If you’re in advertising or interested in getting into advertising, you must read the book “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins. The book itself was written in 1923, but much of it’s contents resonate in advertising today.
“Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times” – David Ogilvy
With regard to David Ogilvy’s quote, I’ve only read the book once and I hope to read it again but I doubt that I will be reaching the lucky 7. That said, advertising was always been relevant in my career (having a background in Graphic Design) and with one read of Hopkins’ book, I’ve grasped advertising more than ever. Even now as a developer, I use what I know about advertising to create a much better, more marketable product. Some times that product is a web application. Some times the product is me and my skills.
Some of what the book “Scientific Advertising” will teach you:
- That every ad is the equivalent of a sales person standing before you.
- How grammar and fine writing has little to do with writing ad copy that sells.
- How to use scientific testing to create more effective advertising.
- How to make a brand, a business stand out from the crowd
- The laws of Advertising
A few snippets I’ve picked up from the book:
1. Do Your Research — “An ad-writer, to have a chance at success, must gain full information on his subject. The library of an ad agency should have books on every line that calls for research. A painstaking advertising man will often read for weeks on some problem, which comes up. “. To be effective these guys researched everything. They had medical journals on the effects of coffee if they were making a coffee ad. They had dental books when they were making a toothpaste ad. They engulfed themselves with research and data that rivaled the top experts in the fields of the ad’s topic.
A good example of the effectiveness of Hopkins’ ad research was the Pepsodent ads he created. Pepsodent was a new brand of toothpaste. Before Hopkins, people weren’t brushing their teeth ritually. They would simply gargle with salt water or tonics. It was in the early 1900’s and people were peddling tonics that clean teeth left and right. Hopkins, in order to come up with the Pepsodent ad campaign, read through countless dental articles, books and scientific studies. In the middle of one book he found a reference that plaque builds up on teeth and later he would call this “the film”. He conceived the idea that Pepsodent was a creator of beauty and that it removes this film.
In one ad he wrote: “Just run your tongue across your teeth, You’ll feel a film—that’s what makes your teeth look ‘off color’ and invites decay.” and another read: “Note how many pretty teeth are seen everywhere, Millions are using a new method of teeth cleansing. Why would any woman have dingy film on her teeth? Pepsodent removes the film!”
This ad copy served as genius at the time. It also contributed to a large tooth brushing habit. Pepsodent began adding chemicals to their toothpaste to make your mouth “tingle”. This and the ad campaign prompted the routine of brushing everyday, to look beautiful and to feel tingly clean. (Charles Duhigg, New York Times reporter and author of the bestselling book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business )
2. Understand Psychology — The competent advertising man must understand psychology. The more he knows about it the better. He must learn that certain effects lead to certain reactions, and use that knowledge to increase results and avoid mistakes.
Hopkins writes of the enduring human need to be curious. Humans want to learn more and it’s an incentive that advertisers may use to gain the sale. A headline may serve as a hook, to grab a person’s curiosity and take them through the ad’s contents and finally the call to action.
Another, is that people are generally honest. This is why the ads that boast “Try it for a week, if you don’t like it return it for the full price”. Or the ads that offer a free product, “Try it for a week, if you like it then buy it, if not return it”. It also plays a bit into reciprocation. There have been many other studies in advertising that show when you give someone something for free, that they will return the favor or reciprocate. An example of this is a Night Club where all drinks are free and the only form of payment is a tip jar. People are more likely to tip higher than the drink was worth.
With all that’s out there now on advertising, I urge you to read the book “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins. It lays the foundation to what you’ll need to know about advertising. I did find the entire book online here in one neat blog post. Get it while it lasts… http://scientificadvertising.blogspot.com/
Other related books worth reading…