There’s a bit in Confessions of an Advertising Man when David Ogilvy recounts his first job as a junior ad man. He’s given $500 and told to advertise the opening of a hotel.
His solution is to buy all the post cards he can lay his hands on and send invitations to as many people as he can from the phone book. It’s a great success and he famously recounts, “I had tasted blood.”
It’s a moment of revelation, when the power of advertising becomes clear to him. I had a moment like that myself once. But it wasn’t over the opening of a fancy hotel. It was over a page of washing machines.
I started in home shopping and one of the first jobs I had was writing copy for the washing machines spread. It was fascinating. I had to research each model carefully then write copy that said to customers, if you spend this much, you get these features, but spend just a little bit more and you get these great benefits.
It was a real lesson in the power of words to change behaviour, not just to sell stuff, but to persuade someone to do something they wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
It’s an idea that still resonates with me to this day, reminding me what I love about advertising. And I think it’s really well demonstrated in this 1970 ad by John Hegarty and Michael Coughlan for Cramer Saatchi.
Succinct, fascinating, disgusting and compelling, it’s got to be one of the most effective pieces of copy ever written. Hard to imagine many people who weren’t moved to change their behaviour towards the storing and disposing of food after reading it.