Famous Artists Course Ad Breakdown

Famous Artists Course Ad Breakdown


Hey, this is Charles Polanski, with Chuck Ski Productions, breaking down another ad. This time we are going back in time again.

Online learning continues to skyrocket. The market reporting company Research and Markets projected e-learning to grow to $325 billion by 2025. But the COVID-19 Crisis has meant a massive migration to online learning, and Research and Markets now projects e-learning to total $499.1 billion in 2020! That is nearly five times what it was in 2015. (Sources: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2018/07/31/e-learning-climbing-to-325-billion-by-2025-uf-canvas-absorb-schoology-moodle/?sh=738bfda13b39 and https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/2832322/e-learning-global-market-trajectory-and#pos-1)

Let’s now look again to the past of online learning—a time before “online” existed. There were things called “correspondence schools” where you learn by receiving learning materials in the mail and corresponding to your instructors by completing tasks and tests.

One successful correspondence school was the “Famous Artist School.” Below is an ad that probably appeared in newspapers and magazines across the U.S.A. sometime around the 1950s. What lessons can we learn when doing ads for online learning in 2020?

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The first thing is the odd headline that leads with a quote broken up into three lines. They’re all done in different styles. The top is in all caps. The second line is in lower case but larger, emboldened lettering. Finally, the third is a mix of upper and lower case with an extra-large number 12 and an exclamation point.

The ad creator wanted to emphasize the second line; they must’ve known that many people were interested in an art career but never thought it was practical. The first line then lets you know it can be “fascinating,” and you don’t have to starve in poverty. The final line gives you how this is possible with the credibility of America’s 12 most famous artists that won’t just teach you art but how to make money at it.

The quote is from Norman Rockwell, who must be the most famous artist of the 12. He’s the only name I recognize. A photo of Norman doing an excellent illustration while smiling connects with his quote. He is called the “WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS COVER ARTIST,” so that is a bold claim, but many would agree with that statement at the time.

It isn’t 100% clear that he is the man in the photo, there could be a caption below it reinforcing that it is Norman, but many would recognize his face and see the illustration and know who it is.

The ad uses the social proof of having a stellar faculty of great artists who are making a great living. That proof is right in the name of the product, namely the “Famous Artists Course.”

They use the powerful buzzword “secrets” that still is powerful today. The benefits of being able to learn from home and in your spare time are powerful. These are things still emphasized by modern online course advertising.

They then include a free offer to get you on their mailing list and take you one step closer to buying the course. How can you pass up a “big, handsomely illustrated free booklet”! A cover photo of the booklet entices the reader who imagines having it in their hands. The power of a free introductory offer is used all over the world of online courses today.

The coupon you tear out emphasizes it is “FREE.” You only have to fill out four things. They ask for your age. That is a question you don’t often see. But it is a way to get some robust demographic data on your leads without overwhelming them with too many other requests.

There is much we can learn from the past. Something used 70 years ago still found in ads today should catch your attention. It is timeless.

One thing that stuck out in the ad that I don’t notice much now is the mix of font types, sizes, and styles used in the headline quote. A quote doesn’t need to be uniform. You can creatively tinker with the appearance to emphasize a part without tossing out the rest.