I must confess, I've changed my mind about
what I was going to write about in this month's newsletter.
Why? The answer is simple. You see, last month
I invited all my subscribers to write a car ad (mostly, just
for practice) and send it to me. I told them I would award a
nice prize to whoever wrote the best ad. Well, so many people
have sent in their ads -- and so many of them are so good -- I've decided it would be very helpful (from a copywriting
point of view) if I told you what's good about the best of
First of all, one of the ideas I try to hammer
home over over and over is that... copywriting is secondary to
the creation of a powerful, believable offer. And so, the
first ad I'm going to discuss here is one that did not win
because it is not the most "well-written" and, after
all, this is a copywriting
contest. However, this particular entry contains perhaps the
best ideas of everything
submitted. And, when push comes to shove, I'd rather have a
great idea man on my team any day, as opposed to having a
great copywriter. So, I want to respectfully tip my hat and
who gave as a reason
for selling his car that he got involved in a tax shelter that
went bad and the IRS stung him with $6,000 in back taxes plus
$6,000 in penalties. But you know what else he did? Something
that was pure genius? No.
Of course you don't so I'll tell you: To back up his claim, he
sent (in a plain white sealed envelope) a copy of his
"NOTICE OF UNPAID TAX" that was whomped on him by
the IRS. It's official looking as hell and it looks real
because it is real. I'm
reproducing it below:
Whoa! Now, how's that for drama? And even more
importantly, how's that for believability?
I've said it before and I'll say it again: The number one
reason people don't buy from you is they don't want what you
are selling. But, the number two
They Don't Believe You!
Strive for believability. It is supremely
But, that wasn't Mr. Brekke's only good idea.
No, sir. He also offered to buy
the car back from you if maintained properly because, in
fact, he really didn't want to sell it. And that's why, of
course, he was also offering $1,214 worth of free maintenance
while you drove the car so...
It Would Be In Great Condition
When It Was Time To Buy It Back!
He also was the only
contestant to think to send a "follow up" letter
and, in this pitch, he went on to explain how his situation
was even more dire because now the IRS was threatening to seize his property. And this time he
included (in the proverbial sealed envelope) the United States
Seizure Notice! See below:
And that's not all. He also sent a reprint of
a Reader's Digest article on "How You Can Save on Car
Insurance" which explains "six easy ways to lower
your premiums and still get the protection you need."
(Like maybe buying a car like Mr. Brekke's?)
He also offered a premium for the first 10
people who stopped to look at his car. The premium was a
booklet titled, "18 Major Health Discoveries to Add 10
Years to Your Life".
Like I said, Mr. Brekke did not win because
this was a copywriting contest but he did such a fantastic
job I've decided to give him a nice prize anyway!
|(However, Mr. Brekke, you've got me
hooked and you don't get your prize until I get that booklet
on health discoveries.)
More good stuff. From Travis McFee, D.D.S. in
Salem, Oregon. He explains he'll sell his Chevy Caprice at
below Kelly Blue Book wholesale because he can't trade it in
because he (and a group of professionals) are banding together
to buy a bunch of Mercedes wholesale direct from Germany. And
He Invites You To Get In On
Action If You Don't Want The Caprice!
Clever. Good thinking.
And here's a good reason for responding now to the P.S. of the sales letter written by Martin Choy...
"The trip to Lake Tahoe includes
reservations to see Frank Sinatra but reservations must be
confirmed within 10 days."
So why does Trapper John, M.D. (sounds like a
TV show, doesn't it?) say he is offering such a good deal on a
new luxury pick-up? Simply because...
He gave it to his kid as a graduation
present and the kid was not properly appreciative so he
(Trapper) wanted to teach the kid a lesson!
I've felt like that, haven't you?
Here's another good idea for getting action
now from the P.S. of the letter written by Kevin Brandes.
Kevin offers as a premium a free trip to the Indy 500 (he's
selling a Corvette) and his P.S. says:
"The free trip to the Indy 500 has
to be confirmed because of the airlines being booked
well-written ad (from a copywriting point-of-view) was sent in
by Lynn Stratford. Lynn is selling a 1950 Studebaker (I wonder
if it's blue and white like the one my Dad had?) and he makes
some very good points including:
||This beauty will never depreciate in value -- only
appreciate. (That's what's called an investment.)
||He offers to pay your dues to join the Studebaker's
||He says he'll give you a shop manual and six catalogs
that'll tell you where to get all the parts you need for this
This one is really a rock-solid, exceptional
piece of work but it irritates me because now I'm seriously
thinking about buying this car myself!
David C. Smith of Laguna Beach sent in a good
letter to sell his 450 SLC Mercedes that comes complete
A Car Phone!
You know, I can hardly imagine I would ever
want to own a Gremlin but the sales letter written by Robert
Robinson in Washington, DC really had me on the ropes. This
letter is a borderline masterpiece and by the time he's done
you really do wonder why
he's willing to sell it! Here's how he explains it:
is I need $2,000 to use as a down payment on a piece of
property. I plan to renovate and sell this property for a
$12,000 profit (minimum) all within six months.
As soon as I close this deal I will give you (the happy owner
of a classic blue Gremlin) a phone call asking to purchase the
car back for $3,200. This will give you a $1,200 profit for
just driving a beautiful car. Let
me say that you are not obligated in any way to sell the
car back to me at any time, but it just may be a future
convenience for both of us."
Very, very good.
Don Brown, a preacher from Kerman, California
did an excellent job writing his letter and he's one of only
two of my subscribers who thought to include a photo of the
vehicle (station wagon) he wants to sell.
Why didn't the rest of you think to do this?
Here's a sample of some of the excellent
copywriting done by Danny Van Meter of Klamath Falls, Oregon:
"I could take it in to a dealer
but, to be honest, I'd rather deal with a real human being
instead of some guy in alligator shoes who is more interested
in how much commission he's going to make off me than to make
a fair deal for all."
Linwood Austin of Santa Barbara, California is
the only contestant who used a particularly valuable ploy
which I've always found to be useful: "...if you are not
going to take advantage of this offer, call me to let me know.
Then I will feel free to offer it to one of the other rental
Good thinking, Linwood!
One of the best letters of all was submitted
by Nina Harper of Long Beach, California:
"There is not a single ding in the
paint. The interior is immaculate
and has never been smoked in." (Great point!)
"Ordinarily, I wouldn't consider
selling this car, however circumstances force me to do so. I
am in escrow to buy a business and I'm selling everything that
isn't nailed down to come up with the payment."
Way to go, Nina!
Look, I'm running out of space and I want to
reproduce the winning letter before I close. However, I would
like to at least acknowledge some of the other entries that
were very, very good. One of them came from Mark W. Goggin who
owns Golden State Envelope in Los Angeles. (By the way, I highly
recommend him if you need to buy envelopes and his number
Let's see now... who else did a good job?
Well, there's R. Quinn of Forth Worth, Texas. Ken Jensen of
Mesquite, Nevada. Allen Merkley of Long Sault (Long
Sault?), Ontario. Thelma J. Larson of Covina, California.
John A. Van Koevering of Las Vegas. Philip S. Bushee of
Burlington, Vermont (sent $5 as a grabber!). Kenneth W.
Ritchie of Summit, New York. Norman Kominsky Jr. of Paulsboro,
New Jersey. Dave Gregory of Thousand Oaks, California (great
writing). Geoffrey B. Cook of Jameston, Rhode Island. Dawar A.
Shah of West Covina, California. John App of San Juan
And the winner is...
But wait! Before I tell you I want to make an
observation. It seems to me that, often, the people who had
the most writing ability did not come across as sincere as
some of the letter writers with less facility. Some of the
letters were well-written but "cute". And, they were
tarnished by an obvious
attempt to be clever.
Enough of that. Now, in my judgment, the best
letter of all was submitted by a guy from Kirkland, Oregon
His headline is virtually irresistible and his
copy, although short, is absolutely
compelling! And, I tell you, whoever is in charge of
marketing this new car is a fool
if they don't hire this man. Here's his letter:
Amazing Car Of The Future Uses No Gas,
Oil Or Water!
The car of the future has zero pollution,
uses not a cent of gasoline and require no tune-ups or oil
changes. The only maintenance required are things like brake
work, wheel alignment and tires.
Today, 20% of the car business is from the
sales of new cars and 80% comes from the parts and repair
industry. The introduction of this car will turn this upside
down. The bottom line is that this is a car you won't have to
worry about. The original prototype required less than $1,000
spent on maintenance in seven years of driving. This amazing
car can travel 100 miles an hour, go 400 to 500 miles on a
battery charge and never needs a tune-up. The car will be
featured in a 1990 James Bond-type film like the Aston Martin
The car will be for sale early next year.
The first model will be a futuristic sports car followed by a
mini-van and a passenger sedan. Does driving one of these cars
interest you? Or, would you like to become a dealer? The car
itself is so spectacular that all you have to do to sell it is
drive it. Grab yourself a piece of the future by calling
206/823-8539 or send $75 for an extensive information package
including a video and dealer information. Send to: Don Jenne,
13307 103rd Lane N.E. #H101, Kirkland, WA 88034.
Don! We'll be contacting you soon about your prize and, I want
you to know, you've won out over some monstrously stiff
Oh, and there's just one more thing. Listen,
you klutz: You sent your letter in handwritten
which means it almost didn't get read.
Don't do that ever again, Don. It is truly
hiding your flame under a basket. It's like Rachael Welsh
wearing a mu-mu.
Oh well, nobody's perfect.
Gary C. Halbert
"The Teacher of Titans"
doubts. Maybe Don shouldn't have won. Maybe I should've given
first prize to another entry which you will find by clicking
on the link below. Read it and tell me what you
Entry Which Maybe Should've Won
month's letter will be something I've been working on for a
long time. It'll probably be the most useful
letter I'll ever write. It's one you'll want to keep with you
all the time and to use constantly as a money-making tool
Copyright © 2003 Gary C. Halbert. All Rights