The ad I wish hadn’t worked

May 26, 2022

I hated this ad I saw the other day.

I hated it SO much that I reached out to my client, the president of the company who had sent it to his list as an affiliate offer.

This ad represented, to me, one of the worst cases of preying on women’s insecurities to sell them a beauty product that I’d ever seen.

Now, I’m not kidding myself about what we do as copywriters and marketers.

The idea of selling “hope in a jar” is what the entire skin care industry is based on!

A big part of that is (usually) subtly speaking to women’s own insecurities as well as their hopes and dreams.

(And I admit…men can also be “victimized” by this kind of preying on insecurities in advertising for biz opp, hair loss, ED products, etc…but let’s face it, it’s much more prevalent with women.)

So here’s the basic premise/”hook” of the long-form sales page I found so offensive, which we’ll be taking a look later in this week’s issue of “What’s in Kim’s Mailbox?”.

The ad is for a skin care serum. The whole premise or “hook” at the beginning is a story is focused on a middle-aged mom, presumably representing the target prospect.

Her young adult daughter has been dating a guy for like a year, and he could be marriage material. The mom meets her daughter and her boyfriend for coffee, and it’s the first time he’s met the mom in person.

A week or so later, the daughter calls the mom crying. What’s wrong?

The boyfriend has broken up with her because he thought her mom looked “old” for her age…and how mothers age can be an indicator of how a future wife will age.

The mom gets upset, and the daughter is angry at her, saying “it’s all your fault” Then it goes on to talk about the skin care product, etc.

Yep, that’s the story.

But that’s not all of it. It went on to talk about how the woman in the story was lamenting about not getting enough attention and catcalls when she walked by construction sites, and other such nonsense.

And it’s an ad running right now, in 2019…NOT the 1950s!

As I’m about to explain, my fellow female copywriters and marketers who I went on to share this ad with were just as repelled as I was by the whole premise. As I wrote to my client, I was offended by the “hook”.

It was clearly written by a man. I mean, if my daughter told me her boyfriend broke up with her for this reason, I’d be like “Good riddance!”

But, we’re all professionals here. What we know is this: we are NOT our market.

Just because it hits me, a higher-income professional female with a graduate degree, and other women like me a particular way, doesn’t mean it won’t speak to a woman who’s more typical of the target market.

So just this morning, I posted the above ad synopsis (not the actual ad, as that’d be against the rules, nor did I reveal the product name) in a large Facebook group for parents (primarily moms are members) of high-school and college to young adult-aged children.

I figured this would be more of a typical sample of middle America, middle-aged women. I asked, without expressing my opinion, how the story sounded to them.

Did it resonate and seem believable?

Well, I wasn’t the only one this particular ad struck a nerve with…

Hundreds of women I shared it with were disgusted, too!

This simple synopsis of the “hook” I shared with you earlier on its own generated a huge and immediate strong, negative reaction. Within an hour of the post, more than 220 women had commented on it. Not one said, yeah I could see that.

Instead, I heard a boatload of comments like “hate it”, “ageist, sexist”, and “sick of this crap” (and even some really good ideas on how the story/”hook” SHOULD have gone, which I’ll get to in a moment).

Now, what people SAY and what they DO is, well, sometimes different. But we’ll get into more of that in a moment.

As I mentioned earlier, I also shared this ad in a women-only copywriter group right after I saw it a week ago. To say it got a strong negative reaction would be putting it mildly.

It erupted in such a passionate discussion, I spontaneously created a Facebook group focused on these kinds of “sucky” ads targeted to women, along with fellow copywriter and female marketing expert Lo Morgan. (We’re not really sure where we’re going with it yet, but if we decide to do more with it, I’ll share it here.)

Anyway, within less than 24 hours we had nearly 100 members that had joined the group…a mix of male and female copywriters and marketers, including several heavy hitters.

It didn’t take long for the copywriter (actually it was someone on his team) to be outed. We figured all along it was a guy.

Here’s basically how the discussion about the ad went there:

Women:”This ad stinks! I would never buy from something like this.”

Men: “If the ad’s working, what’s the problem?”

Well…aside from carrying on the negative stereotype of middle-aged and older women having their self-worth depend on how they look, and all the other advertising BS women of my generation (and older and younger) are completely sick of and seems completely out of tune with how many women feel these days…

I’m going to explain how I think this ad really missed the mark…and could have been stronger and resulted in even more sales.

Now, I can’t deny, based on the information I’ve gotten from the person who oversaw this promo himself, that it’s been a highly successful ad. In fact, it’s done gangbusters.

The original, somewhat bland (and presumably inoffensive) control, had a conversion rate of just 0.65% and generated just 86 sales.

This new ad–the one sparking all the outrage–had a 1.9% conversion rate and generated more than 5,200 sales in just 3 months.

Okay, by now I’m sure you’re dying to see this highly successful and (for pretty much every one of the hundreds of women I’ve now heard from) highly repellent ad. So let’s take a look at…

What’s in Kim’s Mailbox?

The ad I’m talking about is a long-form sales page for Lift Factor Plus

And no, it’s not for an ED product, even though it sounds like it could be. Although it was suggested by one clever (female) marketer that the same cockeyed story could be used that way…

My girlfriend dumped me because she knew my father suffered from erectile dysfunction….

When my father asked what the problem was I said…


So I went and took a good long look at my [male anatomy part] and remembered the good old days when women used to cat call me as I walked by the nail salon.

But we’re going to talk about the ad for Lift Factor Plus, the skin care serum. Here’s what comes up at the top of the sales page when you click on the above link..



Ok, I’m not “triggered” by anything here just yet…and I don’t think the target prospect would be, either.

And there’s a lot that’s working here. The mother and daughter look almost like they could be sisters. There’s a big main promise of erasing 20 years of aging in just 7 minutes, though it’s a bit unbelievable.

But what I think is really working well here is the curiosity that’s built in at the beginning of the headline: “How a woman’s crumbling relationship with her daughter…”


We’re all pretty gullible when it comes to relationship drama. And with one of our children it brings with it guilt and shame and all sorts of emotions.

So, pretty much any target prospect is going to have her curiosity aroused and want to hear more about the story, if not the product itself.

And granted, as repellent as I personally found the story (I’d literally have my daughter’s head examined, and maybe cut off her pricey college tuition, if she acted like this idiot daughter and talked me to that way)…

You. can’t. help. reading. it.

It’s almost like slowing down on the highway to gape at a bad car accident.

But, it’s extraordinarily well done, aside from a few confusing but minor inconsistencies about timing in the story.

There are even photos to go with each main “scene”. The whole story is unfolding, and you’re caught up in it before you know it.

Then, instead of abruptly ending and going into “marketing” mode, the story keeps going. It goes into the discovery of the breakthrough, the doctor behind it who’s oozing with credibility, and its unique mechanism.

And, of course, plenty of “before” and “after” photos, which are such crucial proof for any skin care product, or weight loss product, too.

Throughout it all, we still keep the original thread of the story that hooked the prospect in in the first place. There’s even a happy ending, with the mom and daughter repairing their relationship (thank goodness she doesn’t get back with the asshole boyfriend though!)

And this copy is LONG…longer than most typical long-form sales pages. Maybe 40+ pages.

It’s all proof that if you can compel your prospect to stay engaged with your copy and keep reading, the LONGER you can do so the more likely it is that they’ll buy.

So for me, one of the big takeaways from this ad, as much as I wish it hadn’t worked, is this…

Don’t just tell a story, dramatize it…have it tap into multiple emotions that perhaps aren’t even related to the product you are selling, along with hopes and fears that maybe your prospect isn’t willing or isn’t able consciously to admit to having…

And keep weaving that story thread throughout your promo in a way that keeps them reading longer… and the longer, the better.

How could this ad have been improved?

Ah…the $10 million dollar question!

We won’t know anything without testing.

However, I suspect that a lot of women may have gotten to the early part of the story when the guy dumped the girlfriend over the mother and said, “Enough!”

How many prospects did they drive away or repel with the ad?

Would a different story that didn’t insult the prospect have worked better?

Maybe something more empowering, painting a picture of the dream…

Of course, every good story needs some kind of conflict or drama in it.

So what if the daughter’s boyfriend had started hitting on the mom, because she looked so dang young after using this product?

Or maybe something else that has nothing to do with getting a man’s attention?

Because honestly, I might do my hair and make-up (at least some days), and it’s not strictly for my husband of 25+ years’ benefit.

There are so many other reasons why a woman wants to look as good as she may feel…to project her own inner confidence…

And I think, especially in today’s age–which is no longer the “stone age”–that’s a topic well worth exploring a lot further when it comes to writing copy targeting women.

I also suspect it could be quite profitable.

That’s all I’ve got for you today on this. Definitely a good conversation starter on Facebook (which I’m trying to stay away from today as I have a few deadlines to meet before I take off on vacation).

You may not hear from me a lot over the next few weeks, but I might pop up here and there.

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts about this ad, please reply back to this email. I’d love to hear them!

Yours for smarter marketing,



P.S. My recent interview with Vicky Fraser on her 1,000 Authors podcast just went live… and it’s a really fun one. We talk about everything from why female copywriters are way too nice to the screenplay and children’s books I’m working on now to tips on managing clients and everything in-between… plus what I’m grateful for and most proud of right now. Click the image below and take a listen!