You may not know his name, but if you ever picked up a newspaper or magazine ANYWHERE in English speaking North America from the 1990s through the 2000s… you saw his ads.
His insertions ran in Parade, USA Today, AARP Bulletin, Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Woman’s Day and HUNDREDS of other publications.
His name is Tony Presutto and he mined a mountain of response during the last great chapter of print advertising.
He battled against the big guns
of direct response…
For years, I noticed some of the best long copy print ads coming out of that HOTBED of direct response in Canton, Ohio.
They hailed from the Leader Co., Inc. and I often wondered: “Who’s behind these DYNAMITE insertions?”
Well, at last I found out about Tony.
Not only does he have the CHOPS when it comes to copy, marketing and product creation, BUT you can judge a marketer by the quality of his BIG ideas.
Everyone has seen the ads for “Amish space heaters” which chalked up over a billion dollars in sales.
But do you know what ? Without the MAGIC of the Amish marketing angle, the “Heat Surge” would’ve been just another “knock-off.”
Granted, it would have been a knock-off of another billion dollar product (also from Canton Ohio, what’s in the water there?) but it would never have achieved the BREAKTHROUGH status it did without all the powerful connotations conjured up by the Amish advertising angle.
Who came up with it?
Tony is an INNOVATOR and he was…
14 years ahead of the curve!
…in the mid 1990s when his “The Wisdom of Amish Folk Medicine” hit the press.
And Tony’s contribution to GREAT LEADS in the origin marketing realm ranks right up there with:
– Rodale’s breakthrough, “Healthy Hunzas”
– Kent Komae’s decade-long control featuring the long-living Japanese for Sun Chlorella USA… and
– The $3,200 a pop “Swiss Stem Cell” therapy from Celergen
And AT LAST, I had the chance to interview this under-the-radar STAR of print advertising.
Take it away, Tony.
QUESTION: Tony, Tell us what it was like as an alt-health info marketer, going head-to-head in the pages of print against Rodale Press, Reader’s Digest and Bottom Line?
ANSWER: “Interesting question. Never gave any thought about running head-to-head in the same publications as big guys Rodale, Reader’s Digest and Bottom Line.
As a kid, I was fascinated by the mail order ads in comic books selling sea horses, etc. and would respond to them. When I was older I loved reading Gene Schwartz’s Instant Improvement ads out of Opa-locka, Florida in the Sunday supplements.
Of course, I did not know the ads were his or who he was. (Much later I found out from my friend Dr. Edwin Flatto that Schwartz wrote some of Rodale’s ads, too.)
While in college I loved the idea of people sending money through the mail and I thought: ‘I want to write ads like that and have people send me money too.’ I also loved the idea of selling books because they have great margins and I did not have to buy any merchandise. Just print up books as needed. Pretty cool way to make a living.”
QUESTION: Tony, you operated during the last great chapter of print advertising from the 1990s-2010s. What was it like and why did newspaper print “stop working” after a century and a half?
ANSWER: “Why did newspapers decline? Technology has a lot to do with it.
Why pay to read day-old news?
As circulations went down, ad costs and CPMs went up. A winning ad can only pull so many orders per thousand circulation to be profitable.
Reading the newspaper used to be a ritual for millions of Americans. Advertising in newspapers, especially the Sunday supplements and comics, was an extremely cost effective way to reach the mass market.
National news, local news, sports, obits, comics. Newspapers had something for everybody.
Before I had my own business the Sunday comics was the Big Kahuna. Here’s an example of its power.
The back page of the Sunday comics had 2 major networks, Puck and Metro. Placing a full page ad on the back page in both networks cost $250,000.
My friend, Rick Suarez, placed a Q & A diet pill ad in Puck and Metro one Sunday that literally pulled in over a ton of mail… 50 mail sacks… that’s over 30,000 orders!”
I never had the chance to run in the comics, but I did rely on the Sunday magazine supplements because they were very cost-effective and had a short lead time.
QUESTION: How many employees or contractors did you use at your peak? And describe what it’s like DOING IT ALL: creating products, writing copy, devising marketing strategies and buying media.
ANSWER: “I kept my overhead to a minimum and was able to sell about 150,000 to 200,000+ books a year. I had a permanent staff of three women who were fantastic. They handled mail opening, customer service, accounting. For data entry, we had home workers supplied with laptops. In times of heavy ad placement, extra people from staffing companies would open mail.
I was in charge of the media buying, result analysis, new product research and copywriting. Generally, the book writing would be farmed out.
Selling printed information has great margins and you can control the inventory, print them up as needed and you don’t have to rely on outside or overseas vendors.
“Information is the lifeblood of ideas.”
Creating products: Reading and getting info from multiple sources is of utmost importance. Information is the lifeblood of ideas. This includes reading old school copywriting books from such icons as Claude Hopkins, Aesop Glim, Rosser Reeves and David Ogilvy.
These books are still relevant in this age of digital marketing because they are all about using the printed word to motivate people to buy your products or services. It’s putting your message out for people to read. It’s your job to do that in the most powerful and convincing way possible.
Writing copy and marketing strategy: For me the key is time-consuming research, copious notes, then re-reading the notes several times, highlighting customer benefits and product selling points. Saturating your brain with facts about your product. Next step, determine your USP, which customer benefits and selling points to use, any bullet points, then work on headlines… headlines are the most important part of an ad because they select, arrest and persuade your prospect to start reading your ad. It’s been my experience that the right headline can triple response.”
QUESTION: What other media did your company use besides print?
ANSWER: “I did some direct mail to rented lists but chose to concentrate more on space ads because my books had low price points and space ads gave me a faster profit center. Before going out on my own I wrote very successful DM promotions for the company I worked for. They were sweepstakes and diet promotions.”
QUESTION: How did you research and choose the alternative health topics that became the subjects of your books and reports?
“I spend a lot of time doing research using the internet now, but also like to read magazines. In fact, I found the idea for a winning ad from an article in an issue of a government retiree magazine. It took 2 weeks to write and sold over 400,000 books. It usually takes me about 4 weeks to write a promotion because I am heavy on research. I take notes, write tons of headlines and work to make the copy flow so it’s easier to read than to skip.
Another ad idea came from small space ads in a tabloid. It was a health offer that turned into a Diabetes Improvement ad. It was the fastest one I ever wrote…one week. Sold hundreds of thousands copies too.”
QUESTION: Did you ever market anything other than your mainstay of alternative health information?
“How to Protect Your Financial Security” was a huge winner that worked for years. Dealt with protecting your assets if you or your spouse go into a nursing home. Also sold a booklet called “How to Turn Your Trash into Cash.”
QUESTION: Can you describe your most successful ad and why it was a winner?
ANSWER: That’s a tough call. I would say my favorite winning ad was for “How to Protect Your Financial Security.” I liked it because I had to set up the problem in a very forceful way before introducing the book. The ad was full of facts, no fluff and pulled like crazy.
QUESTION: How did you determine “when and why” to have “one offer per page” versus “multi-offers” on a full page?
ANSWER: “That was easy because my ads were all half pages. So I bundled 2 half pages on a full page buy.
I did find that the full pages with the financial security ad and a health offer did better than 2 health ads. Probably because the financial security ad had a broad appeal.
Two ads per page is also a great way to test new offers. If you run a winning ad and test ad on a full page… you have a benchmark to compare the test ad to. Plus the money you get from the winning ad, in effect, pays for your test.
Another way to bundle is 3 offers on the full page with a coupon offering a discount for getting additional products. This has boosted average orders 35%. Also can be used to test new offers.
The bundling method works because you give the prospect a chance to choose the offer they like best and save money too. Bundling can also work for DM and internet offers. I think it’s frequently overlooked.”
QUESTION: Do you use any formulas for writing captivating bullets/fascinations, like the kind you churned out for over 3 decades?
ANSWER: “Just hard work doing the research and detailed note-taking to determine customer benefits and product selling points. Review the notes until thoroughly familiar with them. Then let your subconscious brain work on them for a time before writing.
The bullets jump out when going over the notes. Then rewrite the bullets until they’re presented powerfully. Re the note taking, I start out with many pages then distill them down, keeping only the most powerful facts on my fact sheet.
QUESTION: Can you describe your success with the old school CTA, you and other direct response legends like Dr. Weckesser, used over the long haul in your ads: “Simply print your name and address and the words “Product Name” on a sheet of paper and mail it to “address?”
ANSWER: “I used it because, maybe subliminally, not having a coupon CTA makes your ad look more editorial to the reader, even though some publications make you scream PAID ADVERTISEMENT. Slugging in the word advertisement, even in bold caps, didn’t seem to hurt response. I think people tune it out.”
Thank you, Tony, for giving us the lowdown on one of the great unknown chapters of contemporary direct response.
Are you, dear reader, also a direct response player… looking for copy, consulting, marketing strategies, product development… or a SHOT in the arm by getting to rub shoulders with a PROVEN PRO?
The opportunity doesn’t present itself every day, but if you qualify, you can have the chance to work with one of the greats of direct response.
And now I’ll pass the virtual baton over to, Tony.
Yours for bolder response,
A Message from Tony:
“I want to preface this message with a quote attributed to Walt Whitman: “If you done it , it ain’t bragging.”
I thank God for learning the skills to be able to turn an idea and a blank page into explosive advertising promotions that have motivated over 3 million consumers in America to make a purchase.
My promotions have appeared in hundreds of publications and have been mailed to millions of people throughout the U.S., Canada and Great Britain.
In addition to writing compelling promotions loaded with customer benefits, my skill set includes writing killer headlines for existing ads that have pulled in 3 times more orders than the original headline. I have also increased average orders 35%. I can identify a product’s strongest USP and edit out extraneous vampire claims that suck power out of sales copy. I’ve also learned how to distill the most impactful customer benefits and selling points into powerful headlines, bullets, envelope teasers and involvement devices.
I’ve had huge winning promotions in the following areas: health, weight loss and financial information.
I’m a big fan of innovation, but I’ve also learned the value of using some tried and true stuff, such as an almost forgotten element to include in your Call to Action that can automatically increase response by 10%.
Whatever medium you use, if your message involves the printed or spoken word, right now you have the opportunity to work with me to increase the pulling power of your promotions. Just fill in this Confidential Qualification Form.
Your submission is 100% confidential and you’ll receive a reply within 48 hours.