Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Monkey or the Envelope. The choice is yours.

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Hootville continues to invest its time and dollars in Facebook advertising. Generally the results are rather good by which we mean that we are paying a pleasingly low cost for each desired action we receive. A desired action might be for a viewer of the ad to click the Like button or click through to our website or engage with the Facebook post. In other words we are getting people to interact with the ad at a low cost.

social media copywriting advice

Will the red ink take us to black ink? (Accounting reference.)

For copywriters and marketers there’s a great deal of interest in uncovering the ads which get results and those which don’t. Rarely have copywriters and marketers been able to so scientifically alter a single variable and gauge the impact. There are three key variables with which one can play:

1. The ad itself. The creative – meaning the imagery, the copywriting, the fundamental proposition, the tone.

2. Audience demographics – age, location, interests, gender etc.

3. Deployment of the ad – will it show on mobile devices only, desktops only, in the Newsfeed or on the right hand side?

Each of these factors can vary the results. Sometimes what we think will work, works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Changing one factor at a time allows direct comparison. Let the games begin.

facebook advertising comparison

Who can resist monkeys doing human things? (We read his work BTW. Not much good - basically a rehash of Jungle Book.)

We’re promoting Copy Savvy 101 (in case you don’t know) so have been running Facebook ads. This week we created two different ads which we ran simultaneously. We kept the audience demographics and deployment the same for each but the two creative approaches were entirely different.

The audience we were targeting was people like you: 28-55, any sex, interests in marketing, nonprofits and / or small business, attractive, tertiary qualified, living in Victoria.

The ads ran on mobile devices in the Newsfeed only. The Envelope ad is based on a post we wrote long ago. We think that the image is quite strong and the copy rather clever and meaningful to copywriters. The Monkey ad was hoping to interest and disarm people with a cute image. The results were very different, so much so that we stopped running one a few days in.

OK – over to you. Which was more successful in gaining more clicks? Envelope or Monkey? Place your guess in the comments section below. Have a snap poll around the office. Alienate those which guess incorrectly. We’ll reveal the answer in 48hr.

Meanwhile read our recent Facebook advertising post, which explains more of the basics.

May 1: Winner revealed:

facebook advertising that works

May I have the envelope please...and the winner is...the envelope!

As you can see the Monkey should stick to writing right wing editorials for News Corp because he’s been outperformed by the envelope.  As an advertiser you want to minimise your cost per click. 41c fore the envelope vs $1.12 for the monkey? Which would you rather pay to have someone click on your Facebook ad? Our state-educated maths shows that the envelope was about 60% cheaper per click than the monkey. That’s huge. But why? Here’s our best guesses:

The envelope image was somewhat intriguing. The monkey was just silly.

The copy accompanying the envelope was clever and knowing. We’ve always taken a tone that assumes Hootville’s audiences to be savvy (somewhat cynical) professionals. The copy accompanying the monkey was straight; maybe too straight.

facebook CTR comparison

We've always said: if you pay peanuts you'll get a low CTR.

Complications: It’s easy to assume that a lower cost per click indicates a superior creative approach but the price you pay per click isn’t the best measure the effectiveness of your creative approach. Facebook has a dynamic pricing policy akin to an auction system so the price you pay is influenced by factors beyond the appeal of your ad. Other factors include the number of other advertisers also attempting to reach your audience and how much they are willing to pay. More competition = higher cost even for the same ad.

The click through rate (CTR) is the purest way to assess how appealing / effective your creative is. This measures the percentage of people who saw your ad and then – bless them – clicked on it. Let’s compare our two ads again. Less than one in 100 people (0.792%) clicked on the monkey ad (see above). The envelope proved much more appealing with a marked difference in its power over men (1.134%) and women (1.604%). That’s a whopping 40% difference between the sexes.

facebook CTR male and female

Men are from Mars, women click through more often.

Beyond ego gratification there’s another reason to aim for a higher CTR. The higher your CTR, the less you pay. Why? Facebook wants its ads clicked so it is more likely to show an ad with a high CTR for less money, to your audience, more often. Win / win. We’d love to hear of higher CTRs. And if you’ve gained from this post we’d love you to share it. Finally; if you’ve gained from this, please share it with some friends and be sure to subscribe to our email – the Hootville Lowdown.
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An open letter to the dying with dignity movement

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Note: this post is not arguing the merits of euthanasia. It is a letter from a sympathetic marketer with experience in the cause, written in frustration. No offence is intended. Comments on the campaigning aspects of euthanasia are welcome. This is not the place for comments on the rights or wrongs of euthanasia. Note also: whatever your issue – if it’s failing to gain traction – this is for you.

Dear Dying With Dignity Community,

Our position on the issue: we don’t know about you but we here at Hootville would like to die with minimal pain and suffering at a time of our choosing.

When the time comes (not before) and the medical options run out we want a legal guarantee that we will be offered a secure way out of our suffering. We don’t want to force this choice on anyone else but we sure as hell don’t want people we haven’t met, institutions we don’t believe in and politicians we didn’t vote for extension our misery. In short – we want voluntary euthanasia and wish you well in your ongoing struggle.

euthanasia campaign

We could have been a contender.

Declaration: a few years back Hootville worked with Dying With Dignity Victoria and a national coalition of similar organisations to help create the campaign which was the first national, co-ordinated campaign. It went OK but could have / should have achieved much more.

Since then we’ve watched the issue continue to be the single greatest under-performing social issue in Australia. Today’s media coverage of Dr Rodney Syme inspired us to pen this blog.


Dr Syme made headlines with his admission. He shouldn't need to.

We recall Dr Syme telling us that he was holding his declaration – that he provided a patient who later took his own life with the drug Nembutal – up his sleeve as a way to highlight the issue. We didn’t like the idea then, nor do we today. It may get this good man in a lot of hot water. It could see him imprisoned or de-registered as a doctor.

It’s time to admit failure on the campaigning front and adopt an entirely different approach, more akin to the way contemporary campaigns work.

We declare this sorry state of affairs based on your issue’s utter lack of progress, failure to establish any significant community-based support group, the absence of legal reforms, ballot-box political pressure or ongoing debate on the issue beyond scattershot media coverage.

Too harsh? Here’s a list of some groups / issues currently out-performing you:

  • live cattle;
  • puppies born in puppy farms;
  • asylum seekers;
  • transgendered people;
  • homosexuals;
  • the disabled;
  • victims of domestic violence;
  • the corral in the barrier reef;
  • farmers affected by fracking;
  • victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy.

These groups are a laundry list of disenfranchised, under-resourced, abused, neglected and unorganised – yet each of them outperform you week-in, week-out in the battle for media space, barbeque discussions and political response. (See graph below.)

The status quo is unacceptable. How the hell can all these people / causes be out-campaigning you when you have all this on your side:

  • death currently affects 100% of humans;
  • people are terrified of a painful, helpless, lingering death;
  • almost everyone has a story of a loved one who dies in awful circumstances;
  • the attitudes of our newly ageing people are changing from passive and communal to demanding and individualistic;
  • media will always be interested in the issue;
  • Australia is extremely secular and the stocks of the church (a key opponent) has never been lower,
  • your proposal won’t cost any money;
  • euthanasia is already being unofficially practiced across hospital wards and nursing homes;
  • your alleged overwhelming public support?

This is a beautiful starting point. So how are you going win?

1. Stop thinking of yourselves as a law-reform issue. Who wants to get behind that? The reform will come when you become a campaign, a movement and a successful one at that. We have noticed that even our weak, conservative political class will make a move if you’ve got enough votes behind you. Campaigners shouldn’t wasting their time talking to pollies or doctors reform groups or the palliative care folk. Forget the private members’ bills in off-Broadway states. This isn’t a question of law – it’s a question of making the status quo a political liability. This is impossible without the threat of large batches of votes. The legal reforms will follow the social.

It’s time (for the first time) to really reach out to the entire population of the country of all classes – not the political class or the old communistas. The three million of us aged 65+ would be a good place to start but ageing affects everyone over 45 with parents. What a whopping target audience.

2. A grown-up, well-resourced, hardcore campaigning team is required. No empire builders. This team needs to be free of the people who failed to date. Get the right people and (mostly) go with their advice.

euthanasia campaign in nsw

Unlikely to inspire new supporters.

3. No wheel reinvention is required – just a great website, constantly updated, eMarketing, social media, surveys, media coverage, public events type campaign. That’s a lot of work by the way and even more work if it is to be done well.

4. Find the money. Anyone claiming that this cannot be afforded should read this next sentence. It could easily be afforded. Ask the public to crowd-fund $300,000 for a three year campaign and we daresay you’d get it.

5. Consider adopting the term euthanasia – it’s simpler and less twee. “Marriage equity” and “equal love” have never been as popular as “gay marriage”.

6. Be obsessed with numbers – of supporters, email subscribers, donors, followers. The more you have, the more you can do. How many years have you existed? How many people on your database? You should have 200,000+. Remember that there are 19 million adults in Australia.

how to market voluntary euthanasia

Even PETA has a lighter side.

7. Stop being so worthy. Campaigns about serious matters can still look good, have some wit and thus attract more people. Nobody wants to read drab, text-dense emails.  Even campaigners such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) which is hardcore as it comes, occasionally opts for the silly and the sexy.  Have some pride and panache – campaign as slickly as every other cause and consumer product. Lose the conferences and symposia – put that energy reaching NEW people.

8. Remember – your campaign must emphasise that euthanasia is all about the individual. In this case – letting the individual die without excruciating pain and meaningless, invasive undignified treatments when all hope is gone. No other product on the market can offer that. Have you noticed how entirely selfish and comfort-driven we have become as a society? How we fear and detest death? Guess what – these trends work in your favour – exploit it!

Forget talk of “civil rights” – that was America in the 1960s. We DO NOT HAVE any history of a civil rights movement the way the USA does. (Most of that country ain’t got euthanasia neither.) The term “human rights” is a turn-off. Do not use it. It hasn’t worked for the asylum seeker cause and it won’t work for you.

social marketing issues in Australia

Unscientific, subjective but pretty much accurate. Why do issues with such low relevance make so much impact? The secret is in the marketing.

9. Existing groups need to give up their state-based powerbases and unite. Forget the dreary websites, the lack of media connections, the uncohesive approach. The approach needs to be national. The more streamlined and cohesive the better. We’re sick of seeing good ideas and skills fail to spread.

10. Media is generally very sympathetic in its coverage of your issue but never ever allow a story like this one again. It made a Aina Ranke’s sympathetic case study less sympathetic. Ms Ranke speaking in the article:

“Tomorrow I have a Home Care lady who I adore. She is a beautiful young woman. She comes to clean and hang out my washing. And then she comes back a few hours later to bring the washing in. So what I plan is for it to be nice and quick and I will time the taking of it [the Nembutal].

“I will ask her what time she will be back and I will take the barbiturate in enough time, so that I can be deceased when she arrives,” said Ms Ranke.

Does the Home Care woman know of this plan? “No, I am not telling her. I have written her a note asking her if she can forgive me for having to find me in this predicament on her shift.

Those who left comments on the article did not like this idea at all. Even worse – the plan didn’t pan out as intended. Certainly not the image you wish to portray.

Note: since the original posting we have re-written point 10 to add clarity and lose the “loony left” phrase.  That was unhelpful.

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Copywriting advice: the devil is in the detail

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Some copywriting advice for scribes everywhere: the devil is in the detail.

copywriting advice

The magazine needs to place itself in our shoes.

Squiggle brought to our notice the advertisement for New Scientist magazine on the left. He was half way through renewing his subscription when he noted something missing. It’s a fairly important detail for a prospective purchaser, canine or human: the number of issues one receives in exchange for one’s money. Is it monthly or weekly; meaning 12 or 52 editions a year? Thus the cost per edition could range 400% or so – not conducive to sealing deals and very off-putting. Confusion creates friction and friction kills conversion.

Unfortunately nonprofits perform far worse than corporates in this regard. We are constantly flabbergasted at how few nonprofits provide sufficient detail for prospective clients, customers, volunteers et al.

copywriting advice

New Scientist has chronicled Squiggle's search for the elusive Higgs Boneson particle for years. It's often referred to as the "Dog particle".

Here’s something you can do right now to assess your copywriting performance: look at the program / services pages of your website and see if readers told about:

Cost? (We constantly note that free services fail to mention that they are free!) How can I pay – upfront, installments? What about discounts?


Timings and structure of services. (Six 90m meetings with a maximum of 12 people over 10 weeks etc). We often see start times without a stated end time – this can be vital for those with other responsibilities or needing to arrange a lift. Simple concerns can be addressed via straightforward details.

Application process (do I need to be referred from my GP or do I just turn up?) How am I informed that I can attend / participate?

Who the service is designed for? (Is this something for unemployed men aged over 50 like me or is it for people I hate?)

The telephone number I need for more details?

Parking & transport details – how do I get there?

What exactly happens at the service? Will I be taken aside for a long induction process? Will I be introduced to anyone? How does this work? NEVER underestimate how introverted people are. We don’t put ourselves in strange situations willingly. Make your situation less strange via lot of detail.

copywriting workshops in melbourne

One day to boost your skills and expand your horizons.

Fill in these details and you’re on your way to a better website, better SEO and fewer grumpy, confused readers. Imagine how much better your copy could be if you attended Copy Savvy 101 June 17?

Find out how a guinea pig embodies good copywriting.


Reading list April 23, 2014

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Semi-regularly we gather together a collection of worthwhile marketing-related reading material. Consider it a mixed bag of lollies for your mind. Enjoy.

We’re guessing that a Sunday paper conducting a hatchet job on your charity would be your worst nightmare. Well this charity discovered that the ending can be a happy one – and financially rewarding. As in 1000%+ rewarding.

Singapore tourism commercial

You'll wish they never met.

Many fundraisers and business developers invest time taking people on tours of their operations. This is a guide as to how to do it well.

If you enjoy reading our thoughts we suggest you add some of these 50 marketing blogs to your daily investment in professional development. We read them all daily. Honestly.

Gosh, for such a sophisticated nation Singapore really does churn out some cringe-worthy tourism and government commercials.

And just because this is such a cool way to end an interview. This is a treat and takes exactly 20 seconds.

F%$* the Poor. When should you opt to shock?

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A few recent nonprofit marketing campaigns have given us pause to consider: is it best to gain attention even if it means losing a few delicate souls? Or is it wiser to tread carefully and continue to gently court favour from your audiences?

Both approaches have merit, though the conservative approach is in the overwhelming majority. Why? Because people in charge are terrified of offending people. They don’t want to stand out, make enemies or create headaches. Courage in the nonprofit marketing world is in short supply. Those in charge shy away from approaches deemed too intense, confronting, high-falutin or divisive.

fuck the porr campaign

We swear this billboard is in a good cause.

The good folk at UK’s Pilion Trust are made of sterner stuff and partnered with mega-global communications giant Publicis to create a video destined for controversy  – and lots of free media coverage.

Faced with typical nonprofit marketing restrictions; small budget, unsexy cause, no celebrity support and a crowded marketplace, Pilion Trust flicked the switch to ‘shock’ with its F#$@ the Poor video. Behind the swearing is a clever concept or premise: people offended by bigotry towards the poor; who claim to advocate for them; who challenge the sign-wearer were also very slow to lend financial assistance when politely asked. In other words – talk is cheap; put your money where your mouth is.

Were people offended when the video was released. Yep. But who cares? As Savvas Panas, the chief executive of the Pilion Trust, said: “We understand that some may be shocked by this footage. We are more offended however, that people across the United Kingdom are living in adverse poverty.” Nice line.

social marketing campaigns

There it is in black, white and red. Deal with it.

The Every Australian Counts campaign didn’t hold back when it released this message via social media and beyond. No swearing, but no punches pulled either.

Some thoughts on a good campaign:

1. No attention = no impact. It’s that simple – if you don’t grab the attention of all those busy, bored, self-interested,  Facebooking, fast-food dining, tired and dispassionate souls out there you will stand no chance to win them over with your carefully crafted messaging and heart-lifting imagery. Of course impact needn’t be created by hard-hitting approaches. Humour and absurdity make an impact too – though it’s far harder to get right.

Social marketing campaign

High-concept but heart-breaking.

2. Hard-hitting / high concept campaigns get to more people via the media coverage they inspire, than via the channels of the actual campaign. That’s a HUGE boost to your bottom line and campaign reach. How much is a page 8 pic and story worth to you? What if the coverage is similar to that given to Save the Children UK’s latest (stupendous) effort?

3. You win some, you lose some. Any true supporter will overlook their offence. Those who sever ties over some offensive word, nudity or an approach weren’t real supporters to begin with. Your chief concern should be igniting the supporter base which will otherwise sit dormant. Beyond that you want to pique the interest of new folk.

4. Put complaints in perspective. Nonprofits are v ery sensitive to criticism from stakeholders and the public. If you ever get the chance to unleash a campaign that is likely to cause a stir, have an understanding that a few negative comments is just that – a few negative comments. The I Wish I Had Breast Cancer campaign surely upset thousands.

Live export eMarketing campaign

Tough to look at. Tough to ignore?

5. Change hurts. Going from business-as-usual marketing to hard-hitting or confronting is not easy. The reason for your change in approach may have to be explained to your tried and trusted supporters, especially the V.I.Ps.

6. Consistency matters: A bad-assed campaign belongs to a bad-assed nonprofit. If you can’t deliver on the tone you set, don’t assume the tone. Animals Australia (on the left) hits hard but that’s exactly what we expect from them. BTW please spend 2m to support the campaign here.


Ice breaking, trust building, show offing

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Brett de Hoedt will act as facilitator of a networking / ice-breaking session at a conference of the Anglicare Australia flock in September at the Hilton on the Park. The session aims to mix and mingle the audience which is gathering from across the far-flung nonprofit’s operations.

Brett has pledged to network the audience and build trust without the aid of laughter therapy or human pyramids. The theme of the day is: “Strength to strength, ideas that transform.”

facilitator in Melbourne conferences

What that 7.7%'s beef?

Brett – who emcees and speaks at such conferences across Australia – will also deliver a 90m session for newer professionals looking at career-building communications skills.

A similar session he recently delivered to young professionals for LG Pro received favourable reviews as measured on the left.

Stay in touch. We mean it.

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Advice on staying in touch, growing email databases and content marketing.

A recent trip to the Hootville post office box uncovered a quarterly alumni magazine from a secondary school attended for eight months several decades ago. The next day a quarterly appeal letter from a hospital appeared. Brett had spent three hours at the hospital six years ago, two of those hours unconscious. Despite the historic and transactional basis of the ‘relationships’ the school and the hospital act like it has a bestie in Brett. They do not but they are staying in touch anyway. That’s good marketing.

email for marketers

Once you come into contact, never let them go. Even if they have the United States of America to run.

The erstwhile marketers at these institutions (both private, elite operations in search of money) know that it’s easier to keep a relationship alive (no matter how weak) than start a new one with a stranger. Once a well-marketed organisation comes into contact with someone, they never let them go. At least not until the recipient severs the relationship.

An important question – think of all the people who came into contact with your organisation over the last three years. We’re talking about clients, ex-staff, students, those who attended events, called the helpline, volunteered, inquired about employment or made a donation. We’re talking about reasonably significant contact. Add all the fellow professionals met along the way at conferences or during joint projects. Now add politicians, bureaucrats and journalists you’ve dealt with.  

What percentage of these people do you regularly contact? 

If your answer is less than 75% you need to read this. Hell, read it no matter what your answer but if your answer was below 40% we really need to talk but don’t feel bad – we recently trained a VET education provider and a secondary school each of which kept in contact with 0%.

It’s easy to presume that once met, you’ll never be forgotten. That ain’t so. Even donors who specifically choose to support you can forget about you. Former casual staff can forget to recommend you to the right people at the right time. For event attendees, clients, journalists and fellow professionals the truth is that you will quickly be forgotten if you don’t make the effort – and have the confidence – to stay in touch.

Some rules about staying in touch:

You needn’t stalk people but less than four contacts a year is probably too few. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder.

You needn’t overwhelm people when you make contact – a quick light touch is enough.

Do not worry about annoying people – people who deliberately cut off contact with you for ‘over-communicating’ were unlikely to be true supporters anyway. Organisations with something to say, pride and a desire to gain influence communicate.

More on over-communicating:

Content marketing

The NAB know you want to hear from them.

Does anyone here think that the marketing team at NAB worry that they will be over-exposed? People HATE banks, are FORCED to use them, are LOCKED in to banks due to mortgages and direct debits yet NAB will STILL find new and expensive ways to stay in touch. You will never hear its marketing czar say: “Well we’re a household name, we have 4200 branches, TV, print and radio advertising, an online team, sponsorships of sporting teams and entire competitions and we mail out 1.2 million pieces of direct mail a week. Maybe we’ll ease off a bit.”

Nor should you.

What’s the best way to stay in touch on a light but regular basis? You want an option that is cheap, quick to execute, effective, measurable and effective. Social media? Good luck with that – are you really going to get everyone to follow you on Facebook? Anyway you know from previous posts that Facebook HATES spreading your content to the people who like you. Twitter? Puh-lease – most people aren’t on it anyway. Direct mail is an option but it is costly and doesn’t allow you to see who reads your content. And putting together a print publication is usually a saga akin to childbirth. Maybe you could telephone them but that can seem intrusive and is labour-intensive.

Nope – this is a job for email – affordable, simple, measurable and commonly-used email which brings us to our next question:

For what percentage of people do you have email addresses? If it’s less than 80% you need to look at how you gather email addresses. 

how to build email list

There are many ways to grow the base.

The graph on the left is compiled by Marketing Sherpa and shows how your fellow marketers gain and grow their email database.

Far and away the winner is “registration during purchase” which means that as part of the process of buying / registering / booking an email was provided. (Airlines are great at this.) Do you ‘encourage’ this during your transactions? And does the marketing team get access to the emails?

You can have a artfully designed template, attention-grabbing copy and offers a-plenty but your eMarketing efforts will never live up to their potential unless you actively seek to grow your database. Databases need a champion. Growth should be publicly measured. Marketers are excited to see growing Facebook likes and Twitter followings but email databases can stagnate with little loss of face.

Content marketing

One strange omission from table is “content marketing” by which we mean that an email is gained as part of the process of a website visitor downloading a resource – often a free eBook or whitepaper. This form of content marketing represents a HUGE opportunity for organisations such as yours which has expertise, credibility and a mission to help. And as we said – people are only  too willing to give an email address as part of an exchange in which they see value. Why give away your fact sheets without an email in return?

content marketing advice

You have knowledge. Offer something of value. Watch the emails stack up.

You can’t depend on people registering themselves on your website. At best this will be a slow trickle. You need to lure people into adding themselves and free, helpful, practical, quick-to-read content is a great way to do it. Content creation is hard but can be outsourced. And remember that the right content can be luring new subscribers to your databases for years.

Consider list-based documents such as:

  • 12 ways to…
  • 7 mistakes to avoid when…
  • How to…
  • So you’ve just been diagnosed with…
  • Subject X – the facts.
  • An introduction to…
  • Meet 9 people just like you.
  • The combined wisdom of last year’s class.

Be helpful, not boastful. Be visually appealing, with images, graphs and captions. Make content easy to read with less text and simple summaries. 12 pages is plenty. An alternative to a publication is a on-demand webinar or slideshow.


Stay in touch.

Use mass email to stay in touch.

You should get the email addresses for 90% of the people you contact over a given year. Find ways to achieve this – send people pre- and post- surveys or questionaires. Send receipts and notes via email. Take bookings and payments online. Just ASK.

Send short, sharp, useful email contacts.

Accelerate database growth by offering content in exchange for an email address.

Finally: the Hootville Lowdown is an example a short, useful email that keeps an organisation in touch. Trust us – it works. Now for goodness sake – if this story was any use to you, please share it.