Long John Silver On Writing Ads

Long John Silver on writing ads

The whole particulars of a talk with an old time
advertising copywriter and marketing cap’n

By: John Kuraoka

“So you be wanting a word with Long John, you say, about copywriting and such. Well, then, nobody more welcome than yourself, I say. Sit you down and hear the news. I tell you, I’m not a boasting man, and you see yourself how easily I keep company; but when I was a copywriter, lambs wasn’t the word for my old crew. I seen a thing or two, I have, and know the course I lay. If you would on’y lay your course alongside o’ John, you would ride in carriages, you would.

“How to write as gentlemen o’ fortune should, you ask? Ah, you always was brisk for business. Why, have these rules to heart, as I, and you’ll write ads fit to sink with gold.

“Here be the four p’ints – like cardinal p’ints on the compasscard, they are – of what you might call a plan of an ad:

  1. Appraise your quarry
  2. Rouse their interest
  3. Reel ‘em in alongside
  4. Relieve ‘em of their booty

“Mark you here by this handy memory-device: ARRR – Appraise ‘em, Rouse‘em, Reel ‘em in, Relieve ‘em. You try saying it yourself: ARRR! ARRR! There! You be sounding like a right fierce gentleman o’ fortune, you is, as like I never had dealings with.

“Now, I thinks gold dust of you – gold dust, and you may lay to that! I’ll speak to you plain an’ answer these four p’ints one after another.”

Appraise your quarry

“What’s that, you say? Go straight to numbers two and three with some cut and rip creative? That be the bold way, and the fashion these days, to be sure. But it’s not Long John’s way. Why, how many Fast Companies, think ye, have I seen laid low? And how many brisk lads marooned high and dry, and they with their pension plans all bungled? And all for this same hurry and hurry and hurry.

“Know your quarry, I say, first and last; keep ‘em in your deadlights, lay your course, and stay it. Dooty is dooty, shipmate. Take your bearings, and when you know who they are, and what manner of people they be, why, let her rip. And if you find that in the creative lies the more pleasuresome dooty, you’ll thank old John for getting you close by enough to make it count.”

Rouse their interest

“Now to number two – get you your quarry’s attention and grip it tight. Now’s the time for your cut and rip creative! I would set no limits to what gentlemen might consider shipshape, or might not, as the case were. Cut loose of custom, and cut loose of yourself. Ah, that’s work to put the shakes upon you, cutting loose of yourself!


“What’s to your fancy ain’t worth a biscuit – it’s what’s to your quarry’s fancy that does it. You’ll make a note of this here about cut-and-rip – sometimes you thrust, sometimes you slash, and sometimes you parry. And all times, you hold your quarry’s eyes on that edge, that competitiveedge, in a manner of speaking.”

Reel ‘em in alongside

“Once your quarry is watching, that’s when you have to be careful. To write sweet copy, you’ll work hard and you’ll speak soft. I’m all for argyment; I never seen good come out o’ threatening. Nor lying neither. You can’t touch pitch and not be mucked.

“‘Tain’t rousing now, it’s reeling seals it, you may lay to that. Lead your quarry along hand over hand. Take it slow, lad, slow, for they might break from your argyment in a twinkle of an eye, if it was seen to hurry. At the end, you don’t want none of those doubts a-rising, unlooked for, like the devil at prayers. Gently, gently, you lay ‘em athwart.”

Relieve ‘em of their booty

“Now you’ve broached ‘em to, fetch ahead and get those doubloons!

“Them’s the rules, and that’s my story and how I did my possible in spite o’ fate or fortune, say I! Ah, you that’s young – you and me might have done a power of good together. Here’s to ourselves, and hold your luff, plenty of prizes and plenty of duff.”

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Phone and fax: (619) 465-6100
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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
San Diego, California

Long John Silver on rebranding:
“I think there be too much of this skylarking, flying first this flag then that. Flint’s old Jolly Roger – that what made a man’s blood run cold when he seen it run up and he knew his own time was run out – might have had what you call a brand repytation, but it were the cannon and cutlass what brought in the booty. Bring in enough booty, and there’s your repytation for you! I never seen good comed of changing names to companies. Now, what a brand was christened, so let it stay, I says.”

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