The kitchen pipsqueak was right…

Before my younger brother cooked for Richard Branson, he was considered a kitchen pipsqueak.

But this email is not about him, it’s about another pipsqueak who spent time in a kitchen, then took over the world of advertising – assuming legendary status.

Chances are, you’ve heard of this man.

David Mackenzie Ogilvy.

Interestingly, the most recognised name in advertising credited his success to a formula that many B2B’s wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, (suffering the consequences) – direct response marketing.

And one of his trophy ingredients for creating irresistible direct response ads, that’s ignored by CEO’s dreaming of better revenues is this little secret:


Ogilvy’s big idea ads made them stick in the mind of his target audience like chewing gum to carpet.

Would you like your ads to do the same?

One of Ogilvy’s strokes of genius was his ad, “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt”

But my all time favourite BIG IDEA ad was written in 1945 for Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. It does a good job of illustrating why your business needs a “BIG IDEA” ad targeting busy decision makers in your industry.

Here’s the headline and subhead:

“A Hog Can Cross the Country Without Changing Trains – But YOU Can’t!

The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway and the Nickel Road are again proposing to give humans a break!”

Do you need me to say any more?

In one fell swoop, the copywriter tapped into the power of…


Expecting passengers to change trains while hogs sailed through first class was perfect fodder for a thinking copywriter to use with finesse, getting under the skin of his target audience, because they just needed a great ad to pull their trigger, taking their railway rage to the streets.

C’mon say it, you gotta love this ad.

When the ad was submitted to Edwin Cox for approval, he quickly said:

“This is one of the best headlines I have seen in 30 years in this business. If you never run another advertisement run this one.”

And there’s an intriguing story of how this ad came to life, but the point is this:

“… It hit railroad executives and newspaper men with staggering impact.” – The 100 Greatest Advertisements

“It was timely… original… and it fire-up the emotions of the right people. It got under the skin of people back then.” (Is your marketing as effective as a fake tan?)

And that’s why in three short weeks of ad exposure the pressure on rail road executives was just too much to bear, the ad did its job…

“… it forced the railroad industry to make immediate changes to its service, so passengers would no longer be forced to change trains in Chicago, St. Louis or New Orleans.” – Infomarketingblog

The power of the BIG IDEA.

It could transform your business overnight and claw back lost revenue, as long as you’re marketing to a human, B2B, B2C – whatever!

In fact, you’re probably sitting on a BIG IDEA ad right now, gathering dust as we speak, waiting to be discovered, polished and unleashed to dominate your industry – making your competition pay a penalty for going up against you.

Here’s a very quick example of a BIG IDEA in development.

I bumped into this WWF campaign earlier today. Let’s see if we can make a 5 minute transformation to their headline, driven by a BIG IDEA…

This is their original headline and subhead:


We’re working to keep Virunga National Park free from oil exploration”

What do you think of that? (answers on a postcard)

Now, let’s infuse some BIG IDEA magic and see what we get. But remember this is off the cuff, a quick draw, if I was writing this ad for WWF I’d spend more than a tea break on it.

Also, can I ask you to do me a favour, please?

Comment below and briefly explain what the BIG IDEA behind this version is…

“FIRST, they Shrunk Your Pension, Now Six Wealthy Bankers are Set to Profit (again) by Destroying Africa’s Oldest National Park – it’s a World Heritage Site.

They thought we’d never find out about what they’re up to in Africa’s Virunga National Park…”

Which of the two ads gets under your skin more?

Comment below and tell me why.

(Whether WWF would be bold enough to run a similar version is another subject all together)

I’ve never worked in a kitchen to be considered a pipsqueak like David Ogilvy may have once been considered, but I can assure you of this…

Show me your best performing ad, and if I don’t beat it with a BIG IDEA concept that has instant appeal to your best prospects, and sends your response rate due north, donate what you owe me to your favourite charity – or don’t pay your bill at all!