Fascinations: The art of writing compelling teaser copy

April 7, 2011 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

Mel Martin Fascinations LetterInsurance policies everybody buys but nobody needs.

How to spot an honest auto mechanic.

Eight things to leave out of a job resume.

Where to find the best buys in a supermarket … positioned where you’re least likely to look!

Outwitting hotel thieves: The best places to hide valuables in your room.

You’ve probably seen teaser copy like this and thought to yourself, “That’s damn good copy. I wonder who wrote that?”

But if you ask someone, they’ll just shrug their shoulders. Even most copywriters have no idea.

His name was Mel Martin. And he’s been called the best copywriter nobody’s ever heard of. And for good reason.

Before his death in 1993, he worked for Marty Edelston, publisher and founder of Boardroom Reports, who kept Mel’s identity a secret for many years for fear of losing him to a competitor.

Mel perfected a form of teaser copy called “fascinations.”

The best way I can define a fascination is this: It’s a teaser that almost reveals a fascinating fact.

I fell in love with fascinations years ago when I began getting mail from Boardroom. I studied them and have used the technique in countless ads and direct mail pieces.

Click here to see the first page from one of Mel Martin’s letters. It’s the same one pictured above. This is from a direct mail package for Boardroom’s Bottom Line Personal newsletter.

Here are a few more fascinations from the same package:

How to get the lowest prices in the entire U.S. for any make of new car. (Deduct 10% – 20% from what you normally pay your local dealer.)

Why some patients are given favored status in hospitals … almost preferred treatment. This little-known information could save your life.

What you don’t have to tell an IRS auditor — and how to prevent a “fishing” expedition through your records.

Collect interest from two money market funds at the same time, on your same spare cash.

Health club routines that can ruin your back and knees.

The 10 best places to retire in the U.S. — everything is almost perfect: Climate … health-care … recreational and cultural facilities … etc. Best of all, they haven’t yet been “discovered,” which means property values are still reasonable.

What to read twice at real estate closing.

Instant tipoff that phone bill contains error.

There’s no formula for writing fascinations. Some are long. Some are short. Some seem poetic. Some are almost clunky. Some are grammatically perfect. Others bend or break the rules (such as the famous “Bills it’s okay to pay late” from one of Mel’s print ads) .

Yet they all dangle a bit of valuable, specific information just out of your reach. Fascinations are the ultimate teasers.

Info Marketing Blog maintains a small swipe file of some of Mel’s ads. I suggest you check it out.

Practice this technique and add it to your copywriting tool box.

Related posts:

  1. 10 secrets for writing “open me” envelope teaser copy
  2. Writing compelling copy with a stick and red feathers
  3. Convincing the gatekeeper: writing copy for the real decision maker

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Smart Comments

4 Comments on Fascinations: The art of writing compelling teaser copy

  1. Ozio Media on Apr 16th, 2011 6:09 pm
  2. Thanks to Mel Martin, most copywriters know a key to successful writing is to entice your readers to read your copy and leave them wanting more. You have to reel them in whether it’s through a title like Mr. Martin’s or a link in an e-mail. Too many writers give everything away in the title or directly in their e-mails. Writing fascinations is a great way for businesses to increase their conversion rates by turning readers into customers.

  3. Sara on Apr 19th, 2011 6:16 pm
  4. I have my own swipe file for headline ideas and general neat marketing bits. I’m new to Mel, so he’s definitely going to be added to that list.

    Thanks, Dean.

  5. Susan Martin on Nov 3rd, 2011 5:23 pm
  6. Wow, I was recently approached by a copywriter in the Ukraine, who wanted to write a blog post about my dad, Mel Martin, great to see that his work is still admired, he died in ’94!

  7. Dean Rieck on Nov 5th, 2011 8:08 pm
  8. Susan,
    It’s an honor to hear from you. Your father was an innovator and his work will always be admired. Reading his copy is like getting a graduate course in copywriting.