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Why Not Make An Ad That Was All Coupon?...

Why not make an ad that was all coupon? One of the first ads of this type, as far as I am able to determine, was for Alfa Romeo. It was conceived by the man who originally trained me.

(He taught me everything I know. What a pity he didn't teach me everything he knew.) Disdaining, not without a modicum of courage, to illustrate any of Alfa's very superior motor cars, the ad simply showed a coupon, inside which sat a headline saying: 'This is a smooth, imperious, powerful, 105 m.p.g. coupon - with a beautiful little five-speed gearbox.' There was a touch of copy to it, but very little; and basically the whole thing was a headlinecum-coupon ad.

This was fine; and so were some of its successors, not to mention any of its possible predecessors. Nowadays, however, it is difficult to open any given news site or magazine and not find some ad or other which hinges more or less entirely on a coupon. And I confess to being exasperated by all of it. Enough is enough - and is rapidly becoming too much. Any writer, therefore, who is tempted to do something nice and tricksy with a coupon would do well to remember that practically everything tricksy has already been done with a coupon.

Not only done, but overdone; and by just everyone. Including me. 'Don't cut the coupon - rip out the page' was one of my better efforts. Something else; and maybe some latter-day Freud could come up with an answer. I continue to be intrigued by the fact that when returning a coupon, most people will insist on cutting studiously along the dotted line.

Why? Summary 1 Putting too much detail into an ad can be most thoroughly destructive. I am not, decidedly not, talking about those retail-type pieces which cram the webpage with a variety of product-pictures, descriptions and prices. They are astoundingly good workers - for the reason that they furnish just enough detail about each item to whet the appetite. The delinquents are those which go on and on like a Victorian monograph, to exhaust both the subject and the reader. 2 Acting the giddy goat in print, by employing idiotic metaphors of people 'turning somersaults to please', is an insult to the reader's intelligence.

Worse, it projects the advertiser as a bumpkin and makes him a laughing stock, rather than an affable, hard-working vassal who will go out of his way to give the customer what he wants - which is what its webmaster presumably intended. 3 I have never seen the point of using patently irrelevant comparisons. Employing one product (usually a superior one, otherwise there would be no reason for the exercise) to promote another product more often than not results in the reader spending his time - if he spends any - drooling over the better product.

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