Gil-Ad Schwartz

 

“Takes the science of writing persuasive advertising that SELLS for any product or service, and makes it simple.”

Scott Murdaugh,
Marketing Strategist
Springfield, MO
MakeStuffSell.com

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“Gil-Ad Schwartz could very easily become the next Gitomer for the Advertising world. His style brings to the forefront common sense that relates direct to profits.”

Kim Kalan,
VP Marketing & Sales
Route 29 Caramels
Golden Valley, Minnesota

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“I’ve long said that the best copywriters also make great teachers, with that rare ability to make key points so clear and easy to understand -- they seem obvious... Gil-Ad Schwartz proves that point, presenting deep concepts with a practical, easy-to-grasp approach.”

Alan Carr, Author,
Carr’s Copywriting Checklist for Professional Copywriters

Why would you
listen to me?

Have you ever seen a TV show where the police bring in a “civilian consultant” to help them solve the crime?

This “civilian consultant” is almost always someone who’s unconventional… difficult to take seriously… psychologically disordered to a greater or lesser extent… and yet — despite all this — breathtakingly effective when it comes to getting results.

That’s me.

I don’t have an advertising background. I don’t have an MBA or a degree in marketing and communications. I don’t have years of experience in PR or in sales.

What I do have is Major Depressive Disorder, severe AD/HD, and an IQ of 180. I have problems with authority. I barely made it through my undergraduate degree at Oxford. I’m impulsive, I work mainly on intuition, and I hate it when people ask me to explain and justify my decisions.

Now:

I’ll be the first to admit – it’s not the image that naturally springs to mind when you think, “I’m looking for someone I can trust with the future of my business.” I understand this. You might ask how I could possibly justify not merely offering, but also charging quasi-obscene prices for, professional advice. To answer that question, here’s a brief explanation of how I came to know what I know — my “origins story,” for want of a better term. It goes something like this:

When I was about 13, I realized I was always going to be self-employed. It wasn’t so much a decision; more of an acknowledgement of something I’d known all along — or, at least, ever since I was old enough to understand what life after school entailed. You see, I wanted control of my fate. I wanted to know that both my successes and failures were of my own making. I certainly wasn’t going to outsource that kind of responsibility to some other person, who for all I know might be apathetic or incompetent or both.

In December 2008, seven years later, I took a break from my law degree at Oxford. My depression had gotten far too severe for me to function in an environment as inherently stressful as the pressure-cooker that is Oxford University. So I went home, to my parents in Israel, and collapsed from exhaustion. At the time, I couldn’t see myself ever returning to complete my studies.

Although I was weak and burnt out, life as a chronic dependent was not quite what I had planned for myself. I decided that it was time to prepare for my destined entrepreneurial career. My father had always taught me that, in business, “to buy is easy, but to sell is hard.” This is why advertising — selling on a large scale — looked to me like a valuable skill to cultivate.

And cultivate it I did.

For the next 18 months, I followed a simple plan: learn from the best. Not from academics, but from professionals — people who were out in the real world, and whose teachings had to withstand the acid test of reality. I read their books. I studied their instructional DVDs. I was still far too weak physically to attend their seminars in person, but, where recordings of seminars were available, I bought those instead.

Because I had no friends in Israel, and neither the capacity nor the inclination to make ones, the study of advertising became the sole focus of my time. I had no social life. I went on no dates. In many ways, it was like being a monk — isolated and devoted to meditation.

And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I “meditated” on advertising. I spent hours upon hours reflecting on what I’d been taught. You see, my mentors (if they can be called that) were brilliant copywriters… but not necessarily the best of teachers. The way they explained things often made it difficult to understand what was really going on in their heads.

Gaining a blurry, “good enough” grasp of how advertising works was not for me. I wanted clarity.

For this reason, it was common for me to spend an entire afternoon lying on my bed, bouncing a concept around my mind for two or three straight hours, trying to get it to make absolute sense. It was painful and frustrating, but — sooner or later — I’d suddenly see things from a new perspective. And, like a puzzle piece, the idea would fall neatly into place.

I repeated this routine, day after day, for close to two years. My own attempts at writing sales copy during this time were nothing short of pathetic, but every new seminar added another layer of depth to my grasp of the subject-matter. There eventually came a point where I’d go through a seminar and feel that I’d only gained very little in additional knowledge or insight. At first, this was disappointing. I’d gotten used to breakthroughs and Eureka moments, and I remember thinking to myself, “Why is this highly respected copywriter spending all his time on these really obvious foundational points?”

It took a couple more of these “disappointing” seminars before I realized what was going on. And even when it finally dawned on me, it took some time for me to get used to the idea. It had nothing to do with the copywriter: it was the quality of my knowledge that had changed. I could see the big picture. I’d internalized the key concepts. I had in my mind a reasonably clear map of what goes into persuasive advertising.

Of course, I couldn’t yet actually write a good ad, but I did feel that I had attained a certain intellectual mastery of the material. I relaxed a little. I came out of “obsessive-monk-study-mode.” And then the panic hit.

Great, I said to myself once I’d taken a step back, but how can I tell if all this theory really and truly translates into practice? How do I know whether or not my months of solitary study have given me anything that’s actually useful in the real world?

On the one hand, I wanted to see if I could stand the test of reality. On the other hand, I was well aware of the prejudices which would work against a clinically depressed 20-year-old with no certifications and no experience. I wasn’t about to start knocking on doors. What I needed was to find a place where I could be more or less anonymous… where I would know that the feedback I received would be directly based on my merits, not my age or my disability.

Once I started thinking in those terms, the answer was obvious. The hallowed institution of the Internet Forum beckoned.

I chose a forum for business owners which, at the time, was known for its credibility. The Copywriting section, where entrepreneurs displayed their ads for professional feedback, became my new virtual office. Between my self-doubt and low self-esteem, it was a slow start. I was cautious — perhaps overly cautious — but I was desperate to make a good impression on the other copywriters, and so at first I stuck only to the most manifestly deficient ads put up on display. I gave advice that was broad and tentative, and, even so, I did it almost apologetically.

At the time, many of the more established copywriters on the board had reputations which supported their four- and five-figure project fees. When their advice more or less aligned with mine, I felt victorious. My responses remained cautious, but they got increasingly in-depth.

Then, people started drawing attention to what I was saying. From time to time my advice prompted comments like these:

Gil-Ad, above, has given you one of the best, most appropriate and most helpful copy critiques I’ve ever seen…
Alexa Smith, Leeds, UK

Read Gil-Ad’s post again, it’s like a free college course in sales copy.
Will Atkinson, Texas

You are amazing in your copy, I love the [headline idea], that is light years ahead of what I had and that was just off the top of your head. Wow.
Edward W. Smith, MBA, New York

More than once, a 15-minute answer I gave was equated to a $200 professional critique.

You cannot possibly imagine what this did to my confidence. When these established copywriters started to praise my — my — comments and observations, I slowly allowed myself to feel a little more self-assured. I grew bolder, less hesitant, more willing to incorporate my own analyses into my critiques. My advice grew more and more detailed, practical, and focused.

When I was contacted privately and asked if I wanted to join a small, invite-only group of professional copywriters, I thought that perhaps I’d reached a point where I could justify charging money for my critiques.

My first client paid me $550 for an hour of consulting aimed at how he could get more leads from his website. I still remember how terrified I was when I sent him my report. My mind conjured up visions of scathing remarks and furious demands for a full refund.

The client indeed sent me an e-mail the next day — but it wasn’t to demand a refund. It was to tell me how impressed he was with my work, and how he considered his $550 extremely well spent.

I cried a little. Then, I poured myself a large scotch and raised my fees. In due course, I raised them again. The general consensus is that I still deliver outstanding value for money. As I later discovered, this was for good reason:

When I took GTW tests — which use real-world sales figures to assess the accuracy of your advertising advice — I outperformed a veritable Who’s Who of advertising experts. I’m talking about copywriters who have experience working under advertising legends such as David Ogilvy (at Ogilvy & Mather) and John Caples (at BBDO). Copywriters who hold sales records for multi-million dollar direct mail companies. Copywriters who charge close to six figures to write a single sales letter.

Can my technical skill in writing ad copy compete with theirs? Not by any stretch of imagination. To say that they outclass me in that arena would be a huge understatement.

But when it comes to analysis and creative problem-solving… when it comes to understanding why an ad succeeds or fails… when it comes to knowing what needs to be done to any ad to boost response to the highest possible levels… the test results suggest there are maybe — maybe — 20 people on the face of the earth who can match my track record of consistent accuracy.

And still:

I don’t myself claim to be an advertising expert. I used to hail myself an “expert” for quite a while… but, naturally, nobody bought it. Even I felt uncomfortable with the word. Only now, much later, I realize that I made a mistake. I never should have adopted the self-styled title.

I guess what I meant to communicate was that I had a thorough understanding of the subject-matter… that I could offer good, even excellent, advice to businesses in a wide range of tricky scenarios… that my professional errors in judgement were few and far between. I wanted to say, if you need more clients, then I can help you.

What I forgot to take into account was that the word “expert” connotes more than mere competence. “Expert” also suggests a high level of recognition and prestige, and a track record spanning multiple decades.

These things I cannot claim. All I can claim is Major Depressive Disorder, AD/HD, and an IQ of 180. That’s why I no longer profess to be an advertising expert. It’s much more appropriate, I think, to say that I’m an Advertising Civilian Consultant.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

“Gil-Ad’s advice is direct and actionable... His insights on salesmanship, customer- (not company-) focused ads and measurable results are refreshingly simple.”

Chris Williams,
MBA (Harvard)

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“Concise and credible... takes much of the confusion and clutter out of what good advertising is all about.”

Tim York, CEO
Unistraw Int’l Ltd
Sydney, Australia

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“The letter Gil-Ad wrote for us got a 6% response rate and brought in over £23 for every £1 we spent on the mailing. It is -- by far -- the most successful fundraising package in the club’s history.”

Philip Young,
Secretary 2011-13
Oxford University
Pistol Club

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“[15-minutes of advice] like a college course in sales copy.”

Will Atkinson
Texas-based online entrepreneur

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“You are amazing in your copy, I love the [headline idea], that is light years ahead of what I had and that was just off the top of your head. Wow.”

Edward W. Smith, MBA
New York

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