my last Theory Thursday post and I managed to snag a screen shot of it.  Here it is:

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