Welcome to the first post in our weekly series, “52 Advertising Lessons From Past Advertising Greats That Online Marketers Should Still Be Using Today“. Each Thursday in 2014 we’ll be adding a new post that takes a quote from an classical advertising legend and explain how today’s small business owner and internet marketer can still apply this classic advice. We’ll use the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday in our promotion of this series.

The “contributors” to this series will include greats such as Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy, Maxwell Sackheim, John Caples, Rosser Reeves, James Webb Young, and others. It is our hope that this series will encourage you to further study these great advertisers and to learn the priciples of advertising.

Our first post is based on a quote from advertising legend Claude Hopkins (1866-1932) who said:

“The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.”

The concept here is pretty straightforward and nothing but common sense. Yet there are still a lot of people who believe that “more traffic” or more impressions will magically solve their problems. I’ll take quality traffic with users ready to buy any day over a quantitive statistic. The only statistic most business owners are concerned with is “total sales”. Claude Hopkins was as much “scientist” than he was a marketing genius. Being raised by a thrifty Scottish mother, he was obsessed with making sure that every dollar he spent for his clients produced a return on investment. He measured everything he could to ensure he delivered a profitibale advertising campaign for his clients.

We’re pretty sure if Claude Hopkins were alive today, he would be the most sought after Google AdWords and landing page optimization consultant in the world. In 1907 he was hired by Lord & Thomas for an incredible $185,000 a year. That would be the equivalent of a $4.5 million annual salary in today’s world [1]. His clients and employer would tell you he was worth every penny. Hopkins, who wrote the book “Scientific Advertising”, believed that every advertising dollar is an investment and should be measured.

As online marketers and Google Partners, we’re very fortunate to have the ability to do extreme tracking and analysis in real time. I can’t imagine what someone like Claude Hopkins would be able to do with the technology, tools, and data we have at our disposal today. Our ability to buy advertising on a “per-click” or “per-action” basis today gives us a chance to help small business owners compete with larger competitors who spend on large long term branding campaigns. By paying specific attention to the actual conversions or sales of your advertising campaigns, we can efficiently allocate your advertising budget to the channels, keywords, and ads that are producing the most profits for you.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Beware of agencies or sales reps who focus their pitch on “Media Buying”, number of impressions, or even clicks and traffic. Just because they may be great at spending your budget and profiting on a percentage of your spend, it doesn’t mean the advertising is performing the goal of generating sales. Look for a company that is more focused on end results versus the number of clicks generated or eyeballs seeing your ads.
  2. When reviewing your AdWords stats and Analytics, don’t focus too much attention on your overall traffic numbers (Unique Visits, Unique Pageviews). For example, we recently took over an AdWords account in which the client had been spending $150 per month on clicks but had no conversions. After reviewing the detailed search term report, it was clear that there was not a single relevant keyword that produced a click. The keywords in the campaign were all broad match and for very broad terms. Essentially, the client had been wasting their entire budget on traffic that would never convert.
  3. Read “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins. David Ogilvy who will also be featured in this weekly series had this to say about Hopkins’ masterpiece:

    “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”[2]

    I tried to re-read this book at least once a year and I still find it amazing how a book originally published in 1923 still has tremendous value 90 years later.


    [1] Inflation Calculator – Bureau of Labor Services – http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm
    [2] David Ogilvy: Ogilvy on Advertising. Pan Books (London and Sydney). 1983, p. 203 (without “at any level”)