Great Ad 12: They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play!”

Great Ad 12: They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play!”

I had just written a post on this famous headline but felt that a critque of the entire advertisement is called up. Otherwise, my Great Ad series will be incomplete.

They LaughedAdage, the marketing history reference resource, lauded John Caples as one of advertising’s most effective copywriters. Caples mastered results-oriented mail-order copy at Ruthrauff & Ryan, where he wrote, arguably, the 20th century’s most successful such ad.” While Caples’ disciple, David Ogilvy, called this copywriter and his famous work “one of the most effective there has ever been.”

To appreciate the advertisement copy better, it is good to read the entire transcript at

So, what’s so great about this long-copy advertisement written in 1925. Well, it revolutionize the way copy is written … …

There’s a story. Instead of telling us the features and benefits blatantly, Caples painted us a vivid picture of how Jack, a budding pianist was taunted by a fellow pianist, booed by the crowd and eventually silenced everybody with his music. Even there was few words to show that Jack was nervous other than “I decided to make the most of the situation.”, we cringed for him. We can imagine ourselves in his shoes, and we didn’t like it one bit. The natural instinct of wanting the underdog to shine and triumph creeps upon us. When he silenced everyone with his “Moonlight Sonata, we applauded because we wanted to be the hero too. Stories are powerful. They help us to understand, relate, remember and believe as we can resonate with the character and the situation. Do you still recall some of the tales your grand parents told you which were never found in books? I do and I’m sure you do too.

The product is blend into the story. If you don’t look at the logo and name of the product at the end, you would not feel that you are reading an advertisement. The product introduction is seamlessly weaved into the story. Nobody believed the Jack learned how to play a piano without a teacher. As a reader, would you?

I have been studying only a short while,” I insisted. “I decided to keep it a secret so that I could surprise all you folks.”

Then I told them the whole story.

“Have you ever heard of the U.S. School of Music?” I asked.

Benefits are emphasized. The ad didn’t talk about the U.S. School of Music, neither did he shout out the goodness of the music correspondence course it offers. Yet through the sharing of Jack – “Before I knew it I was playing all the pieces I liked best. Nothing stopped me. I could play ballads or classical numbers or jazz, all with equal ease! And I never did have any special talent for music!” – we got the impression, perception and belief that the course is easily learned by the normal Joe. Even though Jack is a fictional character, we felt that we can do so as well.

Freebies before sales. Even you think you might be able to learn it, you are still hesitant. You are not quite sure if you should fork out your hard-earned money to venture into a new frontier. The advertisement suggested that you get a free booklet and demonstration lesson first and decide later. Most people will take up this smaller commitment. Before you said “So what”, please remember that this was written in 1925. At that time, freebies before sales were virtually unheard of. John Caples was therefore credited with fusing advertisement copy with fine salesmanship.

Permission for follow up. By “opting in” to receive the free booklet and demonstration, the inquirer is telling the seller that he is a prospect. In sales, we must know how to identify a prospect from a suspect. The seller can now do a follow up based on the personal particulars the inquirer has given. The inquirer can not accuse the seller of sending him unsolicited junk mails as any follow-up marketing material will be related to the piano course.

The entire copy with the even-more famous headline, revolutionize the way copy is written. Direct Marketing is born. We owe it to this man who made direct response advertisement what it is today.

To know about the emotional hook and technical finesse of the headline, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play!”, please check out my Famous Headline 1 post.

Read Related Posts:

Famous Headline 1: They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play!”

How To Write Headlines That Sell

[tags] “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play!”, John Caples [/tags]

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