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Make it ugly.


Let me explain…

In the sixties, most major beauty care brands started running full-color print ads.

Helena Rubinstein.

These companies were all creating full-page, full-color ads that wowed people — literally.

People would flip through magazines and say, “WOW! Look at that!

The ads were vibrant, beautiful.

Consumers weren’t used to advertising that looked so alive.

So what did Revlon and L'Oréal and Helena Rubinstein do?

They doubled down. They created MORE full-color ads, saturating magazines — and, in the process, ushered in a new industry standard. 

Estée Lauder, the co-founder of the brand that bears her name, recognized this shift…

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And she saw an opportunity to garner attention.

“If we run full-color ads, we’re going to look like our competitors,” said Lauder. “We’ll blend in. Nobody will be able to tell us apart.”

She was right, of course.

When your work is on-trend — in copywriting, design, or any other creative discipline — it runs the risk of blending in, of becoming indistinguishable at first glance.

“Let’s try something different,” said Lauder.

Estée Lauder’s next print campaign was comprised of ads that looked like this:

1969 Estee Lauder makeup ad Navajo and Concha Belt.jpg

The ads ran in sepia.

And given the current full-color trend, this was considered a “radical” move, a “stupid” move, even an “ugly” move.


But despite the critical reception, the ads pulled like crazy, driving 20 - 30 percent more responses than Estée Lauder’s previous full-color campaign.

The lesson?

If you want attention, you must immediately stand out — and nothing stands out better than ugly.

Master copywriter, Eugene Schwartz, said it best:

“I’m the lousiest layout man in the world. I do ugly layouts. Why do I do ugly layouts? Because beauty looks much the same. It has a very narrow definition.

Ugliness is randomness, which means that it’s spread out. So there are a hundred different ways to be ugly and only two or three ways to be beautiful.

So, the ugly thing in a world of beauty stands out.”

That’s all.


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