Back to the Classics: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Perfect Ad

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As I said in last month’s column, one of the reasons the 1960s are called advertising’s “Golden Age” is because the work sold products. The copywriters from this period didn’t believe Marshall McLuhan’s dubious adage “The media is the message.” To them, the message was the message.

The ads from this period were ingenious little selling engines. The graphic and headline often did the heavy lifting all by themselves, but if you ventured into the actual body copy, you encountered a brilliantly structured explanation of the product’s benefits. I would even go so far as to say, perfectly structured.

Take a look at the Harvey Probber Furniture magazine advertisement below (created by Papert Koenig Lois in 1967). In my opinion, this is the perfect ad.

probber ad (2)

The photo shows a chair with a matchbook propped under one leg. The headline reads “If your Harvey Probber chair wobbles, straighten your floor.” Sales job done. I know immediately that Probber chairs are the highest quality, without ever hearing the tedious word “quality.”

But if you really want to feel an arrow through the heart, read the body copy. Better yet, let me save you the eyestrain and type it out for you:

“Every piece of furniture that Harvey Probber makes at Fall River, Mass. is placed on a test platform to make sure it’s on the level. If you get it, it is.

Mr. Probber loses a lot of furniture this way. 

Mr. Probber’s furniture has an almost luminous satin finish. It is produced by a unique machine that has five fingers and is called the human hand.

This luminous finish takes a long time to achieve, but it lasts a long time. The lovely chair above could be made with 14 less dowels, two yards less webbing, thinner woods and so forth. You wouldn’t know the difference, but Harvey Probber would. Of course, in a few years you would know, too.”  

Just 120 words. Nine short, powerful sentences. All written the way people really talk.

Ouch. It hurts so good.

Column written by Mark Carpenter, AAF Omaha Board Member & Co-Chair Nebraska ADDYs Committee


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