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Martin Conroy's famous "two young men" letter offers salient copywriting lessons.

Copywriter Martin Conroy's recent death (see R.I.P. this issue) brought back into the spotlight his famous, long-running 2-page sales letter for The Wall Street Journal. You're undoubtedly familiar with the letter, which begins, "On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college."

An unlikely source of praise came from The New York Times, since newspapers have famously given short shrift to what many of them still refer to as "junk mail" (conveniently ignoring the piles of shopping fliers stuffed into their own papers).

So let's see how this third party analyzes Conroy's letter:

* "Mr. Conroy's masterwork never appeared in newspapers or magazines. Nor was it broadcast on television or the radio. It was a letter--a simple, two-page letter."

* "Alan Rosenspan, the president of Alan Rosenspan Associates, a direct-marketing concern in Newton, Mass., uses Mr. Conroy's letter as a teaching tool in seminars.

"I ask people to read out loud the first paragraph of the letter. And what's astonishing to me is that they never stop at the first paragraph of the letter. They keep on reading. And I tell them, 'You have just proven why this letter's so powerful. It's a story.'"

* The Times continues, "The direct marketer's task is to reel readers in--gently, firmly, imperceptibly--and keep them reading, despite the looming maw of the wastebasket. Mr. Conroy's letter does so by spinning the hypnotic story of two young lives fatefully diverging."

* "Strikingly, the letter no-where says that the man who made good read The Journal. But the message is resoundingly there, between the lines."

* The Times quotes Rosenspan again: "It doesn't start off by saying, 'Be rich beyond your wildest dreams and dominate your fellow human beings.' But the very obvious, palpitating subtext--it's barely even a subtext--is greed and envy. So it's a lovely combination of a hard-sell letter nested inside a kind of soft shell."
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Title Annotation:Marketing
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Dec 31, 2006
Words:317
Previous Article:Journalist David Schwartz, after building up and selling his National Health Information, launches Niche Builders Inc.
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