#74.0/111: My Life in Advertising

What is it about?

This book is actually two. My Life in Advertising, the autobiography of Claude C. Hopkins and his famous publication Scientific Advertising. In this post I will review My Life in Advertising.

What can I learn?

Fun is subjective: Claude C. Hopkins was raised in a highly religious household. His mother forbid him seeing plays or playing cards, because she believed that these are diabolic activities. Therefore, he looked for other activities and began cleaning at his school and distributing fliers. He said: “The only game I’ve ever learned is business.”. It’s his occupation and recreation.

Simple, natural ads with a coupon: His most successful ads followed this scheme. Firstly, he said that he was raised as a simple man, so he could only sell to other simple man, which were the majority. Secondly, the ads were natural, i.e. no lies, no marketing speech. Often he described how something was created and built a campaign on this obvious fact. For example, he created a campaign for Schlitz Beer in which he described how everything was cleaned twice a day and the bottles were washed four times. This was industry standard but nobody ever used it in an ad before. Thirdly, he inserted coupons for free samples because he wants to decrease the prospects risk and truly convince them that the product is excellent.

His great mistake: There is a chapter called My Great Mistake where he talks about don’t starting a company on his own. Many of his former scholars, i.e. which learned from him how to create great advertising, started their own companies and succeeded. He said that he never had enough self-confidence. After many years working for other people and agencies, he finally decided to start his own businesses which were successful. However, he thinks that this isn’t an advice for the majority. Everyone should decide on his own where he fits and what he wants.


I truly enjoyed My Life in Advertising. This is an other vintage classic from 1927 and most observations are still true today. It’s interesting how he worked his way up from a fruit picker. Then decided to get a degree in accounting. There he realized that accounting is just a overhead and costs will always be minimized. Therefore he started to switch to the money earners, i.e. into advertising. In the last chapter he wrote that he helps juvenile delinquents to love work as he do which is impressive for this time.  All in all a great biography. Recommendation.