blog banner

The Reality of Advertising

reeves4_thumb.jpgLast month in our Gold Inner Circle we spent a lot of time talking about USP – Unique Selling Proposition (In our world a Gravitational Proposition – the statement that pulls customers to you as if being affected by a powerful, natural force).

Many people think they understand this concept and some think that the concept is old and crusty. I would say to those people that you are totally wrong.

Rosser Reeves (1910 - 1984) was an advertising genius that created the USP philosophy and many hard-core USP’s you probably know as slogans.

  • Wonder Bread helps build strong bodies in eight ways.
  • M&M's melt in your mouth, not in your hands.
  • Certs breath mints with a magic drop of retsyn.
  • Colgate cleans your breath while it cleans your teeth.
  • How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S.
  • Only Viceroy gives you 20,000 filter traps in every filter.

Doing more research on Reeves, I stumbled on this gem.

The Following quote demonstrates Reeves’ philosophy on creative copy writing. Reeves was a no-nonsense adverting guy. He believed that unique and interesting things about the product should be brought out by the advertising not the advertising being unique and different. The adverting should sell the product, not sell the advertising.

Here’s what Reeves Said:

“[Creative] devices, when they implement the copy, are not folly. They only become folly when they do not implement the copy, when the device itself is assumed to be a principle of advertising probability, when, as Claude Hopkins put it, ‘the writers abandon their parts. They forget they are salesmen and try to be performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause’.

“Strangely enough, such writers have a pseudo-rationale for this striving after mere “difference,” and they plead it with passionate earnestness. The illogicality of their argument is not obvious to them, and it is even less obvious to the public and to many businessmen. In fact, it sounds enormously convincing. The argument goes like this:

1.) Advertising (not the product) must compete with a tremendous number of other advertising messages.
2.) Therefore, the advertisement (not the product) must get attention.
3.) Therefore, a given advertisement (not the product) must be different.

“Such reasoning bypasses the product and, when it does, it bypasses the advertising function. It is a classical example of confusing the means with the ends, for if a product is worth paying money for, it is worth paying attention to. The consumer need not be shocked or entertained into giving it his attention.

“The writer must make the product itself interesting. Otherwise, a great part of his ingenuity and inventiveness will be used in devising tricks which lower the efficiency of advertising, rather than raising it.”

I literally fell out of my chair when I read this quote by Reeves.

Let's say you have $1,000,000 tied up in your little company and suddenly your advertising isn't working and sales are going down. And everything depends on it. Your future depends on it, your family depends on it…Now, what do you want from me? Fine writing? Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve stop moving down and start moving up?