He was a prolific writer and advertising pioneer, perhaps best-known for co-founding legendary ad agency BBDO in 1919 and creating the industry of “Madison Avenue advertising” (i.e. Mad Men).
But as far as I know, he never wrote a popular book about copywriting, unlike his peers Claude Hopkins, John Caples, David Ogilvy, etc. So perhaps that’s why he stays under-the-radar and little-talked about… even though he’s responsible for some of the best marketing campaigns of the 20th century.
Below, you can download a sales letter he wrote in 1925 that got a 100% response rate and raised at least $366,000 (adjusted for inflation) for a college he studied at as a younger man.
Here’s Bruce Barton’s “Berea College Fundraising Letter”…
For your convenience, the lead is written below and you can download the full sales letter here.
Dear Mr. [BLANK],
For the pas three or four years things have been going pretty well at out house. We pay our bills, afford such luxuries as having the children’s tonsils out, and still have something in the bank at the end of the year. So far as business is concerned, therefore, I have felt fairly well content.
But there is another side to a man, which every now and then gets restless. It says: “What good are you anyway? What influences have you set up, aside from your business, that would go on working if you were to shuffle off tomorrow?”
Of course, we chip in to the Church and the Salvation Army, and dribble out a little money right along in response to all sorts of appeals. But there isn’t much satisfaction in it. For one thing, it’s too diffused and, for another, I’m never very sure in my own mind that the thing I’m giving to is worth a hurrah and I don’t have time to find out.
A couple of years ago I said: “I’d like to discover the one place in the United States where a dollar does more net good than anywhere else.” It was a rather thrilling idea, and I went at it in the same spirit in which our advertising agency conducts a market investigation for a manufacturer. Without bothering you with a long story, I believe I have found the place.
This letter is being mailed to 23 men besides yourself, twenty-five of us altogether. I honestly believe that it offers an opportunitiy to get a maximum amount of satisfaction for a minimum sum.
Let me give you the background.