Classic advertising quotes from Morris Hite. Huh? Who’s Morris Hite?

Morris HiteMorris Hite was a classic American advertising man, self-educated and self-made.

Yes, I know. You’ve probably never heard of him because he’s not as well-known as some Madison Avenue ad executives, but he had a powerful impact on the industry.

He was born in Oklahoma, migrated to Texas, and worked his way up to become head of the Tracy-Locke agency in Dallas, one of the country’s most successful agencies. And he did it by focusing on his clients’ growth rather than on producing clever ads.

He was also an innovator in the area of consumer research long before it became fashionable. And he always looked for the “big idea” to craft sales messages that would trigger consumer response on a gut level.

For me, Hite represents the ideal ad man: smart, down-to-earth, plain-spoken, and enthusiastic, with an indomitable can-do attitude and a laser-like focus on profits. Here’s what he had to say about the craft and business of advertising. Not everything here is about direct marketing, but there is plenty to learn from his wise words.

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P.O.W.E.R. Copywriting: Write simple ads in 5 steps

POWER copywriting for adsWhen I was asked to teach a copywriting class for a special program at The Ohio State University, I discovered that teaching writing is far more difficult than the writing itself. Many of the things I did naturally from experience or instinct were a complete mystery to my students.

So, in order to make the copywriting process a logical and painless operation, I devised a simple method for writing ad copy for novice writers. I called it POWER Copywriting, an acronym for the five steps in the copywriting process: Prepare, Organize, Write, Edit, and Review.

This represents years of copywriting experience boiled down to the basics. I won’t promise that this will help you create a masterpiece of copywriting brilliance. But it can help guide you toward better and more effective sales writing.

Good ad copy begins with good information. And the best way to gather the information you need is with a thorough Q&A. Here are some basic questions that will help you prepare for just about any ad writing project.

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Great quotes on the wild, weird, and wonderful world of advertising

advertising quotationsThe definition of a good quotation is “truth well-stated.”

Good quotes can be wise, amusing, irreverent, opinionated, even contradictory, but each sparkles with a diamond of truth.

Personally, I believe that some of the most instructive and entertaining are those that criticize, complain, or poke fun. Thus, these gems:

“Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn’t sell much of anything.” -David Ogilvy

“The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” -Howard Luck Gossage

“The six phases of every project: 1. Enthusiasm; 2. Disillusionment; 3. Panic; 4. A search for the guilty; 5. The punishment of the innocent; 6. Praise and honor for the nonparticipants.” -Anonymous

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Why “selective attention” can kill your ads

Last week, I asked you to take a test to see if you’re a word nerd. This week, I have another test for you. And it’s a doozy.

The concept is “selective attention.” I don’t want to spoil it, so watch the video below. Don’t cheat. You’ll miss the point entirely if you don’t follow directions and see the results for yourself.


If you followed the directions and tried to count the number of times the people in white shirts passed the basketball, there’s a 50/50 chance you’re amazed right now.

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Advertising lessons from FAIL Blog

If you want to learn the basics of advertising, you can read books or attend seminars. But really, there are lessons all around you.

Keep your eyes open. Every day you can discover another advertising principle. What works. What doesn’t. How to improve your ads. What to avoid.

One of my favorite sources of selling inspiration is FAIL Blog, a visual library of human nature and communication gone wrong.

Just look at the advertising lessons from the past few weeks …

Niche advertising works.

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Wise, witty quotes from the advertising masters

Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

How true. I suppose that’s why I enjoy collecting and sharing quotations about advertising. You can read a hundred books and still not learn as much as you can from one pithy quote.

So I’m going to shut up and let the old masters (and a few extra guests) speak this week.

“Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody. That’s all it is.” –Fairfax Cone

“The simplest definition of advertising, and one that will probably meet the test of critical examination, is that advertising is selling in print.” –Daniel Starch

“Advertising in the final analysis should be news. If it is not news it is worthless.” –Adolph S. Ochs

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Why slogans don’t sell

Here’s a little secret Madison Avenue doesn’t want anyone to know …

Slogans are losers. They don’t sell.

At least, most of them don’t sell. I ran across an article from USA Today I saved back in 2003 on this topic and it cited a consumer survey on whether people recognized the slogans of some of the biggest marketers in the U.S. The results were depressing.

Out of 22 supposedly “famous” tag lines, “only six were recognized by more than 10% of those surveyed — this for companies spending more than $100 million a year on ads.”

When you dig deeper into the results, it gets worse.

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What AC/DC can teach you about advertising

They’ve been recording and touring for 35 years. And in all that time they’ve remained an icon of anti-innovation. AC/DC began their career playing three-chord rock songs and they’re still playing three-chord rock songs. Almost nothing has changed.

Has it hurt them? Well, when the band recently released its new album, Black Ice, it went straight to the top of the Billboard charts, selling 784,000 copies in the first week. So I’d say no. Their lack of innovation seems to be working quite nicely, thank you.

We live in a time of endless, often mindless, change. DVDs killed VHS, and now your DVDs face their own mortality. You thought you’d caught up when you got that tiny little cell phone, now big Blackberries with keyboards are the rage. The GPS is cool, but the maps were out of date the moment you got into your car.

Everywhere you turn, something is changing and that out-of-breath feeling you used to get now and then is with you every day. And all you want is to find something that’s stable and familiar.

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$#!* Happens – A dirty story about ad testing

It was about 11:00 a.m. when we started up the mountain outside of San Pedro Sula in the northwest corner of Honduras. The humid air lay heavy and still in the valley below, causing the fields of sugar cane to shimmer in the hot sun.

We were videotaping b-roll for a few TV spots one of my fundraising clients wanted to test. Our task that day was the same as it had been every day that week: to capture images of the devastating poverty these people suffer.

The camera crew donned their battery belts, cables, and assorted gear and we followed the narrow dirt path toward the shacks above. As we ascended a steep rise and veered to the right, we came across a young boy toting an armload of dry firewood. One of our videographers wanted to shoot this and positioned himself in the middle of the path.

That’s when it happened. And to understand what happened, you must understand the term “wrap-and-throw.”

Many of the people my client helps are so poor they live in makeshift shacks, some of mud or wood, others little more than plastic or cardboard nailed to sticks. These places often have no sanitary facilities. So the residents have developed a practical way to deal with their waste: They wrap it in a small bag and throw it.

Thus, we were walking in a “wrap-and-throw” community. And while the videographer set himself to shoot the kid with the wood, one of our guides trotted ahead to ask the child’s permission. The boy agreed, and the guide came running back toward the cameraman.

A wrap-and-throw lay silently in the path, aged and ripe. A group of unsuspecting, sunblock-smeared gringos stood stupidly smiling three feet away, anticipating nothing but the beautiful picture they were about to record. Our guide’s foot came down hard at ground zero … and the principles of ballistics did the rest.

It gave new meaning to the term “$#!* happens.” Read more

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Favorite quotations about advertising

I love a good quotation.

Over the years, I’ve collected a few hundred quotes about advertising and selling that are variously inspiring, funny, or instructive. Here are some of my favorites.

“Advertising is totally unnecessary. Unless you hope to make money.”  -Jef I. Richards

“A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable.”  -Bernice Fitz-Gibbon

“Exuberance is better than taste.”  -Gustave Flaubert

“The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”  -Howard Luck Gossage

“Advertising is salesmanship mass produced. No one would bother to use advertising if he could talk to all his prospects face-to-face. But he can’t.”  -Morris Hite

“When executing advertising, it’s best to think of yourself as an uninvited guest in the living room of a prospect who has the magical power to make you disappear instantly.”  -John O’Toole

“Thinking is the hardest work many people ever have to do, and they don’t like to do any more of it than they can help. They look for a royal road through some short cut in the form of a clever scheme or stunt, which they call the obvious thing to do; but calling it doesn’t make it so. They don’t gather all the facts and then analyze them before deciding what is really the obvous thing, and thereby they overlook the first and most obvious of all business principles.”  -Robert R. Updegraff

“You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going ’cause you might not get there.”  -Yogi Berra

“The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”  -David Ogilvy

“Advertising in the final analysis should be news. If it is not news it is worthless.”  -Adolph S. Ochs

“Let’s say you have $1,000,000 tied up in your little company and suddenly your advertising isn’t working and sales are going down. And everything depends on it. Your future depends on it, your family’s future depends on it, other people’s families depend on it. Now, what do you want from me? Fine writing? Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve stop moving down and start moving up?”  -Rosser Reeves

“Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.”  -Edmund Burke

“Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”  -Samuel Johnson

“I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one.”  -Leo Burnett

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