What people working in digital today can learn from 1931.

​Written in 1931, John Caples' 'Tested Advertising Methods' breaks down the fundamentals of advertising. So much of still applies to agile, search engine marketing and more.

Before the Mad-men era of 'genius marketeers', John Caples was defining the rules that still stand up today. (You can still buy it too.)

Caples' three steps to creativity

1. Capture the prospect's attention. Nothing happens unless something in your ad, your mailing or your commercial makes the prospect stop long enough to pay attention to what you say next.

2. Maintain the prospect's attention. Keep the ad, mailing, or commercial focused on the prospect, on what he or she will get out of using your product or service.

3. Move the prospect to favourable action. Unless enough “prospects" are transformed into “customers", your ad has failed, no matter how creative. That's why you don't stop with A/I/A (Attention/Interest/Action), but continue right into testing.

Caples' three step approach to testing

1. Accept nothing as true about what works best in advertising until it has been objectively (Caple's called it “scientifically") tested.

2. Build upon everything you learn from testing to create an ever stronger system that you return to with each new project. (Even a slow learner should not have to invent the wheel more than twice).

3. Test every ad as an ongoing test of what has been learned before. When something new works better–or something old stops working–be ready to admit you were wrong about what you thought you “knew". But don't just accept it. Find out why and apply it to the next time.

Or as Caples put it:

Include in every ad a way to learn (quantify) the exact results of each promotion.

But don't just include it . Take the time to actually learn it!

Base your future writing and design for the same service or product on what you learn.


Learn, Adapt, Learn, Adapt, Learn, Adapt, Learn, Adapt….



David Rogerson