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How Accountable Advertising Became Insight Marketing

John Wanamaker is known in the biz for saying “Half the money I spend in advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Jumping forward, direct marketing used to be called “accountable advertising”… because you could actually measure ROI, e.g., if AT&T spent x dollars on a mail campaign and got y number of responses, they could measure what was going on. The advertising was accountable to itself.

That is the strength of Insight Marketing, which is the combination of an effective marketing automation platform, e.g., Hubspot, and compelling insights from the advertiser. There is no better tool for lead nurturing and finding out exactly who your qualified prospects are. The trouble is that people think the answer is in the technology: we’ll set up our lists then send appropriate messages triggered by their personas and where they are in the buyers’ journey to drive them to our site.

That’s only half the battle. You can’t just have eye-blurring, I-can-google-it-and-get-the-answer content on your site. There’s enough of that everywhere. You need insights: a POV that distinguishes you. THEN people will willingly give you their information and you can move them from contacts to leads to qualified leads to prospects to customers. When you see how much you’ve spent and what you got from it; that’s accountable advertising. Wanamaker was instrumental in developing an effective lead nurturing program, using the tools of his time. 

John_Emory_Powers_the-voice.jpgMore importantly, Wanamaker was the first American retailer to hire a full-time writer of ad copy, John E. Powers. Powers is on the Mt. Rushmore of copywriting. He was brilliant, experimenting with many styles but eventually known for his straight declarative sentences, as opposed to the Barnum over-stimulation style.

Powers believed hard-selling, detailed copy didn’t work because it overloaded the public’s attention span. He settled on writing different little essays that only mention a few items — like J. Peterman today. For example, Powers wrote that Wanamaker’s is a “great, rough, unhandsome store” and some articles “look better than they are, but worth a quarter.” Powers couldn’t get along with anyone and went on to a very lucrative free-lance career after being fired twice by Wanamaker. 

You can read more about the century in our rich history of advertising resource at the aptly titled 1800's: The Fun Begins. There's more reading on reading on the subject at our Must-Read Books For Anyone in Advertising.

History of Advertising


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