The Soul of Advertising

“Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic.”

Englishman Samuel Johnson wrote the above words in his magazine, The Idler, on January 20, 1759. And yet it could have been written yesterday.

Then Johnson wrote, “Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement,”

Johnson’s quote got me thinking about advertising — both its promise and pitfalls.

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Shackleton Ad Has Virtuous Appeal

I saw this in Ivan Levison’s monthly e-newsletter, The Levison Letter. It’s a small ad that was placed by explorer Ernest Shackleton prior to his epic journey to Antarctica.

Men wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success — Ernest Shackleton

This small ad pulled like a freight train.

“It seemed as though all the men in Great Britain were determined to accompany me the response was so overwhelming,” Shackleton later wrote.

It’s 2008, not the early 1900s. Still, Ivan points out that small, well-executed ads continue to perform well for lead generation.

Ivan Levison is a top direct-response copywriter. You can sign up for his free e-newsletter at levison.com.