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Why I Don’t Admire Jerry Della Famina

August 28th, 2007 by Bob Bly

I’m a fan of David Ogilvy. Rosser Reeves. James Webb Young.

But Jerry Della Femina? Not so much.

Della Femina was interviewed by the NY Post (8/27/07, pp. 38-39) for an article on the differences in the ad agency business of the 1960s vs. today.

Laments Della Femina: “It went from being a business of fun to being a business of money, and that changes everything.”

Pity Della Femina’s poor clients, whose ad agency — Della Femina — thought its mission was to have fun with the client’s money, and not turn it into more money.

Adds Della Femina, explaining how he and his colleagues could have the proverbial 3-martini lunch every day and then go back to work: “The only thing that made it possible was that the people you were dealing with were as drunk as you are.”

I’m sure Della Femina clients would have loved knowing that Jerry and his staff were bombed when working on all those costly ad campaigns.

I have fun every day as a freelance copywriter — more fun than anyone has a right to have at work and still call it “work.”

But having fun is a side effect of loving what I do and (I think) doing it at a reasonable level of competence.

My objective, however, is always to make the client’s marketing make more money.

That’s what he’s paying me for. Not to have a party.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 at 2:47 pm and is filed under Advertising, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

155 responses about “Why I Don’t Admire Jerry Della Famina”

  1. Ted Grigg said:

    In my early days in the business, I was part of the selection team for hiring Della Femina for our National HMO. I also hired Grey Direct as the agency of record for our national Medicare business.

    Actually, Della Femina was an excellent image/branding agency at the time. As with all general agencies in those days, “awareness advertising” was not viewed so much as a strategy for making money but the goal in and of itself.

    As a career direct marketer, I was always at odds with general agencies for their lack of focus on the client’s bottom line. They spoke the words, but they really had no intention of trying to track the sales generated by their advertising. In reality, tracking sales based on any kind of behavior change coming from their advertising campaigns was somehow beneath them.

    General agencies tend to equate product awareness with product purchase. And as all direct marketers know, that takes quite a leap of faith.

    I had the dubious privilege of setting up two direct agency divisions for large, general agencies. It worked because I made it work. But quite honestly, general advertising is counter culture to the general agency world. And no one has shown me that this culture clash has disappeared in today’s so-called enlightened multichannel world.

    So kudos to Della Femina for letting the cat out of the bag. He speaks for many in his discipline.

    To be honest, I do wonder though if this is the message he really intended to communicate? Could he really be referring to shareholder pressures that require higher profit levels from the agency business? Perhaps you could expand the quote to show us the context. Very interesting.

  2. Bob Bly said:

    I think he actually MEANT what you said: shareholders requiring higher profits. But even then, don’t shareholders and clients want the same thing — profit — and not the joy of knowing that the agency is “having fun”?

  3. Jill said:

    Everything you said is true, Bob. But when I think of the phrase “…a business of money” I think about all those people who want 200 articles for $0.25 a piece on

    From where I sit it IS all about the money, and how little people seem willing to pay. They don’t seem to care about the effort and skill.

  4. Bob Bly said:

    Jill: some people want the best and will pay for it, others want the low price, and still others are somewhere in between. The trick is to identify and work only with those who are willing and eager to pay you what you are worth, and to be worth what you want to be paid.

  5. Ted Grigg said:

    Bob, in reference to your comment below:

    “I think he actually MEANT what you said: shareholders requiring higher profits. But even then, don’t shareholders and clients want the same thing — profit — and not the joy of knowing that the agency is “having fun”?

    I think it is true that both shareholders and clients want profits. But to yield consistent shareholder profits often means charging clients more money for the agency’s services. This may end up with shareholders making money at the expense of their clients. If true, then I can see how that would take the fun out of anyone’s work.

    (I must admit that I feel pretty darn happy when I have helped my client make a heap of money. But when I am no longer effective at that primary mission, the joy of work well done dies).

    Peter Drucker said in his later years that he felt companies were prioritizing their shareholders over their customers. In a real sense, he believed that companies were giving excessive management and money resources to shareholders and were hurting customers in the process.

    So, I was wondering if Della Femina was referring to the inordinate attention agencies must now give to assuring shareholder profits that was hurting agency clients and the agency world as a whole. If he was, then I think he may have a good point.

  6. Robert Rosenthal said:

    I don’t think Jerry Della Femina would agree that his agency’s mission was to “have fun with the client’s money, and not turn it into more money.” Jerry’s iconoclastic approach was wildly successful for at least some of his clients.

    Like you, I’m a direct marketing guy, but I found Jerry’s autobiography, “From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor,” extremely useful. The man had something that always seems to be in short supply: Balls.

  7. Bob Bly said:

    Maybe I am prejudiced. But when I saw his picture in Newsweek, looking vaguely Bohemian with a cocktail in his hand, it conjured images of everything I don’t like about Madison Avenue. When I was an ad manager in the early 1980s, the major skill of ad agency account executives seemed to be taking clients to lunch. Perhaps it prejudiced me against general ad agencies forever. Also, Della Femina’s campaigns may have been praised as clever and creative. But please show me proof that they increased sales.

  8. Jodi Kaplan said:

    There always has been (and probably always will be) a tension between direct marketers and general advertisers. In advertising, the “holy grail” is an ad that’s “award-winning” or runs during the Super Bowl; for direct marketers, it’s oh, a 50% response rate and a 500% ROI (let’s dream big!!). Personally, I prefer the latter.

  9. Jerry Della Femina said:

    What bullshit. I took Isuzu, Becks Beer, Blue Nun Wine,
    Meaw Mix,Zip Lock bags Dow Bathroom Cleaner
    Air Wick stickups from tiny accounts or startups to giant profitable companies
    That made all their stockholders a ton of money I did it while I was drunk and having fun. Imagine if I was sober.

  10. David Tandet said:

    One thing’s for sure. Ogilvy was a guy who not only did what he thought was best for his client – he also loved his work. The proof – and you can’t fake something like this – is word one, chapter one (actually, the intro) of his book “Ogilvy On Advertising.” That word is his intro title: “Overture.”
    Read that, and you feel you’re about to be taken for a terrific, informative journey through a subject that the author is an expert on, that the author loves. And you’re right on both counts.

  11. Bob Bly said:

    Jerry, it isn’t bullshit. As David Ogilvy is fond of pointing out, brand advertisers cannot directly link sales to advertising. That’s like the ad agency for Bush saying he beat Gore because of their ad campaign. There are too many other factors that decide both elections and consumer products purchases; the ads are only a small factor. But when I write a magalog to sell a trading service, it is my copy and my copy only that generates the sales, and we can trace results down to the penny. That is something you can never have in image or brand advertising, so to say you built those brands is difficult to prove at best and ludicrous at worst.

  12. Ted Grigg said:

    I realized that in spite of my best efforts, that one point I made was not clear. When referring to stockholder profits, I was NOT referring to the client’s stockholders, but the agency’s stockholders.

    So Bob, I think that is the difference. With many of the agencies going public and agency mega mergers, agency stockholder profit pressures do not always benefit the client’s bottom line goals. This trend has changed the focus of the agency business and may have taken some of the joy out of it for people like Jerry Della Femina.

  13. Bob Bly said:

    Ted: I assumed you were talking about both the client and agency shareholders. Bottom line: everyone has different heroes. Some worship those whacky, creative Madison Avenue guys. I don’t. Their free-spending ways with client budgets, contempt for ROMD (return on marketing dollar), obsession with creativity, and focus on awards makes me want to toss my cookies. Give me Michael Masterson, Clayton Makepeace, Ogivly, Hopkins, and Caples any day of the week!

  14. Dianna Huff said:

    Personally, I worship at the alter of DDB — specifically Bill Bernbach and Julian Koenig, those wacky guys who wrote those quirky VW ads from the 60s. Most everything I know about marketing writing, I learned from them. The intro to the book “Is the Bug Dead?” is something all B2B writers should read (and B2C, too).

  15. Bob Bly said:

    DH: Bill Bernbach was a genius at selling. “Is This Bug Dead?” is a great ad. Still, I argue that the best people to learn from are those who generated trackable results. They KNOW whether their stuff works. The others mainly guess.

  16. Robert Rosenthal said:

    Bob: David Ogilvy opened his agency in 1948 but didn’t launch his direct unit until almost a quarter century later, in 1972. He retired as chairman of Ogilvy & Mather one year after O&M Direct opened. Ogilvy talked quite a bit about his admiration for direct marketers but spent almost his entire career creating “brand advertising.” And he certainly wasn’t shy about “linking sales to advertising.”

  17. Dianna Huff said:

    Bob and Robert — DDB created the VW brand. You could find two Bugs in the US in 1949. The first VW ad appeared in the New Yorker in 1959. By 1962, when US import sales of other cars had plummeted in the US, VW sales were rising — 200,000 cars were sold. Many US dealers found people came to their showrooms with those ads in hand. In all, 5 million cars were sold by the time VW discontinued production.

    As the authors of the book “Is the Bug Dead?” state you can’t trace all those sales to ads. But without those ads, and the “honest” branding campaign developed by Bill Bernbach and crew, VW would have never sold that many cars.

    Ditto for Jerry Della Femina and his accounts.

  18. Robert Rosenthal said:

    Dianna: So-called brand advertisers like Bernbach, Ogilvy, and Della Femina moved more product than just about anyone. In his comment, Jerry Della Femina rattled off seven brands that realized huge sales increases after his agency stepped in. Just because those campaigns weren’t measured in a direct-like way doesn’t mean the sales increases didn’t happen because of the advertising. You gave a great example. Is there a marketer on earth who thinks the original DDB VW campaign didn’t transform sales?

    I agree with Bob about the importance of learning from “those who generated trackable results.” But direct marketers should also respect the enormous contribution people like Jerry Della Femina made to the marketing field.

  19. Bob Bly said:

    BTW, RR: We suspect that the comment isn’t really from Jerry. But I answered anyway, because I think it was close to what he might say if he read my post. Also: you say direct marketers should respect brand marketers, which I somewhat agree with. But as you may know, Madison Avenue has traditionally had a huge CONTEMPT for “mail order” advertisers, choosing to ignore the lessons they could have learned and shrug off the notion of measurement and testing.

  20. Robert Rosenthal said:

    Bob: I noticed you used “we” in your last comment. Does anyone else think comment #9 didn’t really come from Jerry Della Femina?

  21. SpongeBob Fan said:

    I wondered, because of the mis-spelling of Meow.

  22. Bob Shiffrar said:

    My God, are we actually arguing about the merits of having fun while working in advertising?

    I weep for this industry.

  23. Bob Bly said:

    Bob Shiffrar: you miss the point completely. I said in my post I have more fun than anyone has a right to have fun on the job and still call it “work.” The argument is that general ad agencies value creativity, eccentricity, “whackiness,” and humor as primary attributes, while direct marketers value increasing sales.

  24. Bob Shiffrar said:

    Mr. Bly, I wasn’t speaking specifically to you. Just this thread in general.

    Although I must say that the line in your post above, “…Della Femina thought its mission was to have fun with the client’s money, and not turn it into more money…” seems a bit mean-spirited.

    Do you really think that was JDF’s purpose and goal? His “mission”?

  25. Bob Bly said:

    Bob Shiffrar: that’s a great question. I can’t know his personal motives. But the industry general? From what I have seen, selling a product usually takes a back seat in these Madison Avenue ad agencies to writing ads that win creative awards and praise for their creativity.

  26. Ted Grigg said:

    This blog got my juices flowing.

    I do respect and learn from people like Jerry Della Femina and his followers since I spent much of my career in his world. But I can confirm Bob’s view that some branders do look down on direct marketers as second class citizens.

    There is an arrogance with some branding practitioners that make it very hard to work with them when they often have little respect for the skills seasoned direct marketers bring to the table.

    I have concluded that there exists a culture clash between positioning advertisers and direct marketers. General advertising practitioners view branding as the goal rather than a strategy. In truth, the branding strategy exists side-by-side with the direct marketing strategy (and other such strategies) to fulfill the primary goal of INCREASING SALES.

    That is why DM people take exception to comments that direct marketing is a tactic and not a strategy. Branders are also fond of calling direct marketing activities “below the line” as if DM had a subsidiary role to positioning advertising and branding. These statements reflect a poor understanding of the direct marketing discipline.

    In a very real sense, general advertisers perceive direct marketers as a threat because their clients absolutely love the work of DM people and their focus on trackable results. So with the client as friend and admirer, I feel empathy for our general advertising brethren who struggle with validating their activities based primarily on ROI analyses.

    None of these comments imply that branding does not yield revenue and improve sales.

    But I do think that in today’s world that branding is not THE solution to all client sales goals. Companies need the skills of all communication specialists including branding, sales promotion, DM and PR. In some cases, for example, general advertising may not be an appropriate strategy for small, highly targeted B2B markets. Yet, general advertisers rarely consider another strategy because they are locked into what they know.

    Applying the proper strategy to meet the goal is what companies need, not a single, one-dimensional approach.

  27. Tom Messner said:

    A friend directed me to this conversation. Thought I would be interested. I am, but after all these years I seem to have been in a different business from most of the folks who write here.
    Jerry’s mission, I think, was a bit more ironic than “…Della Femina thought its mission was to have fun with the client’s money, and not turn it into more money…”
    Rather it was to have fun with the client’s money and turn it into more money. And enterprises such as midwestern grain and feed company Ralston Purina and Beck’s from that humor-filled, light-hearted Hanseatic League town of Bremen, Germany saw that if unaided awareness led to increased sales and high Burke scores led to unaided awareness, then Meow Mix’s mnemonic and Beck’s proclaiming and owning Germanness for its beer made as much business sense as cutting through a frozen juice can meant for the wildly successful direct marketers of the Ginzu knife.
    Indirect marketers value increasing sales as much as the sainted direct marketers cited above.
    I did observe close hand a battle between a “general agency” and a “direct marketing agency.” In 1981, Time’s circulation department thought it might be worthwhile to pit its DR agency, Wunderman, against a “hot” creative agency of the time, AllY & Gargano. Ally was coming off big successes for Federal Express, Dunkin Donuts, SAAB, and DR+Branding for MCI, and Wunderman, of course, was Wunderman.
    For three years and six test cycles, Ally beat Wunderman in a battle of two-minute spots waged for the most part at two in the morning, but occasionally in prime time remnant as the economy was in a bit of a slide and avails became more prevalent. One of the years, the winning Ally spot even was liked enough to win both a John Caples award and an ANDY, neither meant very much to the team doing the work, but the folks at Time’s circ department liked to receive wider affirmation of their judgement. Wunderman even brought Lester Wunderman in to see if he had any ideas. He did. He suggested they take the last Ally & Gargano winning spot, cut it down a bit, have a young woman operator introduce the spot saying she will be back later with an offer, have the woman come back after the spot and add some goodies and close with the all-purpose valedictory: our operators are standing by.
    Wunderman won, and created what came to be known for a while in DR circles as the Judy wrap. I was on a panel with Lester Wunderman last Fall, and he still remembered it, and still was proud of it. I told him I was immensely flattered to have written a spot with him.

  28. Bob Bly said:

    Tom: I can tell you over a dozen stories of “creative” agencies going against DR agencies and losing big time.But you prove my main point: whether Ally or Wunderman won, the only way to determine which copy was more effective was in direct response. In general advertising, there IS NO WAY TO TELL. BTW, I interviewed Amil Gargano in the 1980s for a book I wrote for John Wiley & Sons. He was a bright, smart, and unpretentious guy who sincerely wanted to help his clients increase sales, and just happened to do it best through very creative commercials and ads. However, his focus was on creative and fun campaigns as an ends to a means, vs. many agencies then and today view creativity as the ends.

  29. Mark Drossman said:

    As someone who has worked for both Jerry Della Femina and Tom Messner on the general side and Ogilvy on the direct side, I feel compelled to respond:

    First, I have to say that Della Femina Travisano & Partners was indeed an incredibly fun place to work, and the environment not only drove us to do the best possible “creative” work but to do it at all hours of the day or night. Nobody wanted to go home. Clearly, this gave our clients more bang for their buck.

    Second, at Messner, those of us who worked on MCI, 1-800-COLLECT and Volvo all considered ourselves to be in the business of selling. Not just of increasing awareness.

    Third, at Ogilvy, even the hardest-hitting direct work has to be creatively strong, because it shouldn’t just build sales but also help build the brand.

    And finally, anyone can write “snappy copy that sells”. But writing great copy that sells, helps build brands and wins creative awards is a lot tougher.

    Not to mention more satisfying.

  30. Bob Bly said:

    Mark: I agree that anyone can write snappy copy. But copy that sells? Very few people can, which is why top DR copywriters can get $10,000 to $20,000 to write a single letter. As for winning creative awards, you think that’s important? Why?

  31. Mark Drossman said:


    I think the difference in our philosophies is that you see direct as pure science. I prefer to see it as a melding of art and science.

    While ROI validates the scientific side, the winning of creative awards validates the artistic.

    I like to bask in the glory of both worlds.

  32. Tom Messner said:

    A long time ago when I was in school, I had a course called Logic and Criteriology given by Professor Brian Cudahy who went on to leave teaching and write a history of the New York City Subway system. A portion of the class he devoted to what he called Polemics, which he identified as the art of argument. One of his favorite jukes was the sudden exclamation: “You have just proven my point!” when in fact it either ignored the point or demolished it.
    >>>But you prove my main point: whether Ally or Wunderman won, the only way to determine which copy was more effective was in direct response.

  33. Bob Bly said:

    Mark: I think the difference in the philosophies of direct vs. general (not you vs. me) is this:

    Direct wants results period. That is the goal. To get there, you might have to be creative … or clever … or smart … whatever.

    General wants to show how creative and clever it can be. They want people to love their ads. They want the industry to love their ads so much they get creative awards. If it doesn’t sell, well … hey, it’s only advertising. If sales go up, of course they take the credit, even though there is no way to trace sales to any ad.

    Do you not agree?

  34. Mark Drossman said:

    You got me there.
    Direct is strictly about results.
    I recognize and respect the power of great, traditional D.R., and understand that there is a place for it.
    However, direct that garners strong ROI and helps to build the brand –or at the very least, doesn’t undermine it– is even more powerful.
    Frankly, I think this is where all advertising is going now, anyway.

  35. Bob Bly said:

    Mark: the main problem I have encountered in my nearly 3 decades as a DR copywriter is the opposite of what you advocate:

    Namely, adhering to branding guidelines in DR actually DECREASES response rates. And there is tested evidence to support this….

    In an article in Target Marketing (4/07, p. 19), consultant Russell Kern describes a study he conducted. Based on testing millions of pieces of DM, Kern found that as branding content increases, response rates decline.

    When copy content in direct response promotions shifted from 90% offer and 10% brand messaging, to 90% branding and only 10% offer, response rates took a nosedive.

    As a result, the cost per sale increased, on average, tenfold or more.

    Conclusion: when you want to maximize ROI on direct marketing, sell your offer, not your brand.

    Does that settle it?

  36. Mark Drossman said:

    I agree that without a good offer, you have nothing.

  37. HighJive said:

    Never did understand the continued conflicts and rivalries between branding and direct response practitioners. The two disciplines are distinct, and comparisons are almost irrelevant. Branding and direct must work together, or neither one will really succeed to further a brand and make money. Additionally, branding advertising that does not sell is pointless; so is direct response advertising that ignores the brand. Although it is unfortunate when the branding agencies seek to dominate the proceedings. On many levels, it’s similar to what minority agencies face. The branding agencies seek to lord over the messaging, despite being completely ignorant to the needs and methods of all marketing partners (multicultural, direct, interactive, promotions, events, etc.). Even Lester Wunderman, in his autobiographical business book “Being Direct,” discussed the issues and paranoia he faced upon merging with Y&R. We’re talking apples and oranges here, folks. Arguments can be made for or against every marketing discipline—but what’s the point? For the ones proclaiming direct’s superiorities, it’s interesting to note a perspective that appeared in Advertising Age many years ago (don’t recall the author, just remember it was a female executive). The comment said something like this: People always criticize branding advertising by spewing the quote attributed to John Wannamaker that reads, “I know that half of my advertising budget is wasted, but I’m not sure which half”—yet direct marketers pat themselves on the back if they receive a 2 percent response rate. Even the conversations in this thread expose the root issues. Branding advertisers seek to create emotional arguments while direct advertisers seek to make rational arguments. The arrogance behind not realizing strong arguments require both is what’s leading to the demise of the branding and direct response disciplines.

  38. Mark Drossman said:

    High Jive,
    Very well put.

  39. Robert Rosenthal said:

    We’ve tested conceptual approaches against conventional direct marketing. Even if you bury the offer inside a great creative approach, it’s likely to get whupped in a split-run test against the hard-core direct stuff. However, if you go toe-to-toe with the down-and-dirty “control” approach on the offer front and add a kick-ass creative concept you may win big.

    We’ve seen the results of lots of other so-called creative tests run by the direct marketing orthodoxy, and the overwhelming majority included concepts that were, at best, trite. So all they learned was that mediocre or piss-poor concepts won’t beat traditional direct marketing approaches.

  40. Bob Bly said:

    To all the fans of Della Femina and Madison Avenue creativity, a question: whereh do you START when creating an ad? the brand image? the customer? the desire to create breakthrough creative? market research? the current campaign? the major competitor’s ad campaign?

  41. HighJive said:

    Geez, Bob, you’re pretty narrow-minded. Why must everything be so black and white? As I attempted to point out in my previous post, there shouldn’t be an us-versus-them mentality here. A true advertising person should respect all the disciplines. In fact, the people who insist on maintaining hierarchies and divisions will ultimately find themselves out of the industry, especially as integrated, multimedia communications continue to evolve.

    But in response to your last literal query, the answer is: It depends. It depends on the assignment, objectives, schedule, budget, brand, category, time of day, client’s wife’s pov, etc. There is no formula for creating an ad, and anyone seeking one is probably a hack. Again, integrated and modern communications require thinking of all media and tactical solutions in order to solve the assignment. In other words, creating an ad could mean producing a commercial, print ad, OOH, interactive component, coffee sleeve, or even—heaven forbid—a direct mail piece. It requires thinking tactically and conceptually.

    By the way, I read the Russell Kern piece in Target Marketing, and I think you’re simplifying Kern’s positions. Kern did not say the integration of branding into direct response is bad—in fact, he says it’s imperative. But it must enhance the offer and message versus clouding things. The more irrelevant branding you shoehorn into a direct piece, the more it hurts results. No duh. It’s a basic communication tenet that even branding advertising practitioners realize: the more focused and single-minded the message, the better. If branding becomes clutter, it’s bad. If it’s working to enhance the messaging, it’s fine. You must admit that prospects will react to a direct vehicle based on the brand. That is, if they hate the brand, it’s unlikely they will ever respond. Conversely, if they like or love the brand, they will be more inclined to respond to the offer.

    Again, in the modern age, branding or direct will rarely succeed without the other.

    All the best.

  42. Robert Rosenthal said:

    Bob: When creating an ad, I’m sure we do a lot of the same stuff at the start. But since you mentioned “Madison Avenue creativity,” I wanted to remind you that one of our heroes spent something like 40 years at BBDO on Madison Avenue: John Caples.

    Caples’ most famous ad, “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano,” which he wrote in the 1920s, was an unusual, psychological, conceptual mail order ad. It amazes me that so many of my fellow direct marketers missed Caples’ great lesson and went in reverse.

  43. Bob Bly said:

    High Jive: I do not consider myself narrow-minded in the least. When I can leverage a strong brand in my copy, I do. What I don’t like is force-fitting branding guidelines to DR when it doesn’t fit. Example: a software company approached me about writing a DM package. They told me to conform to branding guidelines, every piece — outer envelope, letter, reply card — had to show the graphic of a sail boat. Immediately this eliminated a dozen great package ideas I had, simply because they wouldn’t work with the boat. Branding does at times invoke artificiality, and the most effective DM is sincere and genuine — not like advertising at all.

    RR: The great Caples ad is totally a customer-focused ad — starting with the prospect and his feelings — no branding in the headline at all — no mention of a product….

  44. HighJive said:

    Well, Bob, I might argue the example you presented is not about branding, but bad clients. Believe it or not, bad clients make idiotic demands on brand advertising practitioners too. If there’s one thing branding advertising and direct response advertising will always share, it’s an abundance of bad clients.

    (And you do appear to be a tad narrow-minded in your views on brand advertising.)

  45. Bob Bly said:

    Jive: my philosophy is simple. When I sit down to write a letter, my ONLY concern is: what can I say that will get the prospect to buy. The minute you put ANY other requirement in front of the DR copywriter, you interfere with his ability to generate maximum response. Example: one Fortune 500 company actually had a rule against using underlining in sales letters.

  46. Tom Messner said:

    There are several themes I think I see here that may be deeper or shallower than the creator of the themes thinks:
    1) Motives versus results (an interesting subject as one can, let’s say, only want to make funny commercials and in doing so can make himself, his agency, and his client richer for it)
    2) DR versus branding (there is no versus: every DR commercial, ad, letter, whatever is branding; difference is not every branding message is DR)
    3) The hairshirt school of marketing communications versus the bacchanalian school, an updated version of Apollo versus Dionysus or the Puritans versus the Gospel singers
    4) Certainty versus uncertainty, knowing full well that you’ve failed versus waiting to find out
    5) The protection of one’s turf. When I first got into the business, I got a job writing industrial copy (coupons returned being the criterion, 800 numbers not having been developed) because I had a job editing tech manuals for Grumman, and BBDO thought I might be able to bring aviation knowledge to my copy. I really wanted to do consumer ads, but having been an industrial writer for a year, that pigeon-holed me. Took me a while to find a consumer agency to take a chance. Then after years successfully doing airlines and cars and telecom and fashion and direct response for telecom and magazine circulation, I heard that I had no packaged goods experience and clearly I couldn’t do that. This was followed by the political ad scene which condescends every four years to having some agency people bopping around, but which is occupied by the most volatile turf-protectors.
    6) Asshole rule makers versus real world practicioners. (“Jive: my philosophy is simple.” Bob Bly writes, “When I sit down to write a letter, my ONLY concern is: what can I say that will get the prospect to buy. The minute you put ANY other requirement in front of the DR copywriter, you interfere with his ability to generate maximum response. Example: one Fortune 500 company actually had a rule against using underlining in sales letters.”)
    Arbitrary (meaning ridiculous) rules hamper anyone from doing his job. The anti-underlining rule-maker should be shit-canned. Or sent back to PS 134 which taught the value of underlining and semi-colons and occasional use of exclamation points. But sometimes, DR has objectives that can deter sales or demand certain kinds of sales which color the work. The Time circ problem was to get a kind of customer (one who would be likely to renew without further extra inducements) and to create a feeling about the selling message that did not diminish the ad sales story, i.e. building circ with cheap promos, building the ad base with el cheapo rates. I would liek to think that the Fortune 500 company with the underlining rule was Enron, but I don’t think they ever made the 500.

  47. Mark Drossman said:

    Hey, Tom.
    Per your second point, it’s much nicer when the branding inherent in the DR is in sync with the general tone and voice. Too often, it seems to be completely ignorant of it.

  48. HighJive said:

    Can’t help but think a lot of the opinions here are rooted in old-school attitudes regarding branding and direct response advertising. As a newcomer to this blog, I have no idea if these points have been rehashed continually over the posts. So pardon any redundancies or obvious notes.

    Having spent stints in branding and direct agencies, here are some general observations:

    Branding agency denizens often exhibit the attitude that branding is like Major League Baseball, while direct response is the minor leagues. It’s an ignorant stance, as the contrast should be closer to saying that branding is MLB, while direct response is the NBA. The two disciplines share common characteristics, and they reside in a global category, but they’re entirely different games requiring unique skills, tactics, etc.

    Branding agency denizens who think they’re above direct response agency denizens are arrogant fools, and their continued ignorance only fuels the descent of their own agencies’ importance/prominence in the marketing mix. At the same time, direct response denizens often seem too quick to assume the minority role, taking a defensive and defeatist attitude—“We’re the red-headed stepchild.” All these denizens could benefit from behavioral modification.

    As marketing becomes more complex (from media and messaging standpoints), the codependency between branding and direct response will likely grow. The increasingly competitive and parity marketplace will also lead to the need for unity—or at least a blurring between the disciplines. A recent survey showed a significant decrease in response rates for credit card direct mail. Well, no kidding. If consumers receive multiple pieces from multiple card issuers hawking virtually identical offers, it’s logical to conclude response rates will drop. But what can we do when there are no unique offers? The potential answers include creating added benefits by infusing the brand (provided you have a well-respected brand) and being more creative in the message execution. Attempting to simply rejigger the old direct response tactics is not the answer. Additionally, it all requires the branding agency denizens to start to consider how the brand image can be crafted to accommodate and enhance the needs of direct response. Branding cannot refuse to recognize the need to sell, especially when clients are demanding more immediate sales results.

    For everyone to remain hunkered down in their respective professional bunkers is only confounding the progress necessary for all parties to stay in business.

    Anyway, I’m spending way too much time on this, particularly during a holiday weekend.

  49. Tom Messner said:

    High jive, what you gotta do is go out to the tennis…watch serena and venus and nadal…..relax in the sun…
    and during the breaks…check out a wireless….do some extreme multi-tasking….i type this right after the venus williams match with the 3-seed from eastern europe……..
    i will tell you one multi-task i tried and it didn’t work…
    i thought it might be possible to read a book and listen to a book on tape at the same time…maybe bill clinton or harold bloom or dustin hoffman’s character in rain man could do it, but it lost me………….
    on this thread here, every message whether intended or not enhances or diminshes a brand…but some messages are not intended to elicit an immediate response, a sale, nor can they…..
    my point, like yours to some extent, is that somewhere along the line….agencies thought—and to some extent correctly—that where they used to prate about selling “It’s not creative unless it sells” and other false contrapositions), now they thought they would go on about branding (george parker has written a lot about this and i don’t want to appear to have identified this phenomenon all by myself)
    branding is a longer chore and harder to quantify, but you can bet companies such as GE see an intrinsic value in its brand, and believe that their advertising has been a key part……where the whole thing became laughable was in the 1990s when people thought a brand could precede a product–sort of reverse existentialism: essence preceding existence…….mark drossman, hi…how you doing….using this site for e-mail is a nice byproduct…thank, bob bly…..

  50. Robert Rosenthal said:

    By the way: Jerry Della Femina really did add comment #9. I know because I’m the guy who tipped him off about Bob’s blog post. I said it would be a riot if he’d do the web equivalent of what Marshall McLuhan did in “Annie Hall,” when he suddenly appeared to set the record straight.

  51. Ogilvy, Reeves and Webb Young said:

    We agree with Della Femina. This is bullshit.

  52. Bob Bly said:

    #50: Right. Funny. Ha ha.Robert: If it is really Della Femina, what an egomaniac: “I” took these brands from start ups to giants. Yeah, sure. No one else had anything to do with it.

  53. Richard Armstrong said:

    In 1992, I gave a speech on this topic. It created quite a stir. Martin Conroy (the copywriter who wrote “Two Young Men” for WSJ) demanded the opportunity to deliver a rebuttal. While David Ogilvy wrote to me from his castle in France to say he agreed with what I said. Anyone who cares to listen may do so at

  54. Bob Bly said:

    Richard’s MP3 speech is based on an article he wrote for Ad Age where he supports — more articulately than I have here — the contention that general ad agencies are mostly full of horse hooey and that only directs really know how to sell. Richard, can you send us a link to that article, if you’ve posted it somewhere? It’s a classic that everyone chatting on this post should read.

  55. dinc uvendire said:

    Bob, your blog becoming addictive. I really dont remember how I found it but glad I did. I love the comments regardless the points taken.

  56. Tom Messner said:

    “the contention that general ad agencies are mostly full of horse hooey and that only directs really know how to sell” Bly quoting Richard quoting Ogilvy or Mather or someone on MP3.
    In 1978, Schwab Beaty Porter, a great direct agency got a new account. MCI. They did six months of work and it failed, flopped; MCI went out of print and off the air for a year and a half to re-group.
    In 1980, on March 17th, a simple 30 second commercial comparing AT&T’s rates with MCI’s that I wrote, along with help from some other horse-hooyers (Amil Gargano, George Euringer, and Mike Tesch) went on the air in a Denver Colorado test. Two other test cities followed with TV and print. The budget was the same as the earlier test.
    But the horse-hooyers won. And in two years, the company’s stock went from 4 to 50; its customer base from 35,000 to 2.5 million.
    The real problem with your formulation “only directs know how to sell” is that it only touches on the tautology that you are spinning. Go for the whole thing: only people who know how to sell know how to sell.

  57. Bob Bly said:

    Tom: you say you “won.” What A/B splits did you do in which your copy beat someone else’s? When I write a DM package to sell newsletter subscriptions, we know to the penny how many sales came from my letter vs. the other guy’s letter. That’s a test. When you run TV commercials and tell me that a company’s stock went up, there is no direct correlation — no way to demonstrate that your commercial was responsible for their growth. That’s why we directs say YOUR creative is not trackable, and only trackable results offer proof of copy’s ability to sell. Davie Ogilvy once wrote of general advertising agencies: “when sales go up, they take credit; and when sales go down, they blame the product or the market.”

  58. Tom Messner said:

    Over the six years I was there at Ally & Gargano, the MCI TV and print and mail was the only–repeat only–means of distribution, only means of contact with residential customers. This was mostly before outbound telemarketing was added to the mix in 1984.
    At one point, MCI was in 100 TV markets. There were constantly efforts to top the control, criterion being cost per order, calibrated for the media cost of the spot market. Perhaps never before and never again will there be such an ad laboratory. The original spot was finally beaten in 1982.
    The remark about the stock going up and the customer base’s increase were, I thought, interesting but I admit the stock price was not a direct cause of the advertising, but the customer count sure was and the revenue and the concommitant buoying to the brand which reverbrated into other areas such as business sales which had, until then, totally depended on personal direct-selling and mail.
    Davie Ogilvy, like most ad commentators, is great at generalizations. I can speak of failure without blaming product or the company. Ogilvy is taking a gratutitous–and for you, believable–shot at HIS competition. He may be a “Sir” but he wasn’t Saint David, the patron saint of poets, by the way. Obviously, those commercials and print ads that we did for MCI that did not beat the control were failures. We failed to sell mobile, car phones in 1984 in Minneapolis and Pittsburgh. Ogilvy was a smart fellow in that he could appeal to “general advertisers” with an eye-patch on a fop; he could appeal to coupon counters with “science” that talked of the power of long headlines and long copy and where to put the headline and where to stick the coupon and what typefaces to avoid—but his product first and foremost was himself. He sold it well as a guy who would appeal to both direct and, for want of a better word, general advertisers. He took, as he put it, “a new business presentation and made it into a bestseller, Confessions of An Advertising Man.” And with the quote you use of his, he managed to put himself on the mount, above it all, surveying his competition without regard for truth. Surprising he didn’t do political advertising.

  59. Bob Bly said:

    David Ogilvy wrote: “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest sound in this new Rolls Royce is the electric clock.” Madison Avenue wrote: “At Ford, Quality is Job One.” Case closed.

  60. TOM MESSNER said:

    A guy I knew at BBDO, had an ad for Pierce Arrow circa 1932 in his office (Jerry Gerber was his name.) Framed.
    It was the Rolls Royce headline done first for that company, Pierce Arrow. So another Madison Avenue tradition was observed by Sir David, borrowing.
    The aristry of Ogilvy which I was trying to point out was that he could straddle the worlds of
    Bly and Della Femina, and be respected by both.
    As far as the case being closed, I guess it is. It is, after all, your blog. And clearly if I outline 20 more case histories of Ally or the agency I founded, it would have no effect on your pre-judgement.
    Try to overcome your resentments, and you will have a nicer time in this life.
    I do a brief encapsulation of this contra Jerry view next week in Adweek, if they run it, as part of a little, very little, survey of blogs.

  61. Bob Bly said:

    Tom, my mind isn’t closed, though I think perhaps yours may be a tad. To paraphrase Richard Armstrong: “It has been suggested that old-fashioned direct marketers have something to learn from Madison Avenue. Well, speaking on behalf of my fellow direct marketers: Thanks, but no thanks.”

    BTW, I am having a very nice time in life by enabling my clients to precisely measure whether my copy works (and it doesn’t always) rather than bamboozle them with B.S. branding metrics as so many Madison Avenue and new media marketing gurus do.

    P.S. I’d have to see the Pierce ad to believe your claim. But even if true, it does not invalidate what Ogilvy did. In fact, direct marketing values modeling after successful proven campaigns (called “swiping”) as a time-honored method of making money for our clients. I do it all the time and so do most top DR copywriters.

  62. Robert Rosenthal said:

    Bob: Economists say markets are inefficient in the short run but highly efficient in the long run. Do you really think the most successful companies in history — businesses far more profitable than the overwhelming majority of direct marketers — have been wasting billions for over a century? If so and you’re right, you should be eligible for a Nobel Prize in economics. Your breakthrough would be right up there with Game Theory.

    Here’s a link on the Nobel nominating process:

    This direct marketer believes we’ll see the best response rates by combining textbook direct marketing techniques with kickass creative concepts (the “Judy Wrap” Tom described in comment #26 sounded like an early example). But first, we need to learn to get along.

  63. Robert Rosenthal said:

    Tom: On Google I found several references to similarities between a 1933 Pierce-Arrow ad and Ogilvy’s famous Rolls Royce ad (I’ve pasted one reference below). I looked through around 100 images of Pierce-Arrow ads but couldn’t find that particular one anywhere on the Internet. I did buy a CD on eBay containing 300+ Pierce-Arrow ads from 1905-1937. So stay tuned.

    … exceptions: Ogilvy’s famous Rolls-Royce ad (”At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this … Now if somebody would just bring back the Pierce-Arrow. …

  64. Bob Bly said:

    RR: Of COURSE advertisers waste billions of dollars in advertising. The famous retailer Wanamaker said: “I know half my advertising is wasted, but I just don’t know which.” Direct marketers CAN tell which advertising is wasted and which works. But unlike general advertisers, which commit millions to untested campaigns, we direct marketers test small quantities before rolling out. If the campaign fails, only the test fails, and we lose thousands, but not millions. That’s perhaps the #1 different between general and direct: testing.

  65. Tom Messner said:

    a)The solution to this argument/case/discussion would have been for Jerry to have named his agency Jerry Direct, then he would have entered the pantheon of Bly heroes. Then, too, Ally & Gargano Direct could go from being some kind of fraud who got lucky, to a reasonable enterprise. Interestingly, David Ogilvy had an Ogilvy Direct and an Ogilvy & Mather “general agency.” So I guess when he issued his blanket bloviation quoted by Bly,
    ““when sales go up, they take credit; and when sales go down, they blame the product or the market…”
    When he issued that competitive slur against his competition, one of the “theys” was actually himself, denizen of Madison Avenue as he and his “general agency” was.
    You can trace the genesis of skepticism about advertising’s ability to measure true Return on Investment to John Wanamaker’s 1930’s bon mot: QUOTE: I know half of my advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half. UNQUOTE.
    I am now convinced—after ample study—that this famous line was not an intended witticism, but Wanamaker’s genuine dumbfounded, introspective observation of his own incompetence to assess advertising even as he was incompetent to notice that his Wanamaker’s Department store down on Broadway and 8th Street had been left behind by Macy’s, Gimbel’s, Altman’s, Ohrbach’s, Lord & Taylor, Arnold Constable who moved North to Midtown where the customers were.
    But before he folded his store—the building now houses, ironically, Adweek Magazine—Wanamaker planted for all time an axiom: The axiom that advertising’s returns are uncertain, immeasurable, and that the activity itself remains unaccountable. And he planted that axiom unabashedly in the very era:
    When Claude Hopkins at Lord & Thomas could tell you if a 1799-line ad was likely to pull better or worse and how much than a full page one
    When John Caples at BBDO could tell you that having a coupon in the right hand lower part of an ad would increase returns by 13% versus having the coupon on the left hand side
    When Maxwell Sackheim—later the author of My First 60 Years in Advertising—invented the Book of the Month Club whose only points of purchase were newspaper and magazine ads
    c) Swiping. I take it there are bothersome legalities in practicing this technique, itself worth a book, if not a Nobel.
    (Incidentally, I did do a review a while back of Freakonomics and e-mailed a few times with Steven Dubner, co-author with an economist whose first name is Stephen, but whose last name fades from memory. They were interested in figuring out how to do a Freakonometric model on advertising, endeavoring at the time to deal with Mr. Wanamaker’s ironic insight.)
    But there was a famous DR ad that, I think, Schwab Beaty did—Bill McCullum may have been the writer. Showed a picture of a man obviously in incredible shape from the neck down flexing his muscles in a bathing suit. The man’s age could not be completely disguised because of his grayed hair and un-plasticized, un-botoxed face. The headline read: Charles Atlas on his 70th birthday. Now, if today, someone “swiped” that distinctive ad to sell an exercise program. David Barton on his 70th birthday, let’s say. Wouldn’t the Charles Atlas company be able to get David Barton to pull the ad, or are things like that swipable as normal business practice, encouraged by the DR industry or at least by Mr. Bly when he said above:”In fact, direct marketing values modeling after successful proven campaigns (called “swiping”) as a time-honored method of making money for our clients. I do it all the time and so do most top DR copywriters.” Don’t you copywright stuff when you copywrite? Or are ideas like a common grazing area to be gnawed by the cuds of copywriters everywhere?

  66. Robert Rosenthal said:

    Bob: ALL forms of advertising have waste, including our discipline. When we rent a typical mailing list, a significant percentage are utterly worthless, and we aren’t able to eliminate them from the list by changing the selection criteria or through overlays. We live with the waste. It’s built into the math.

    I’d love to know what percentage of direct marketing creative work rolls out after A/B testing. I don’t think it’s a majority. As you know, in business-to-business, it’s often not possible because sample sizes are too small.

    Do you really think the people we call “general advertisers” never should have bothered to launch those television campaigns? If so, you’re smarter than the most successful business heads in history.

  67. Bob Bly said:

    Tom: Here’s how swiping works. A copywriter wrote a winning promotion for a nutritional supplement on vision with the headline: “Why bilberry and leutin DON’T work.” I swiped and created a mailing for a trading software product that beat the control 3X. My headline: “Why most trading software doesn’t work … and never will.” You can copyright words, but not ideas, so my swipe is 100% legal and ethical.

    Robert: ALL major direct marketers I work for — Intuit, Agora, Boardroom, U.S. Charts — compare results on every test cell to the decimal and know EXACTLY what works and what does not.

  68. Tom Messner said:

    Absolvo te.
    No theft there.
    Somewhow, though, I think this is not really what I was talking about. I have a feeling you would have done the same headline for the software if the nutritional supplement never existed.
    In political ad lore, there was a great consultant who told me that in a race he was doing where he had 3X the money of the competition, the underdog with less money was breaking through with a line, say,
    Throw the rascals out. His solution was to adopt the same line and spend 3 X as much on it. In short order, his candidate became known as the guy who wanted to throw the rascals out.
    I assume Caples would not have been happy if the Hoagy Carmichael piano school, for example, suddenly co-opted his famous headline.
    I have limited experience in direct mail, most of it coming from working as a letter carrier for a year in Woodhaven, Queens. I do remember a Pop Tarts drop in which out of the 10,000 free samples of Pop Tarts that came in, half were mis-addressed, which meant postal workers and their families in Queens had a Kellogg’s Breakfast for the next few years. It seemed, too, that whereas Wanamaker claimed 50% of his ads were wasted, isn’t a 5% return on mail deemed successful. So whereas ol Wanamaker knew half of his work went down the drain, the direct mail industry knows that 95% is a failure. Their advantage comes from knowing which 95%.
    Best to all. I have had some fun thinking about this. And will try to send you all a postcard (effective direct mail) from vacation next week.

  69. Robert Rosenthal said:

    Bob: Did anyone ever say you would have made a great lawyer? What you didn’t say is interesting. You said every major direct marketer you work for compares results on every test cell to the decimal. But you didn’t say whether all your clients run A/B tests of your creative work. You also didn’t comment on whether it’s true that most direct marketing creative isn’t put through split-run tests. And you didn’t mention whether you believe so-called general advertisers never should have launched their television campaigns.

  70. Bob Bly said:

    RR: to answer:

    1. Every “major league” DM client (Weiss Research, Agora, etc.) always tests the control against new promos — in A/B splits — with major products.

    2. Many smaller DM clients measure results precisely, but do not always split test.

    3. NON-DM clients who ask me to write DM for them almost NEVER split test — and some do not even track results.

    4. The major players mail huge volumes but are of course a small portion of the overall DM — and I agree with you that the majority of DM is NOT A/B tested.

    5. I enjoy many TV commercials and admire the craftsmanship in them. Should they run them? Always hard to say. Many would argue that the budget today is better spend on SEO and PPC advertising online. I personally have no interest in producing copy that cannot generate an immediate ROI, but that’s just me.

    TOM: the fact that 95 out of 100 recipients of may letter do not buy does not make it a failure. We measure on break-even calculations: if I spend a dollar in the mail, do I get back two bucks in return? If it costs me $70 to mail those 100 DM letters, and the product sells for $100, with a net revenue of $90 per unit, and I get 5% response, I have spent $70 to make $450. How is that a failure?

    To see how this formula works go to and click on the DM ROI CALCULATOR — a big red square in the upper left of the home page.

  71. Tom Messner said:

    Back from vacation. We retirees don’t needs as much resuscitation time.
    Bob wrote
    >>>>TOM: the fact that 95 out of 100 recipients of may letter do not buy does not make it a failure. We measure on break-even calculations: if I spend a dollar in the mail, do I get back two bucks in return? If it costs me $70 to mail those 100 DM letters, and the product sells for $100, with a net revenue of $90 per unit, and I get 5% response, I have spent $70 to make $450. How is that a failure?

  72. Bob Bly said:

    Tom: to answer your earlier question: if I ripped off “Why bilberry and leutin don’t work” for an arthritis supplement and said “Why glucosamine and chondroiton don’t work,” I would be fine with it. But if I had a vision supplement client, and I wrote “Why elderberry and selenium don’t work,” that would be too close for my personal comfort level — though still perfectly legal.

  73. Richard Armstrong said:

    A lot of the work done by Madison Avenue agencies prior to 1965 or so was pretty damn good. After all, Hopkins, Caples, Ogilvy, and Reeves all worked for general advertising agencies. I have a personal theory that things started to go haywire in the mid-sixties with the Volkswagen campaign from DDB. There’s almost unanimous agreement that this was the single best ad campaign of all time. I believe that to be true myself. But I also believe that Madison Avenue drew all the wrong lessons from it. They saw stark photographs with short, snappy headlines, and brief blocks of body copy. The headlines were extremely clever and usually made some kind of visual pun when contrasted with the photo. It not only was widely imitated, but it sparked an era of “creativity” on Madison Avenue which still reverberates today. But if you go back and study those ads, you’ll see that what made them great was that those little blocks of body copy were loaded with BENEFITS! Nowadays benefit copy and reason-why copy has almost disappeared from general advertising. What’s the benefit of signing up with the GEICO gecko, for example? Or the caveman? Madison Avenue copied the style of the VW campaign … but they never understood the substance of it.

  74. Bob Bly said:

    RA: I am glad you weighed in here. Your AD AGE article is the modern classic on all that’s wrong with general and right with DR. BTW, GEICO does have a benefit-oriented offer: go to their site for a free rate quote, and 15 minutes there could save you 15% or more on car insurance.

  75. Richard Armstrong said:

    Bob: You’re right about Geico, perhaps a bad example, but it’s just a tagline. A DR-trained copywriter would offer some kind of incentive for taking 15 minutes to fill out the rate quote form online. Maybe a free report or free download of some kind. Get rid of the lizard and the caveman and spend the 30 seconds showing people why they’d actually want to go to the website. Sure, most folks would find such an ad “boring” … except for one key group of people. Namely, people who are in the market for car insurance. Copywriters like Hopkins and Caples understood this. Scarcely no one on Madison Avenue does anymore.

  76. Bob Bly said:

    RA: You have hit on another key difference between DR and Madison Avenue. The Madison Avenue goal is to create clever advertising so that everyone is entertained and pays attention. DR’s goal is to create compelling advertising that is of interest to people who are actually prospects for what the advertiser is selling, and we simply don’t care if everyone else finds our stuff boring, as long as the target market finds it irresistible.

  77. Tom Messner said:

    I would pay more attention to your critiques of Geico if it wasn’t owned by Berkshire Hathaway and run by Warren Buffett. Geico is a mass DR advertiser whose new premiums are necessary to feed the investing machine of Berkshire. I infer from the work that their doing three different campaigns on television is working in tandem with their website and juist about everyone is in the market for car insurance, and that #1 competitor Progressive has no caveman, no lizard, but it does have a new agency it just hired probably to figure out why it does not have the penetration that Buffett’s 400 million a year seems to buy him.
    I find the caveman boring and the lizard irritating, but that is literary criticism, not marketing commentary.

  78. rich russo said:

    Tom-want my giant tix?

  79. Tom Messner said:

    only if they bring charley conerly back, along with rosey grier and
    pete gogolak

  80. rich russo said:

    All who proved, by the way, that you can win while drunk and having fun. I knew I could bring this back on topic.

  81. HighJive said:

    Bob, how can you continue to argue that “direct sells” when most direct marketing is lucky to receive even a 2 percent response rate? Since when is 98 percent failure considered selling?

  82. HighJive said:

    Oops, noticed the answer to last query was posted earlier. But having worked in both direct and branding, I can attest both fields have their strengths—and their bullshit. I’ve seen direct marketers run the same response data through two different measuring services and get different results. Direct advertisers are as weasel-like as branding advertisers. Bob, have you ever worked in brand advertising? If not, you ought to give it a try. You’d probably enjoy it.

  83. Bob Bly said:

    HJ: I might indeed enjoy it, but the agency business is youth oriented, and I would not fit in. Also, they care so much about creativity, and I cannot distance myself from caring only about results. As David Ogivly said: “Their gods are not my gods.”

  84. HighJive said:

    in all seriousness, bob, the experience could be mutually rewarding for all parties. the branding dweebs would gain some perspective about direct and vice versa. as stated in my first post on this endless thread, there will be no future if segregation continues with the disciplines. the agency business is getting a lot less youth oriented than you might think (with the exception of specific agencies). the generations needs to figure out how to work together as well. but that’s a topic for another thread.

  85. Bob Bly said:

    Jive: I must remind myself to make that topic — generations working together — a future post. I think it is a big problem.

  86. Robert Rosenthal said:

    I found the Pierce-Arrow ad Tom Messner mentioned — the one with the Ogilvyesque headline. You’ll find a scan of it here:

  87. Bob Bly said:

    That’s a fascinating discovery — that the notion wasn’t original to Ogilvy. I thought and admired that he came up with it through brilliant observation and original thinking. I equally admire the fact that he swiped it from an old ad!

  88. George Le Pera said:

    dear literalist:

    replace the word fun with inspired and you get Jerry’s meaning. Get real.

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