Diary of an Ad Man

February 23, 2008


Filed under: advertising,Uncategorized — linwoodaustin @ 1:58 am



Years ago I had an ad agency client in Canada… a car dealer.

He had this fancy car sitting in his showroom for over a year… and it just wouldn’t move. It was the last one. I was mostly doing full-page ads for him and radio and TV spots. But for this car, I said, “Let me make a classified ad.” He agreed and this is what came out.

The secret with classifieds… is the same secret with all advertising. You must convince the reader to go with your idea. Most folks try a classified and say, “That doesn’t work.” But they are under the wrong concept about advertising.

Most folks—business owners… still labor under the concept of “Cost of Advertising.”

And since a classified is cheap… they try it.

But the secret is in NOT measuring the “cost of your ad”. Instead, measure your “COST PER LEAD” and “COST PER SALE”. For example: If you buy a full page ad in say the USA Today… and it costs you $10,000… and it brings you 1,000 phone inquiries and 100 people who buy your product… then you’re paying $10 per lead… and $100 per sale.

If you run a classified, with 9 or 10 words, and it cost you $10…. And it brings you NO LEADS and NO SALES… then the classified is a very expensive ad.

Who cares what the cost of the ad is, as long as it brings you measured response that is acceptable.

I still remember almost spewing out my lunch when I overhead an HVAC dealer out of Florida ask another less-talented HVAC dealer “What’s your cost per lead and cost per sale?”

I was shocked. Before that day, I had only hung out in direct marketing circles where marketing response is measured down to the penny. HVAC dealers… I thought… were less than astute when it came to scientific marketing. But that day was different. It was a seminar of the top HVAC marketers in the country… sponsored by AirTime500.

The HVAC dealer from Florida had devised ways to bring his cost per lead down from some $400 per phone call to about $17 per phone call.

Back to classifieds:

So, if you want to make your classifieds pay… generally speaking… use 90 words instead of 9 words. Tell the full story. Why?

Come closer… follow this secret all the way to the bank:



If you’re a PROSPECT for a safari trip to Africa, you’ve got a thousand questions. Will a lion eat me? Do I need insurance? Can I bring my mistress? How about mosquitoes?

Read this classified and see if you’re not tempted to buy this car.

When the client ran the ad… he sold the car right away… and others came in inquiring about it… but it was TOO LATE.

The client told me that after the ad ran, someone at church on Sunday said to him… “Hey I read about that car, sounds like a nice ride.”

Classified ad secret: Tell the full story, so you get the full experience the reader’s buying emotions engaged.


Linwood Austin

 Saturday Afternoon, 1:09 PM


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