Is This the Best Print Ad Ever?

So the title is a very bold question.  Once you take a look at the ad, you may question my competence.  Is this the best ad of all time?  Quite confidently, I can say it’s not.  However, I’ve carried it around with me forever and used it as a discussion vehicle for a long time.  What I like about it is that we can learn from the simplicity and the techniques used to promote the product.

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This ad ran mostly in the magazine in Sunday papers.  It’s from a time where (believe it or not) not every house was wired for cable television and many folks had antennas which tapped into signals from their local television stations.  Most televisions of the time came with a pair of “rabbit ears” for those without a rooftop antenna.

It was also a time (well before DirectTV) when the rich and famous put big 6-foot satellite dishes in their backyards, to tap into the mass of signals they could view from all sorts of satellite communications.  Those huge disks were a sign of wealth and savvy.  This ad played to that short-lived status symbol.  As the ad copy states: “The GFX-100 looks like an outdoor satellite ‘dish’”

So what can we learn from this long-forgotten advertisement? Quite a bit actually.  Here are a few poignant lessons from what this ad accomplishes:

  1. Sell the core benefits of your product.  Face it; the GFX-100 is not a product with huge benefits.  However, the ad proudly expounds them and somehow features additional ones that sound valuable. “Actually pulls signals right out of the air!”  So does a coat hanger, but they don’t need to point that out. “You pay NO cable fees because you’re not getting cable!”  You aren’t getting the clarity or selection of cable either, but not paying fees is turned into a benefit.  It’s also “Legal in All 50 States!”  Good to know.
  2. Be honest and straightforward with your audience.  Most people I’ve shown this ad to say something like “Well, they’re just selling a piece of crap!”  Yes they are, and they tell you exactly that.  They follow the pulls signals line with the emphasis “just like an ordinary pair of rabbit ears!” They also point out that it is a “marketing breakthrough!” I guess because it certainly isn’t a technical breakthrough.  I challenge you to find any claim in the ad that isn’t 100% true.
  3. Use the visual tools available to enhance the copy.  This ad uses rudimentary tools to enhance the copy.  They employ bullets, italics, bolding and the all important exclamation point to emphasize things and make statements pop out from the copy. It’s actually pretty effective!  Today’s palette of tools to enhance copy, both in print and online, is huge compared to what existed in the time of this ad.
  4. Issue a call to action.  This ad warns you that the product is only available to the first 10,000 who reply before December 17th.  The form to order is on the upper right side of the ad, often where the eye is drawn first.  It’s pretty clear that your options are order now, or risk not having this beauty in your home.  “Sorry, limit three per address.”

Have I convinced you yet?  There is some learning here.  Also, before you ask, I did not order this product and won’t be searching eBay for an original.  If you Google the product, you’ll find a number of web pages dedicated to it.  The product is gone (it wouldn’t work today anyway) but not forgotten.

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

2 thoughts on “Is This the Best Print Ad Ever?

  1. In item number 1 above Eric points out, ““Actually pulls signals right out of the air!” So does a coat hanger”! Which reminds me that I assembled an HDTV antenna using 6 coat hangers and it works like a charm!

    Thanks for the good, fun stuff Eric!

    Best,
    Steve B.

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