Episode #188 – David Deutsch On How An A-List Copywriter Gets Inside Your Mind And Persuades You

by John McIntyre

A copywriting living legend returns to the podcast.

If you go back to Episode #44, David gave great advice on “Hot Button” Emotional copy.

He’s on the copywriting Mount Rushmore…

he worked for the legendary David Ogilvy…

and he holds several current controls with big publishers.

How does he get into the mind of the prospect and learn what makes them tick?

David lays out several simple and easy ways to gain that insight.

His lifetime of experience makes learning from him straightforward and clear.

This episode is one to come back to again and again.

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • The “method acting” way to slip into your prospect’s shoes. (How to get into the deeper issues which make persuasion easy).
  • The one mistake copywriters make that kills the sale right from the start. (Make sure your copy stays in THIS form).
  • How to sharpen and tighten your copy today by creating this one thing over and over.
  • Shocking confessions of presidents and top salesmen. Get your copy sizzling from the start.
  • The often-overlooked strategy that has become the secret weapon of the smartest marketers.

Email Marketing Podcast Episode 152


Intro and outro backing music: Forever More by CREO

Hey everybody, welcome back to the podcast and today we have a very special guest I’ve been looking forward to for awhile
he is a legend and copywriting circles. Brian Kurtz, who we had on the show previously, refers to him as one of the Mount Rushmore of Boardroom copywriters. David Deutsch welcome to the show.

David Deutsch: Well thanks, it’s great to be here.

David Allan: Yeah, it’s really exciting to have you on the
show. This is a real pleasure and an honor.

David Deutsch: I appreciate that. I appreciate
that nice introduction.

David Allan: Well, you are a legend amongst copywriters and everyone who listens to the show a lot we have a lot of copywriters, of course we’ve had a lot of copywriters on
the show and some some famous ones as well but you’re seen as sort of that top A-list pinnacle so maybe let’s go back
to the very beginning and start with your superhero origin story. How did you get into this?

David Deutsch: well I got into it just I found myself working at an ad agency in New York Ogilvy and Mather – yeah the big one today one but I was just working there as a temp okay and I
just thought hey as long as I’m here or this advertising stuff looks pretty interesting maybe I could try my hand at
writing so I persisted a little bit and got a chance to do some copy got into you know full-time doing copy and that’s, that was the origin it was very unintentional like oh I’m here at Ogilvy
I guess…

David Allan: what was the culture like

working there well you know it’s funny

it’s like when you grow up in New York

City you don’t or you know like a fish

in water doesn’t really think of it as

being in water so you just sort of think

well this is what all advertising

agencies are like they’re founded but

they’re big they’re founded by a genius

you know they have a teaching culture

but it was you know it was very unique

because of that it was very much like a

teaching hospital you know okay it was

very important you know learning and

teaching and it was very

it was very you know you did things in a

certain way you know there were obese

you know rules for doing things and it

was great to have that that kind of

education especially that respect of

course for direct response that oba be

had right and you how did you have much

personal interaction with Ogilvy was he

around at all or were you mostly

interacting with some of the other

people I was mostly interacting with

other people although I did get to react

interact with him

nice that’s that’s excellent because

obviously he is a like yourself now he’s

a legend of copywriting everyone that’s

listened to show hopefully has read his

books and if not shame on you so take us

so who were the top copywriters working

for Ogilvy when you were working there

oh gosh you know at a place like that

you have creative directors you know

like john ray and was there some people

like that that that that oh my god

you’re taking me back many years it’s

just very interesting I think I’ve

always you know and so forth and it’s

sort of like he’s you know watch some of

his very popular video that everyone’s

that probably has seen of him talking

about direct response and so forth but

it’s interesting to hear somebody who’s

actually was you know around at that

time has insight into like what was that

like because we sort of we sort of look

back now and it has so much sort of

legendary status to it but like you said

I’m sure when you’re doing it just seems

perfectly sort of like Mad Men you know

about 10 or 20 years you know with that

you know not not so you know Mad Men was

kind of probably an exaggerated version

certain way anyway but it was kind of

like that you know the the the dynamics

of it oh gosh I was there for a couple

of years before I moved down to Richmond

and started working it you know well any

ad agency would be a smaller at agency

but you know working with small working

with smaller ad agencies which was kind

of fun because I got to do all the cool

stuff you know I got I got well and also

because I wanted to I suppose I could

have just been a writer but I kind of

liked buying media I kind of liked

except for the time I you know thought I

made like a $60,000 mistake on a

newspaper ad that we’re gonna have to

eat but it turned out I didn’t that’s

that sort of was you know it’s like I

don’t know if I want to do media anymore

but you know especially like going after

new business and all that stuff I just

found that a lot of fun so right now a

lot of copywriters it seems like I’ve

heard John Carlton talk about this a bit

and from having people on the show and

so forth it seems to bear out over time

with copywriters by and large seem to be

a rather introverted have a lot of

introverted people involved in

copywriting and would you consider

yourself introverted or you say you like

the media buying and the interaction

stuff what do you think no I’m a

high-functioning introvert okay I guess

it’s the best way to subscribe that I I

do pretty well I you know but then I

have to go and regroup and you know get

my get my energy back right but yeah I

enjoy that I don’t I don’t I I probably

like writing better in fact but I’m not

sitting in a room by myself writing but

when I’m with other people or at least

are other people next door I try to do

that whenever I can and work work more

you know partnering kinds of things

working with other writers or in fact a

lot of what I do now is kind of working

with other writers in terms of training

and creative directing or copy

supervising write things like that so

from the small ad agencies what was the

next step well the next step was

covering Jay Abraham okay that was like

hey I want to do this I want to I want

to be more involved with companies on a

different level so I set out to kind of

be a junior Jay Abraham and and help

people with marketing and you know get

know Gabe Jason was do you get give me

you and you know I try doing that a

little but I soon found myself I soon

found people were far more willing to

pay me money to write copy and that my

skills translated pretty well probably

largely thanks to David Ogilvy into

direct response so

I hooked up with John Finn who was kind

of a copywriters agent in California he

put me in touch with people like Jim

ruts I worked with Jim for a while with

this great great copywriter and got into

the whole world of writing for people

like boardroom and and and the big

publishers very nice so when you sort of

hit that level what was it like to go to

work for people like boardroom I mean

were you aware of them beforehand and so

forth that when you got first got

involved with them or was it’s just yeah

I had never never heard of I never

really heard a boardroom till I started

working with Jim I think nice and he was

working with them at the time yeah yeah

he’d been working with them for a while

Jim practically like invented the maggle

log I mean I think he literally may have

so working for boardroom what year was

that when you started at board remember

oh gosh you know the early 90s yeah I

think first project with Jim yeah and

you’ve gone on to etch quite a like you

said we said at the beginning at a

legendary status at least of Brian Kurtz

is mine for sure and in most people’s

opinion so how did you ascend to the

heights of the world oh that’s an

interesting question you know I think

just this sort of you know drayton bird

calls it this this feeling of never

quite being satisfied you know of always

feeling it could be better I could be


you know and as a conjurer learning I

kind of like learning things and

persuasion and copy and and putting

words together so I was pretty diligent

in terms of reading you know I read

Claude Hopkins when I was at Ogilvy cuz

over he said you should read Claude

Hopkins right so I took it out of the

took it out of the library I think I was

the first person to take it out in like

four years or something yes and so I

it’s it’s partly that I think partly a

lot of study and I think partly also

putting myself in a position to learn

from people you know working under Jim

ruts and and and working under Jim punky

and and

you know and people like that I think

because there’s in a way there’s really

no substitute for that you know you can

learn stuff from books and from meeting

people’s copy but to really have someone

look at your copy and tear it apart tell

you to go and do it over and tell you

okay this is you know finally what we’re

looking for and now were you in terms of

the some of the ways these mentors of

yours you know were they directly

teaching you or you know it’s sort of a

hands-on approach and saying like no

this is like you said like destroying

your copy and I mean you rewrite it or

wasn’t more of a company thing where

you’d pass it through and they would

change it so forth and then tell you

after or sort of how did it all work

yeah you know it’s an interesting

question because you know as a lot of

people didn’t really have or articulate

a philosophy right as I would have

expected they would you know it was more

like don’t be boring you know specially

gym but suitable and I think he’s ever

written a boring word of copy so it was

more like that it was more learning

right as you say from from what they did

to my copy because there’s nothing like

trying to solve a problem and then

seeing how someone else solved the

problem like it’s like oh I struck how

do I make this interesting and there

what about this is it no like this oh my

god that’s amazing and then you look at

it you know you deconstruct okay how did

they do this oh they did this you know

they they took it and they found a an

aspect of it I think bullet writing

helps a lot right um I’m a big fan of

that and I love to do bullets and I

think that was great training because

you could really see in a bullet you can

see what the template is yeah you know

what never to do what always to do ten

things to do the thing X that does why

you know what everyone’s doing and not

telling you how to add emotion it was

like a great little little training

round yes it just sharpened copy skills

you know there’s a thing in I don’t want

to go off on a long tangent but there’s

a thing in training in in learning

things which involves the idea of very

isolated learning like when you’re

learning soccer they found one of the

best way

to learn it is to put people in a really

small room and make them play soccer so

you’re like constantly being castable

and you’re constantly having to block

that makes sense yeah

and it’s so kind of like that with

bullets it was like constantly got it

made this clever got to make this work

got to make this interesting got to make

this interesting how do I take this and

make it interesting and so it was a

great you know a great training ground

for that because bullets are kind of

like a microcosm for the rest of the of

the copy you know there’s a fine line

between bullets and regular copy you

know you could say bullet what never to

eat on an airplane you say you know hey

I’d like to tell you a little bit about

something that may surprise you did you

know that there’s something you should

never eat on an airplane you know it’s

true and in this book I’m gonna tell you

what it is as well as many other things

that you should never do that could be a

bullet or it could be body copy or it

could be a headline mm-hmm yeah that’s

so true I think I enjoy writing bullets

myself and trying to figure out ways you

know to make them interesting and to

suck people into the what what could

that be about you know I remember

getting sucked into bullets myself

specifically ones I’m Gary Halbert had

written as I learned later and I just

thought to myself wow what is like I

think because I bought a bodybuilding

course when I was 19 and I like later

learned that Gary wrote the letter for

it right and I and I remember just I can

still feel it waiting for the package to

arrive and I was looking over the

bullets love what I then you know I

think we’re just this is what’s gonna be

in the product oh my goodness what you

know one thing never to do when you walk

into a gym or whatever it was but I

still remember that bullet so there’s

such power and those things and you know

it’s it’s it’s a powerful way to to

learn copy is to see how copy affects

you yeah because that’s that’s you don’t

need someone to look at your copy wait

wait you can feel does it does it

resonate with me and you can feel when

you can feel your own copy does it does

it resonate would it make me want to

want to buy this or want to read the

book that this bullet is from there’s a

famous story I’m I wish i

really knew who the guy was but I think

he was associated with the guy who wrote

The Wall Street Journal letter whose

name escapes me off the top of my head

oh yeah who is another writer who was

associated with him wrote the copy for a

book a product that was a book and when

the guy he gave it to the you know the

prot the owner of the business the owner

was like well this isn’t the book I I

wrote you know he’s like no this is the

book you should have wrote and then I

went back it changed it now have you

encountered some of those things and in

your lengthy copywriting career you’re

talking about

fuck you know like changing a product

yeah like when people come to you with

stuff I mean a lot of copying you’re

like and you do the obviously the

research aspect to find out all the

different details about it and so forth

then you think okay I wrote this cup

this is what it should be you know and

then I’ve gone back and changed the

product sorry that happened to me also

don’t forget you’re talking about offers

to so the the book may stay the same but

hey what about let’s add these bonuses

right you know and then that may be

something you can or the angle of the

copy itself you know the book is titled

a certain way or right now in terms of

what you’re doing nowadays now you don’t

have many controls yeah yeah how many

controls you currently have with the

that’s basically what you’re known for

though having these long-standing

controls yeah yeah if we include the

things I’ve kind of helped creative

direct or helped on then this probably

quite a few there’s maybe six or so Wow

you know that our mailing right now

that’s awesome and that’s sort of you’ve

course come from that Direct Mail world

and now we’re in the Internet age we’re

right directly else seems to be I mean

people still do it obviously but it

seems to have sort of it doesn’t have

that the sizzle or the or the sexiness

perhaps that had in the past where it

was the only option or one of the

options what’s your yeah that makes it a

good well that makes a good weapon I

think and you know Brian Kurtz probably

talked about this a little bit you know

the power of direct mail and

right how scalable it is you know

because when you find the thing that

works to a certain segment right yeah

you can find other names you know like

that whereas you try to scale something

on the internet it doesn’t quite work

because I don’t know the traffic costs

start to get up and up and costs more to

get keywords and etc etc yeah and and

also because people aren’t mailing

there’s a big potential right you know

it’s not so hard to stand out in the

mailbox all right it’s a can untap it’s

become an untapped resource for many

yeah so God’s sake don’t tell people so

now since you’ve been on both sides of

that you’ve been in the sort of Direct

Mail thing and now you’re in the

Internet age what have you noticed about

some of the copy you see you know

nowadays as opposed to when you I mean

basically when he was doing direct mail

you have to have a lot of skin in the

game almost to even send that copy out

yeah at least spend some money you know

and a good chunk chance or to get the

names or however you were doing it yeah

but nowadays you can throw something up

pretty quickly for copy out there being

tested and driving traffic to it what

have you noticed about how this whole

thing is involved well I mean there’s a

lot of aspects to that obviously just

because something’s on the Internet as

you say it’s not something that

someone’s willing this is really to put

a lot of money behind so you’ve

certainly a lot more junk right out

there on the other hand you doing it

right you also have a tremendous ability

to test very quickly and very rapidly so

there’s a certain copy evolve then you

know among smart people very very

rapidly right you put something up it

works you know this this much you make

some tweaks you try a new headline try

some new copy some new pictures new

graphic format and gradually you’ve

turned a single into a home run right

and you’ve let the market almost tell

you what the copy should be I mean you

got to be small enough obviously to know

what copy to write so they can choose

this one or this one but it is sort of

this Darwinian you know survival of the

fittest that’s that’s like speeding up

‘evil it speeds up evolution you know

like controls of oven direct mail and

get better and better but on the

internet they can evolve you know like

really fast

yeah the iterations are super fast

mm-hmm nowadays you said you’re mostly

involved as sort of you know copy

cheeping being sort of overseeing things

and so forth and working with other

writers now when it comes to getting the

best out of let’s say my own copy if

you’re the writer or if you’re hiring

writers because we have course business

people a listen to this show hopefully

it will get a copywriter to write their

their copy what are some of the ways I

know this is sort of stuff you’re into

nowadays what are some of the ways to

get the best copy out or at least start

with something that has potential I

think it sounds a little bit cliche but

it’s that it starts with an

understanding of the market you know and

and really on a deep level you know on a

level of what are these people want that

goes beyond you know someone wants to

make more money or someone wants to get

rid of their arthritis you know what

does it really like to have arthritis

what is it like to every time you go to

open a jar – like hesitate because it’s

gonna hurt to do that you know what does

it like not be able to pick up your

grandkids you know if you’re talking to

doctors you know what do they really

want you know what doctors want is

dividend from John Carlton really you

have to give him some credit you know

doctors are different from chiropractors

you can’t like if you’re doing practice


you can’t talk the same way to doctors

as you can to chiropractors can’t you

say make more money in your practice you

know doctors you know have a different

image of themselves not as not being

money-grubbing you know and they may

want more sanity in their life because

doctors are constantly pulled in 20

directions chiropractors I think think a

little more broadly than maybe about

retirement and they also they also

there’s a certain they want to have more

respect because they’re not considered

doctors so there’s that element of you

know how do you know how do you address

that you know in the copy that you’re

you’re writing to them and

all markets you know have that but you

know do you do the work of really

digging down there talking to people and

and and and looking you know it’s almost

like you got to just see beneath the

surface and some people are really good

at that like Chris Haddad and you know

John Carlton and if you read their copy

you can see how they’re talking to that

level beneath the surface right it’s

like pulling back the curtain and seeing

the wizard yeah yeah yeah it’s what

people they’re talking to what people

you know really want because they know

that somehow now what sort of things

could people do for those people who are

either aspiring copywriters just getting

started or people who are in the early

throes of a copywriting career what sort

of you know what sort of the best angles

to take on research where do you go you

know who do you who do you want to talk

to what are some of the steps that you

personally take when you’re starting

with something yeah gosh it’s many

things you know one of the best ways is

to get like the company’s best salesman

to sell you on the product right what’s

their sales pitch write it down

transcribe it um get the president of

the company to sell you on it you know

if there’s no salesperson or or someone

to really sell you directly like what do

they do what have they found talk to

customers talk to prospects what’s going

through their heads what kind of things

do they think about are they glad why

are they glad they they bought the

product what’s the how do they talk

about the problem how do they talk about

product you know people talk about

things in different ways you know to

people with diabetes talk about

themselves as diabetes sufferers do they

talk about high blood sugar do they talk

about their glycemic index do they talk

about you know what are they how do you

if you went on a forum and tried to talk

and you weren’t a you didn’t really have

whatever disease it was like they would

know pretty quickly by the way you talk

one so you don’t want to be that yeah

you want to be the person that could

talk about it in a way that that you

would fit in there so oh you know the

other thing too is you know the answers

are in

you you know you can you can it’s called

method acting in acting you know you sit

down get the chair close your eyes and

really pretend to be a person that has

whatever problem it is right pretend to

be a person with arthritis what would

that be like to go through the day like

that what would it be like to you know

be someone if you’re selling a business

opportunity well would you like to be

someone that’s making you know forty

thousand a year and trying to feed their

family and and feels like they want

something more but they don’t know quite

know how to get it you know what does

that feel like what sort of things do

they see around them you know do they

see a television that’s you know not a

big-screen TV because they can’t afford

that you know do they do they see a home

that’s not as big as they would like it

to be what are they feeling are they

feeling like they’re not as good a

provider or a husband not as good a

father as they could be because of that

some of the deeper issues that surface

level like you’re saying and what’s

keeping me from buying this product you

know if you really think about yourself

buying the product right why did you not

buy it you know it’s like I’m gonna look

stupid if I buy this and it doesn’t work

and my wife’s gonna say why did you pay

$200 for this product you know like

another product you’ve bought so many

products so you know and yes I know that

it works but would it work for me you

know a lot of times people leave out

that aspect of things right it’s like

this really works really works with all

these people that work for yes but

you’ve never addressed the issue of well

it works for me because I’ve tried all

these things and they haven’t worked it

I don’t know that I’m as smart as these

other people it’s worked for I don’t

know if I have the skills that these

other people had so and your copy has to

kind of talk about those things that’s

that’s great now with your current sort

of work with other writers what are some

of the most common things you see people

doing you know for lack of a better term

doing wrong leaving out you mentioned a

few of them there and what you just said

what are some of the other main yeah

because it’s usually over and over it’s

usually the same sort of stuff that

people are yeah

or missing it is you know it’s people

think of themselves as writers and they

sit down to write and they become

writers and they don’t realize that

they’re not writers they’re just trying


I hesitate giving you the word sell

they’re just trying to convince someone

to do something you know and instead

they go into this write early you know

it’s like what’s a way to get their

attention I got to tell them it’s a

killer you know thing to do and and when

in reality the answer to what they

should write is just what would you say

to someone that was sitting across from

you in a bar you know but you wouldn’t

say kinds of things people write and

copy these days kill their opportunity

to make you know you know you would be

more look Joe I know you’ve tried a lot

of stuff I you know this is you know

this is different it’s different because

it’s the first thing that you know gives

you this but it also does it in this way

you know a little bit of a hint of

mechanism to it you know that’s really

the biggest thing is just that read the

copy you wrote as if you’re reading it

to someone to the prospect and did you

feel ridiculous when you’re reading it

or do you feel like you’re really

talking to that conversation yeah yeah

so David what’s our projects do you have

of your own going on what are you into

like right now like if people want to

get a hold of you maybe they want some

information from you what do you got

going on and where should they go

well my website is David L Deutsch comm

d-a-v-i-d L and then de UT SCH calm and

you know mainly what I do these days is

I work with you know companies or

individuals helping them be better

writers you know either directly with

writers or with with a company that uses

either outside writers or they have

their own staff writers and I’ll do

training or I’ll do kind of copy

supervising or create you know creative

directing whatever you want to call it

right just kind of getting it up to the

next level and you know I just really

enjoy doing

that really like making other people’s

copy I’d rather work on 10 pieces of

copy with other people then do one piece

of copy on my own right very good

so yeah that’s great well you’ve really

really really delivered here today I

mean it’s awesome and thanks for coming

on the show by the way it’s been a real

pleasure again an honor to have you on

the show so glad we can we’re able to

arrange this my favorite subject now for

people who listen to the show I’ve

talked to everybody next week hopefully

someone even half as insightful and

entertaining as

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