Gary Halbert Ad #9: How To Collect Social Security at Any Age

Gary Halbert Swipe FileGary claims this ad netted three quarters of a million dollars during its lifetime of ten or so years.

A classified version of this ad buried in the back of the Canton,Ohio newspaper supposedly led to numerous inquiries to the newspaper by its readers…and a request by the harried staff that Gary cease running the ad.

This full page ad appeared in many big city newspapers like the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, though with seemingly limited insertions.

Note the double coupon at the bottom of the ad.

The coupon on the left was forwarded by Gary to the Social Security Administration and the coupon on the right was for ordering the book: “How To Collect Social Security at Any Age.”

This seems like one of those cases in which a bundled offer hikes response appreciably.

Today, most of us here in the States get a little bit jittery anytime someone inquires about our social security number. Keep in mind, this was 1973 and identity theft wasn’t really a concern. So Gary’s offer was a convenient way to obtain this data in an unwired age.

One wonders if an analogous offer of government information could be made successfully today through print ads.

Here is: “How To Collect Social Security at Any Age.”

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  1. Dennis says

    i am wondering if this has worked for any of you that requested this book. Did you receive the money yet?

  2. Fabian says

    Such a no-brainer, straight to the point, simple but genius Ad by the Legendary Prince of Print himself, Gary Halbert.

    I love how this appealed to such a wide-range audience, the idea to have come up with this product itself is awesome, such vital information that way out-weighed the price tag, suppose this is why they say the is No buisnes like “Know” business!

    P.S The fact that most of the comments above are from people still asking how to order the book from the Ad says it all!

    -This website is critiquing this Ad for advertising educational purposes, not actually advertising the product on the Ad itself!

    lol, what power.

  3. Scott says

    Gary tells the story behind this book/ad in the newsletter called “The First Step…”, which contains a good lesson in ethics as well.

    He says he was in the SS office in Akron, Ohio, and saw the elderly people there treated like dirt by the staff.

    The SS check to some of these people literally meant the difference between eating dog food or not, so this concerned good Gary. He mentioned it to staff at the Akron newspaper, and they mentioned they used to print fill-out forms for Social Security. So Gary went to the research desk/library, and assembled together this book with all sorts of helpful information.

    Moral of the story: good business/marketing is based on SERVING people and HELPING them, as Gary did (Carlton mentions this too), not treating them as PREY like many low-class jackasses do.

  4. Lawrence Bernstein says

    Hi Scott,

    Yes, I agree, Gary had a good heart. He experienced enough setbacks and heartaches in life and this translated into a kind of compassion in his newsletters and ads.

  5. says

    How interesting that the first comments are all “how can I get this?” and “does this really work?”

    That, more than anything, demonstrates the timeless power of this copy.

    That, more than anything, is the WAY to evaluate good copy — how do people actually react?

  6. Lawrence Bernstein says

    Hi David. I’ve had to return cash with order replies to my business address for something Gary wrote 35 years ago. Now, that’s timeless copy!

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