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Remembering Gary Halbert (Copywriter)

Gary Halbert (1938-2007) was considered by many to be the greatest copywriter of all time. The “Prince of Print” was just shy of his 69th birthday when he passed away peacefully in his home in Miami Beach, Florida. He was survived by two sons, Kevin and Bond, and by a generation of copywriters and direct marketers who considered him their mentor, whether they knew him in person or through his website, newsletter, and many personal appearances.

According to the video interviews below, he has one sales letter that was mailed to over 600 million people generating over much more than $58 million.  This is the most mailed sales letter in the world.

Early Business Ventures

A Florida native, Gary started out in the marketing business in 1968, when he owned a company (Halbert’s Inc) that sold coat-of-arms and family crest research reports. The letter he wrote to generate sales for that company became the most widely mailed letter of all time. Sent to over 600 million people, the letter ended up creating a multi-million dollar business. With this letter, Gary discovered the true power of his copy-writing skills.

His next venture was a company called Good News, Inc. located on Madison Avenue in New York. The company sold self-help books with titles like How To Get What The U.S. Government Owes You and How To Rob A Bank Without A Gun. When Gary wrote a single ad for one of the books for Parade magazine, the company grossed over $200,000 in immediate sales. The company eventually grew to net a million dollars as a direct result of Gary’s ads in Parade.

The Hollywood Years

After living in New York for awhile, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began to write for TV ads. He also did some of his most well-known and lucrative work for the actor Ernest Borgnine and his wife Tova when he helped them grow their struggling cosmetic company from $20,000 to $800,000 per month. His copy persuaded 7,000 people to attend a marketing event for Tova’s new perfume at the Century Plaza Hotel in Hollywood. While he lived in Los Angeles, Gary worked for many famous clients and wrote copy for 2-minute TV ads and infomercials. Other famous clients included award-winning actress Nancy Kwan and Vicki LaMotta, model and wife of “Raging Bull” Jake LaMotta.

Other Success Stories

Some of the other success stories that feature prominently in Gary’s own tales include a postcard he wrote for weight-lifter George Zangas. For every $100 George invested in mailing the postcard, it generated sales of $1000. Another example is an 8-page letter for financial adviser Howard Ruff’s newsletter Ruff Times that doubled the newsletter’s subscription base. His letter for Computer Amusement Systems, Inc. (CASI) earned that company $10 million in profits.

Advice For Copywriters

After years of turning his clients’ businesses into gold, Gary was able to become highly selective of the clients he was willing to take on. This allowed him to spend more time on his newsletters and appearances, in which he shared the secrets of his Copywriting success with other copywriters. Although much of Gary’s work involved direct mail, which has now been overshadowed by the internet, his advice is still vital to today’s online marketers. He emphasized the importance of getting the message read by its intended audience, building a relationship in order to “seduce” the target, building one’s own credibility, avoiding hype and tricks, and above all, writing with passion.

Writings

Gary’s newsletter archives can be found online, and a collection of letters written to his son Bond has been published as The Boron Letters. Bond recalls tagging along with his father to seminars and high-level meetings because Gary wanted to pass on everything he knew about business to his son. When Bond moved to Boron, Gary continued Bond’s education by sending marketing advice and life lessons through the mail. For young copywriters and direct marketers, these writings are a valuable legacy.

Links/Resources

Archive of his newsletters: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/newsletter-archives.htm

Videos

 

 

 

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