Would You Rather Win Or Look Good?


Dear Friend

I just love this quote from the movie White Men Can’t Jump.

“A white man wants to win first look good second, a black man wants to look good first win second”

In my opinion, this conflict is at the heart of successful marketing. So I have a question for you:

“Would you rather win or look good?”

Your immediate response is to win! Right?

But if you’re like most businesses…

…the real answer couldn’t be further from the truth. So to uncover the harsh reality lets take a look at your magazine ads.

Do you want your magazine ads to look like stunning works of art that you can proudly show your friends? Or do you want a magazine ad to make the cash registers ring for years?

We all want our ads to be like Usain Bolt. To win by a huge victory with a unique and memorable swagger. Even if you don’t like Usain, you’re not going to forget him. Such is the indelible mark that he’s made on the sport.

So in an ideal world all marketing would do both, right? Just the look of the advert would elegantly convey the quality of your service before a prospect had read the first word. Maybe this is why so many magazine ads have fewer than 100 words.

With unlimited time and money you can have this. Back in the reality of tight deadlines and squeezed budgets you can’t afford to be idealistic. You have to choose!

My Choice Is Win First, Look Good Second!


The most successful magazine advert that I’ve written and designed is also the ugliest. It’s direct response marketing in its purest form. A bold red headline that’s’ only job is to grab the reader’s attention. Like someone shouting your name over the noise in a crowd. If I could make it out of flashing neon lights I would. Yes it garish, yes it’s ugly and yes it works.

The headline was followed by dense black copy. No pictures. This advert had been carefully designed to look like an article. Why? Because people read articles. They skip the ads.

If the headline appeals to your readers’ passion it will reel them in like rainbow trout. If the first sentence does it’s job well (to persuade the reader to keep reading) then you’re half way home.

But don’t get too comfortable because your reader lives in a world of short attention spans and constant distractions. So every word has to be worth more to him than checking Facebook, catching up on emails or watching TV. It has to show him in ways that he can see and feel how your product is going to improve his life.

So you’ve hooked your reader with your headline and first paragraph. You’ve got him to say “Yes that sounds interesting” and you still can’t let him go. His attention span and the deafening-call-of-the-world are trying to kick him off the line. At this point your ad still means thing because you haven’t made the sale. To do that you’ve got to take him one step further. You’ve got to carry him through the dangerous wasteland of the decision making process to the point where money is no longer an objection because he desperately desires the new world that you have painted.

At this point you are able to give the reader the opportunity to buy. We all hate being sold to, and we love to buy. Your last remaining job is to make the purchase process as easy as possible. The masters of this are Amazon with their One-Click purchase. If only we could all do the same.

As we can’t your job as the writer is to tell the reader exactly what they have to do so when they take the first step towards a better life, it feels familiar.

That’s What Makes Great Advertising.
That’s What Makes Advertising That Pays.


With the limited space of a magazine advert a picture must fight for it’s place. It’s a nice to have, a luxury that in most cases you can’t afford. Why? Because an ad that brings in the cash is also called salesmanship in print.

When you have a salesman on the phone with a hot lead you wouldn’t limit the persuasive process to 50 words. Yet that’s what most people do with their advertising.

With an online sales page you are not constrained by the paper size so you can easily add pictures. My advice is to do so with caution.

The only purpose of the pictures is to help the reader to keep reading. If they are distraction then your fish will wriggle free from the line. If pictures help to illustrate your point, or to simply make the text look less imposing then they have earned their position on the page.

So how can you create a magazine ad that pulls in £15,000 in sales? All you need to do is answer this one simple question:

Why should I do business with you over anyone else or doing nothing?

You then explain this to the reader in the following 4 steps:


  1. Answer the question in the customers mind.
  2. Explain in words that they can see and feel what your product will do for them.
  3. Tell them why they must act now.
  4. Give them the opportunity to buy


In my next blog I’ll explain in detail how to answer the question in the readers mind. Until then…

Carpe Diem

Roland Eva

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