“Do You Make These Mistakes In English?” is an ad that never lost.
From 1918 through 1959, Maxwell Sackheim’s ad for the Sherwin Cody School of English continued to run and kept making money.
For 41 years, it appeared in publications ranging from The New York Times to The Black Mask.
But as effective as the ad was, it was under constant attack.
Back in the days when optimizing was all about “beating the control,” copywriters lined up to take a crack at dethroning the champ by writing what they thought was a better headline.
Here are the headlines that went up against “Do You Make These Mistakes In English?”
Not one of them pulled stronger response.
A New Invention that Finds and Corrects Your Mistakes in English
Stop Making Mistakes in Speaking and Writing!
Astonishing Facts About Your English
Stop Abusing The English Language
His New Invention Finds And Corrects Your Mistakes In English
His Simple Invention Has Shown Thousands How To Break Bad Habits In English
New Way To Find And Correct Your Mistakes In English
Mistakes In Writing And Speaking Made Every Day
Your English is Your Trade-Mark – It Tells Just What You Are
Ten Mistakes in English – How Many Will You Make?
If Only People Knew How They Are Hurt By Their Unconscious Mistakes In English!
His Simple Invention Has Shown Thousands How To Stop Making Embarrassing Mistakes
How To Discover Your Mistakes In English In One Evening
Are YOU Ever Overheard Making Mistakes like These?
What Are YOUR Mistakes In English?
Stop Groping For Words!
Sherwin Cody’s New Method Has Improved The English of 41,000 People
How To Avoid Embarrassing MISTAKES In ENGLISH
Does Your English Help You Or Hurt You?
He Thinks He Is Speaking Correct English! Can You Find His FIVE Mistakes?
Which of These Mistakes In English Do You Make?
How You Can Master GOOD ENGLISH – In 15 Minutes a Day
Hindsight makes it easy to find flaws and pick these headlines apart. There are some great headlines here. Some were written by copywriting legends like Victor Schwab.
What can we learn from this decades long effort to beat the control? Lots.
And when we go through the lineup of losers, we can’t help asking a few questions.
Why didn’t numbers work?
When a number was assigned to the number of mistakes, the less precise “these” still won.
Fascinating, because most of us who write copy know that specific numbers bake credibility into a claim.
Maybe it’s because the headline’s number didn’t support a claim, and didn’t work as a source of credibility. Maybe the number just got in the way and somehow intimidated the prospect.
Whatever the case…
The quality of these headlines reminds us that the Sherwin Cody “Do You Make These Mistakes In English?” is one of the great sources of copywriting instruction.
And the lineup of challengers is illuminating. Look at all the different ways “you” is woven in.
Have you ever seen this direct marketing classic?
Click here if you’d like a copy of Sherwin Cody’s “Do You Make These Mistakes In English?”