THE LEVISON LETTER
Action Ideas For Better Direct Mail,
E-mail, Web Sites & Advertising
Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriting
Volume: 21 Number: 3
This is about "you" -
Image advertising copywriting versus
direct response copywriting
There is a huge difference between the writing
styles of advertising agency copywriters and
direct response copywriters.
"Image" agency writers are long on style and
attitude. Direct response copywriters rely on
benefits, facts, and powerful emotions. (Fear,
greed, and the like.)
To make this distinction clearer, I'm going to
contrast the way the two kinds of writers use
the word "you" when they address the reader.
The different approach to the prospect is really
Let's start with an ad from Citigroup that
recently ran in Condé Nast Traveler. Here it is
in its entirety with the stylish, poetic line-
breaks in tact. The first line is rendered as a
large, bold headline. The rest is tiny body
Be your own status symbol.
There's only one you.
To help keep it that way,
we offer free
Citi(r) Identity Theft Solutions
just for being a customer.
Because when it comes to being you,
you're the only one that can truly
pull it off.
This ad is stylish and quite cool in tone.
There's certainly a lot of "you" mentions in
the ad but the writer keeps the reader at a
distance. As in many "image" ads, the posture,
the pose, the post-modern wink to the reader is
Maybe that's why the ad doesn't include a
meaningful way for the reader to find more
about Citi Identity Theft Solutions or even how
to open an account at the bank!
NOTE: I did go to the citi.com URL that does
appear at the bottom of the ad and could not
find ANY reference to Citi Identity Theft
Solutions. (If YOU can find it please let me
know how you did it!) Wouldn't it have made
sense for the ad to include a URL that links
directly to a special landing page - - one that
features Citi Identity Theft Solutions and
captures information about the visitor? Believe
me, this is not the kind of idea that appeals
to writers of sophisticated image ads.
This Citigroup ad, of course, is anathema to
direct response writers like me. In my view,
the Citigroup ad is self-indulgent and a
terrible waste of expensive space.
Nope. I'm an advocate of what the great direct
response copywriter John Caples called "you and
me" copy. Which means I don't try to distance
myself from the reader. Instead, I try to
establish a relationship WITH the reader.
Let me give you an example. Here's the start of
a letter that I wrote for Intuit's QuickBooks
Point of Sale group. The letter is addressed to
small retailers who don't use a point of sale
system, and invites them to request an
Do you still use an old-fashioned cash
register to ring up sales?
Do you tediously keep track of every
transaction by hand?
I sure hope not, because there's a MUCH
better way to handle all your point of sale
You see, QuickBooks Point of Sale software,
working with a receipt printer, cash drawer,
bar code scanner, and credit card reader,
gives you brand new ways to manage your
business better than ever.
This means that, finally, information on
inventory, sales, customers, promotions, and
more, can all be at your fingertips,
ETC. . . .
Sure. This is a letter and not an ad, but the
point is the same. Every writer has the choice
to speak to the reader cleverly or directly,
stylishly or persuasively. I choose to do the latter.
If you've got a huge marketing budget like
Citigroup has, you can afford to go the "image"
route. If you need to generate leads and close
sales, pick up the phone and call a direct
You can reach a terrific one at (415) 461-0672.
More next month . . .
How To Get In Touch
Direct Response Copywriting
14 Los Cerros Drive
Greenbrae, CA 94904
Phone: (415) 461-0672
Fax: (415) 461-7738
Web Site: http://www.levison.com
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