Ads That Command: The Outrageous Challenge

Through the lens of 2016, this ad’s copy might not be up to snuff.

But it wasn’t scintillating ad copy that kept Robert Allen’s ads and spots going strong for decades.

Allen had countless competitors in the “nothing down” real estate market — a market that’s making a minor comeback after years of hibernation.

Late night TV junkies during the 1980s are sure to recall one or more of these pitchmen:

* The avuncular Carlton Sheets with his trustworthy Midwestern accent. (Now retired.)

* The rags-to-riches Vietnamese immigrant, Tom Vu, usually surrounded by bikini clad women. (Now a poker player.)

* And the gritty salesman to the masses, Dave Del Dotto. (Now a winemaker.)

But of all the “nothing down” and real estate investment marketers, Robert Allen is one of the last standing after 35 years at it.

Why so?

Chalk it up to…

The Outrageous Challenge!

“Send me to any city in the United States. Take away my wallet. Give me $100 for living expenses And in 72 hours I’ll buy an excellent piece of real estate using none of my own money.”

Allen’s been faithful to this copy approach for decades and it’s packed more prospects into hotel ballrooms than you can count.

Why has it worked so well for so long?

In the “nothing down” market the promise is high but so is the skepticism. The outrageous challenge combats the skepticism AND boosts readership/viewership.

Take a look at the ad in the thumbnail above. Most copywriters would cringe to see so much copy blotted out by the black banner with reverse type, “Los Angeles Times Challenges My Claim.” But the “black banner” walloped the earlier ad and became the control.  It turned out all the prospect needed was the date, time and venue of the seminar.

And, when you add to this that Robert Allen is one of the the most formidable front-of-the-room persuaders and closers, you’ve got a formula for long lasting conversion in a (usually) evergreen market.

The “send me to any city” was no flash in the pan. The outrageous challenge was Robert Allen’s staple copy approach. Take a look at the “I MUST MAKE YOU A MILLIONAIRE” print ad which had 50 or so full page insertions in the New York Times in the early to mid 2000s. It uses the same successful formula at a later stage of market sophistication.

You rarely see full page DR in a newspaper like the Times, so when you see something repeated, pay heed!

So, the question is, “why aren’t more marketer’s using the outrageous challenge?”

Some ad libs.

  • “Send us to the coldest, most windswept patch of Canadian Arctic. Give us 3 days on snow mobile to distribute free samples of Miracle Moisture and we’ll conquer your driest skin problem!”
  • “Bring us your most ‘down on his luck trader’ who can’t remember his last winning trade. Give him a subscription to our Awards Alert Service, and let him prove to himself that he can get back on the winning track the very same day, as he watches us make successful trade after successful trade… with our own funds… and in real time.”
  • “Give us your most cash strapped brick-and-mortar service business. If they’re not in receivership and have a current customer file, we’ll engineer a Total Turnaround in 30 days or less.”

Notice how Allen’s ads employ one of the hallmarks of direct response copy, gradualization, defined by the late, great ad legend, Gene Schwartz.

“Send me to any unemployment line in America. Let me select someone who’s broke, out of work, and discouraged. In two days time, I’ll teach him my strategies for Creating Wealth. In 90 days, he’ll be back on his feet with $5,000 in the bank.” The couple I chose earned $5,000 cash in 90 days and over $100,000 in the next 12 months.”

As usual, you can grab a PDF of the ads by clicking the thumbnail above.


  1. JJ says

    Agreed that his market was great. Unfortunately, his strategies not so much…

    Pity some of his techniques are illegal in most states. 2nd mortgages, wraparound mortgages are often not mentioned to banks when loans document clearly ask for such disclosures.

    Zero down requires a rising market as well. It’s extremely difficult to make numbers work because almost always you’ll have negative cashflow.

    Thirdly, you’re dealing with either people who are uneducated or onselling to severely impaired credit. These are people who couldn’t even get a liar loan!

    But in a rising market, you can make a truckload.

  2. Lawrence Bernstein says

    Thanks JJ.

    Fair assessment of the mechanics of doing “nothing down” as opposed to marketing it.

    It’s no secret that R.A. filed for BK either. You’d think that would be a negative proof element for prospects in this market but many don’t seem to know or care.

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