50-year-old secret for lean copy

Uncategorized Jan 17, 2023

Big problem I see with copy today is that it's bloated. 

Most copywriters took the old adage "the more you tell the more you sell" to heart. 

They fill their pages, ads, and emails with fluff thinking that people will read it and buy. 


The more you tell, the more you sell... provided you tell something INTERESTING. 

But if you pump words for volume's sake, that's bad. 

This is what brings me to today's lesson:

Go out in the interwebs and search for old-school newspaper ads. 

You want ads from back in the 1970's because that's when the copy OG's were the most active.

"Newspaper ads, Ning? Really? Isn't this copy there antiquated?" 

Yes, the copy is antiquated.

The markets in the 70s were less sophisticated.

But what I love about newspaper ads is how LEAN they were. 

Old-school guys didn't have the luxury of writing unlimited words like we do today. 

Word count was fixed.

If they wanted to write more, they had to buy more space. 

And just FYI, a single newspaper page back then cost $5,000. 

(In today's monies that's $37,328.89!)

Guys like Halbert, Bencivenga, and Schwartz were editing FIENDS. 

Each word had to earn its place in the ad. 

This led to some of the tightest copy that was ever produced. 

We also know it was successful because the ads kept appearing over and over again in the newspapers. 

If an ad generated poor results, it was killed on the spot.

So where can you find those ads? 

A good place is my buddy's Mike Schauer's swiped.co website. 

Lots of great ads there, here are some of my favorites:

  • Amazing Money Making Secrets Ad by Gary Halbert
  • Face-Lift-In-A-Jar Ad by Gary Halbert
  • Million Dollar Smile Ad by Gary Halbert
  • Do You Make These Mistakes In Job Interviews by Gary Bencivenga
  • Shoestring Businesses Ad by Gary Bencivenga
  • Burn Disease Ad (20-Year Control) by Eugene Schwartz
  • Half A Mill Ad by Eugene Schwartz
  • Atlanta Housewife Ad by Green Tree Press

Look at the headlines. 

What stories do they use? 

How do they prove their claims? 

Do they sell something immediately or do they generate leads? 

Can you find an idea you can swipe for your next promo?

Dan Kennedy once said "There's gold in old" and I agree.

There's lots of wisdom back when print was king.

If you are willing to dig 20, 30, and even 50 years ago in your niche, you'll find amazing fodder for headlines, unique mechanisms, fascinations, offers, bonuses, and any point you are currently stuck.

Plus, as a bonus, you'll get a first-class education on how to write more tightly.

Anywho, that's all I got for you today, Copy Gangsta.

- Ning


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