Home > NewsRelease > #129 Blog Post Ad Copy Challenge
#129 Blog Post Ad Copy Challenge
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, June 2, 2021



#129 Blog Post - Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Posted byDenny Hatch
(withspecial thanks to Tia Dobi)


The Tia Dobi/Denny Hatch Challenge
To All Direct Marketing Copy Mavens

Above is an ad I wrote and designed to illustrate an early blog post three years ago. Here's the link:



From Long-time Subscriber Tia Dobi to Denny Hatch
Hi Denny, I love your Harry's Razor and other mock ads. Has any company actually used your ad(s)? How would that work exactly... would you want monetary compensation or? I remember when Tom Collins wrote his Makeover Maven column for Direct. Then he bundled/wrote more and packed the first chunk of them into the book: "How I Would Have Done These Ads to Attract, Persuade, and Cultivate More Prospects." For 20 years I've wondered: Has any company ever snagged one of these gems? Thanks,
—Tia Dobi, The Word Alchemist.


DH to Tia Dobi
Hey Tia, Always great to hear from you. I vaguely remember doing the Harry's Razor ad, but am not sure where it was. No, nobody used it to my knowledge.

I well remember Tom Collins' Makeover column in Direct. It was terrific. Delighted you reminded me of it. Went looking for some of those columns on Google. Could not find them. The search was made impossible since his name, Tom Collins, is a splendid summer gin drink. Damn shame. Hate to lose all that thinking.

Tom's columns pissed off a legion of agency copywriters, designers, account execs and clients. His free ads were so much better than what the advertisers were paying big bucks for. A fascinating public shaming.

Do Keep in touch.


             The Tia Dobi/Denny Hatch Copy Challenge
You are invited to submit an ad—direct response or general advertising—for a product or service—an ad you passionately believe you could beat if you only had the chance. Send me the original ad plus your improved version plus your thinking in 100 words (or more). I will run both ads plus your commentary and open the blog post to readers' discussions and votes (1 to 5 stars).  


                        More Than One Entry?
Serious players deserve serious attention. Will give coverage to all comers. Welcome! 


Grand Prize
Copy #1 of Denny's Soon-to-be
Self-published Anthology
(It's currently being copy edited at
Archway/Simon & Schuster)


                    FOUND! DIRECT MARKETING GOLD!
It turns out Tia Dobi has a cache of actual tear sheets from DIRECT featuring the Tom Collins' Makeover Maven columns. Tia chose the gem that follows:


Barry Bonds Wouldn't Think
An Asterisk Makes Him Special

Thomas L. Collins, The Makeover Maven

I did a makeover of an IBM ad some four years ago in this space. That one featured an out-of-focus photo of a reindeer and a headline in white letters: "Finnair Sees It" (The Makeover Maven, Oct. 15, 2003). I guess the same creative team is still around. And I guess they didn't read my column and decide to mend their ways. So I guess I'll have to tackle them again.

Not that it matters, of course. IBM still has $90 billion in annual revenue and 350,000 employees around the world. So why do they bother to advertise at all? I will forgo my usual sarcastic speculations and leave that to wiser heads.


But it will take a pretty wise head to figure out the thinking, if any, behind this ad for the Pay by Touch technology they've helped develop. Part of the puzzle is that I stumbled on the ad in Working Mother magazine.


OK, so working mothers who shop frequently at the supermarket should enjoy the convenience of simply laying a finger on a sensor pad at the checkout counter instead of having to fumble around for a credit card or a fistful of cash. But do working mothers really want to take time out from their busy day to fight their way through copy about "open architecture that seamlessly integrates the Pay by Touch system with retailers' existing IT infrastructures"?

And when I say "fight their way" through the copy, I'm not kidding. Nobody in my household, including me, could decipher that text in extra-tiny white type on yellow without a magnifying glass, and even then it was tough. I don't mean to seem condescending to working mothers. A certain percentage of the magazine's readers may indeed be working moms who are employed at sophisticated IT jobs.

But how significant a number? In the ad we see a bleed photo of a woman shopping in a supermarket's frozen food aisle. Near her hand that's opening a freezer door is a giant asterisk. The asterisked footnote is a tiny headline in white type: "This finger is legal tender." Followed by that totally unreadable extra-tiny white text.

So nine-tenths or more of the bleed page is devoted to a striking photo of a shopper in a frozen food aisle. But the ad is not selling frozen foods or frozen food lockers. It's announcing the progress made in a revolutionary new way of paying for purchases. But the ad doesn't convey the excitement of important news.

When I was a copy chief I had some wonderful writers. But I was always on guard against a sloppy word or phrase which merely conveyed approximately what the writer intended.

In this case, "The finger is legal tender" is only approximately true. Sorry to be picky, but a homeless person with no assets would have a hard time trying to buy groceries with no legal tender other than his or her fingerprint.

My larger complaint about the ad, however, is that its purpose is not clear. You can't deliver a message if you don't know who it's intended for. So who is the ad primarily addressing? And what is the message it's trying to deliver?

I finally decided that it was designed to influence not one audience of readers but three, with three different messages. If you're a consumer, the aim is to make you and thousands of other readers want and demand Pay by Touch service at your favorite local retailers.

If you're a store owner or manager, it's to get you to start thinking about or giving more thought to installing Pay by Touch in your store. And if your office job demands wrestling with information technology challenges, it's good to be reminded that IBM is there to help you, just as they did with Pay by Touch. Even if poorly executed, the ad is a kind of IBM case history. And if it brings new business to IBM's client Pay by Touch, that's also good for IBM.

It could be argued that the original ad does deliver these three messages to these three audiences. But it does so indirectly and unreadably that the intended reader would not be inclined to stop right there and say, "This means me."

In my makeover, the headline andillustrations convey exciting news to both consumers and retailers, and at thesame time fulfill the requirement of Point No. 7 from my Makeover MavenMeasuring Stick: “Does the ad build brand recognition and trust?”

The illustrations I chose do what illustrations are supposed to do —illustrate. The pictures of a sensor pad and a fingerprint convey what the adis talking about far better than a picture of a shopper laying her finger on afrozen-food locker's door handle.

Next I set about rescuing the original ad's text by displaying it in larger,infinitely more readable type — using boldface leadoffs to pull the eye throughmore easily — starting off with the classic problem/solution copy formulationand keeping in mind all three audiences along the way. So the reader who isonly a consumer and who is bored by talk of “open architecture” can skimquickly through the ad and still come away wanting the convenience of Pay byTouch.

If you'd like to compare the original copy with my rewrite, here's what their unreadablefine print says:

Biometrics pays — literally. [Editor's note: To whom? for whom? No “you” in thecopy.] Pay by Touch, a leading transactions technology company, [has? — Ed.]developed a point-of-sale service that allows customers to pay just by placingtheir fingers on a sensor. Easy, right? The challenge: to make it just as easyfor retailers to integrate the device into the payment processing systemsthey've already got up and running. IBM and business partner Silicon ValleySystech Inc. collaborated to create an open architecture that seamlesslyintegrates the Pay by Touch system with retailers' existing IT infrastructures.Keeping millions of transactions moving smoothly. And as many customers happy.Want innovation for integration? Talk to the innovator's innovator. Call onIBM. To learn more, visit ibm.com/special.


"What makes you special?"


I certainly omitted that puzzling last line. To me it seemed almost sarcastic, as in, "What makes you so special, wise guy?"


And I didn't make any special effort to steer business prospects to IBM's Web site because I found it so disappointing. But that's not my department.


THOMAS L. COLLINS (1919-2013) wasa direct marketing copywriter, ad maker, agency creative director and co-authorof four books on marketing including the legendary MaxiMarketing with his longtime partner Stan Rapp, co-founder of the agency Rapp & Collins.


Word count: 1522


You Are Invited to Meet Denny Hatch and
See His
26-minute Geezer-Fast Yoga Routine

At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press.He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletterand archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 yearshe has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.


Denny Hatch
The St. James
200 West Washington Square, #3007
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk) 

Note to Readers:  
May I send you an alert when each new blog is posted? Ifso, kindly give me the okay by sending your First Name, Last Name and email to dennyhatch@yahoo.com. I guarantee your personal information will not be shared with anyone at any time for any reason. The blog is afree service. No cost. No risk. No obligation. Cancel any time. I look forward to being in touch!

Googleowns Blogspot.com and this Comment Section. If you do not have a Googleaccount — or if you find it too damn complicated — contact me directly and Iwill happily post your comment with a note that this is per your permission. Thank you and do keep in touch. dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Invitation to Marketers and Direct Marketers: 
Guest Blog Posts Are Welcome. 
If you have a marketing story to tell, case history, concept to propose or a memoir, give a shout. I’ll get right back to you. I am: dennyhatch@yahoo.com
215-644-9526 (rings on my desk).

You Are Invited to Join the Discussion.
News Media Interview Contact
Name: Denny Hatch
Group: Denny Hatch's Marketing Blog
Dateline: Philadelphia, PA United States
Direct Phone: 215-644-9526
Jump To Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Jump To Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
Contact Click to Contact