Nothing makes a catchy headline like an unsupportable proclamation. Do Google really have nothing on Claude C. Hopkins, self-declared creator of measured advertising? Well, probably not, but Hopkins did stack up a mountain of achievement a long time ago. That’s the strongest impression I formed from reading Hopkins’ book My Life in Advertising / Scientific Advertising.
In the early 1900s Hopkins was measuring and optimising direct-response advertising to an impressive degree. His tactics included:
- Detailed and endless revision of ads based on split tests of their performance, similar to the split testing now being widely adopted by digital agencies of all sizes (thanks to our ubiquitous friends Google and their Website Optimiser).
- Tailoring of ads to suit specific locales, regions, dialects, attitudes – on high circulation campaigns, using primitive technology.
- Crunching a lot of numbers to assess the performance of ads.
- Writing great copy – the secret sauce that measurement and revisions can only ever support, never provide.
For those who know direct marketing inside out, Hopkins might be less impressive. For those who are sometimes tempted to believe that advertising has been thoroughly re-invented by Google, Hopkins is a salutatory read.