South of Jewfish Creek

Dear Friend & Subscriber,

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 them.

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 congratulate...

Ronald Brekke...

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 reason is...

They Don't Believe You!

Strive for believability. It is supremely important.

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 then...

He Invites You To Get In On
That 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 solid...

A really 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 Driver's Club.
* 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 beauty.

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 with...

A Car Phone!

Nice touch!

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:

"The truth 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?

Shame, shame.

Here's a sample of some of the excellent copywriting done by Danny Van Meter of Klamath Falls, Oregon: (Klamath Falls?)

"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."

Excellent work.

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 companies..."

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 is 213/461-3044.)

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 Capistrano, California.

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 named:

Don Jenne

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 in Goldfinger.

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.

Great job, Don! We'll be contacting you soon about your prize and, I want you to know, you've won out over some monstrously stiff competition.


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"


I have 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 think.

Another Entry Which Maybe Should've Won


Next 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 extraordinaire!



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Copyright 2003 Gary C. Halbert.  All Rights Reserved.