Book Summary 10: Tested Advertising Methods

In my opinion, one of the most underrated business skills is copywriting. Good copywriting alone can be the difference between successful and failed businesses.

One of the best books I have read on this topic is John Caples’ book “Tested Advertising Methods”. It gives a good framework for understanding how to write an ad or the text for a sales page, or even the subject line for an email.

Here’s the brief summary…

  • There are two types of advertisers: those who test their ads, and those who do not.
  • How to plan a campaign: 1) Initial Testing 2) Expanded testing of winners 3) Learn from the results
  • You must learn from what really works, and not on opinions.
  • You can use split-testing (two different versions of your ads to different audiences) to see which one works better. (This is especially easy now in the digital world.)


  • The headline (or subject line) is critical. Nobody will read the rest if the headline is not good enough!
  • A good headline should be simple and easy to read.
  • The best headlines have usually one these attributes
      1) Self-interest (benefit to the user)
      2) News (announcing something new)
      3) Curiosity (enticing them into reading the rest of the copy)
  • However, curiosity on its own usually does not work.


  • You must be specifically targeting your audience in the headline. For example, if you’re selling dandruff shampoo your headline must make it clear what it’s for. It should segregate the others (who do not have dandruff) from your target market (those people who do have dandruff.)
  • Try combing two or attributes of winning headlines (such as self-interest and curiosity for example)


  • Headlines which make it seem that the problem of your reader can be quickly and easily solved work better. (example: Learn to speak fluent English in 20 days!)
  • The headline or subject line should engage the reader to want to read more. A good tool to do this is by asking questions. (Example: Do you want to get fluency in spoken English quickly?)


  • The headline should also be believable. Using specific numbers helps. (“9923 people have already tried this” is more believable than “10000 people have already tried this”.
  • Advertising is not the same as writing poetry. It’s aesthetics or skills are secondary to the sales or leads it generates. Don’t make it too clever or smart! Your headline should be easy to grasp.


  • The author suggests we write one or two dozen headlines and then choose the best one.
  • An ad should also have an appeal to the audience. Some of the classic appeals are: Sex, greed, fear, duty/honor
  • Other appeals: Make more money, save money. retirement security, better health now, health care security, security in old age, advance in profession, prestige, enjoyment, easier chores, gain more leisure, comfort, reduce fat, freedom from worry

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    Thanks sir!! 🙂

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