Ad Breakdown: Linguaphone’s “You old trout”

Lewis Folkard

Lewis Folkard

Suffolk-based conversion copywriter.

Linguaphone ad

Leagas Delaney have done their fair share of great work over the years. From Harrods to Patek Phillipe to Dom Perignon. And many, many more premium brands. In fact, I’d say they’re known for their (brilliant) luxury advertising.

I’ve touched on luxury advertising before with this Chivas Regal ad.

But if you want to learn more, I’d recommend listening to Dave Dye’s “Stuff from the Loft” podcast. He’s done an episode with one part of Leagas Delaney, Tim Delaney, who we’re focusing on here. Give it a listen.

As you’d expect, Tim Delaney has also done his fair share of great work – to the point he was inducted into The One Club’s Creative Hall of Fame in 2007. No small feat. And very well deserved.

Here’s a 1988 ad from Leagas Delaney for the self-study language resource, Linguaphone, which Tim wrote.

Let’s get straight into it, shall we?

Okay first, here’s the copy.

Have you ever doubted the sincerity of an Italian waiter’s smile? Wondered what it was you said that made those Spanish shop assistants giggle? Or questioned why that French doctor gave you the headache pills for food poisoning?

Haven’t we all?

But imagine, for a moment, how different these situations might be if you could understand and talk to people when you’re abroad.

At Linguaphone, we’ve spent the last 60 years helping people talk to each other. In fact since we began, Linguaphone has enabled over 50 million people to learn another language. And along the way, we have also learned some very important lessons.

Number one is that people learn faster if they’re enjoying themselves. Number two is that people learn more easily when they listen to languages before they start reading about them.

Which sounds simple enough. And indeed it is. It’s the very same way babies learn to talk.

Using a method developed by some of the most eminent linguists of our time, Linguaphone have taken this most elementary form of learning and speeded things up a little.

We use native speakers in life-like situations. The text book (you didn’t think you’d get away without one did you?) is illustrated throughout with familiar objects with new names. Very quickly, you start imitating. Then conversing.

We use the same method to teach 30 different languages in 101 different countries.

Japanese use it to learn English (why don’t more English businessmen learn Japanese? Maybe we would still have a motorcycle industry.) Welsh people use it to learn Welsh. Someone somewhere uses it to learn Icelandic.

In this country, Linguaphone has helped men, women and children to further their educations and advance their careers.

No fewer than 27 British universities use it. As do many of the biggest companies in the world. Ford, Unilever, BP, American Express and British Airways among them.

If you want to know more about our language courses, just fill in the coupon.

And then the next time a waiter says something disagreeable, you won’t have to smile graciously and agree with him.

And here’s how I see the structure. As you can see, there’s a lot of proof – a potential telling sign of the challenge they faced? We’ll get into that later.

Ad Copy Structure

Okay, so now let’s look at the headline and art.

Art & Headline

How many times have you been abroad and dabbled in a new language to try and impress your other… only to fail miserably?… Maybe you picked up a phrase book at the airport. Studied a few words and phrases. Tried pronouncing them as best you can. Only to realise, you have no idea what they’re saying back to you. Anxiety takes over.

The ad is playing on those fears here.

And it does so with a twist on the ol’ trusty bent visual, straight headline. This time, we have the opposite though: a straight visual and a bent headline. It’s only a little “bent”, sure, but it’s the headline that’s doing the heavy lifting. The art supplements the headline (as it should) and helps the reader visualise the “fear” via a smug-looking waiter. 

Section 1

Here Delaney leads on from the headline and art and agitates the anxiety further. He spells out the headline’s meaning and then gives other possible scenarios, broadening its relevance. He does this by including popular travel locations for Brits. 

The ad (hopefully) comes across light-heartedly… but up until now, it also seems like a bit of a dig at the reader. All Delaney has done so far is lean into the reader’s anxieties. And if these go undiffused, they’ll become confrontational because it feels like Linguaphone are talking down to them.

So to disarm the confrontation, Delaney simply adds, “Haven’t we all?”. This brings Linguaphone down to the reader’s level and unifies them both. It then feels like they’re laughing at themselves too, which in England, at least, makes them more likeable.  

Remember, you can’t persuade anyone if you’re talking down to them.

Section 2

This section pivots from the pain into a desirable outcome – something the reader has likely envisioned numerous times (when they’ve travelled abroad). Who wouldn’t like to speak more languages? 

And because the negative has already been agitated, the “how different” invites the reader to think about the positive. A persuasive ‘pull’.

Section 3

Now, the first section of proof. Apologies, a lot is going on here, so the image looks a mess. I’ll talk you through it.

At this point, Delaney hasn’t introduced a product. So, to lay some foundations, he shares some credibility-boosting proof. Naturally, any proof aims to build trust. And sharing the years in business and the number of people they’ve helped are great ways of doing that.

To keep the reader moving, after an objectively “boring” paragraph where Linguaphone talk about themselves, they slip in the idea of some interesting findings. And then share them. You don’t want to lose the reader now.

Note how these findings also relate to common objections (it’s too much effort, takes too long, or is boring). It’s a clever way of handling them.

I also want to draw your attention to how Delaney reframes the simplicity. 

First, he states it: “Which sounds simple enough.” 

Then he confirms it: “And indeed it is”

And then he dramatises it… by mentioning a baby. 

You see, the pre-existing associations of a “baby” carry over into the soon-to-be-introduced product, meaning it has to be simple and not require much effort… almost as though it’s a natural (and easy) way of learning a language. Smart.

Section 4

Okay, and now we read more about the product. There’s a clever development of credibility again by referring to the “most eminent linguists of our time”. And the use of authoritative figures – “native speakers” – to build credibility and trust in the second paragraph. 

Delaney reframes the simplicity again with the “elementary form of learning” and gives the benefit of Linguaphone’s learning being faster – again, minimising perceived effort and work involved and handling the slow learning objection.

He then further builds on the baby reference: “Very quickly, you start imitating. Then conversing.”. The short sentences indirectly suggest simplicity too.

Section 5

And back we go into another section of proof aiming to build more trust. 

Delaney signals business size (big businesses are generally more trustworthy) and strong reputation through “30 different languages in 101 different countries”.

We then have some insights into their learnings to keep the reader interested. The use of brackets is clever and very conversational – it seems a little off-topic, but that’s often the way we speak. This indirectly helps build trust too.

Section 6

The main point of this section is the ‘added bonus’, the complimentary extras that come with learning a language. They’re also desired by many people and broaden the appeal.

Section 7

Proof, again? Yep. There has to be a reason behind this amount of proof…

My guess would be the likelihood that so many people have tried to learn a language – and failed. The reader’s void of self-confidence is then filled by confidence in the product.

Not a bad way to have things, eh?

Here, they also open up their proof and borrow credibility from universities – the ‘pinnacle’ of learning – and big companies, who would only want the best for their employees…

Delaney gives specific companies to prove the claim too.

Section 8

The penultimate section before the bonus one. Action.

Delaney keeps it short and sweet. Good. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) complicate asking for action.

He minimises the perceived effort and comes full circle by finishing the ad on a positive note. This does something particularly useful for long- and short-term persuasion…

But, unfortunately, I can’t reveal it here because it’s a subscriber-only insight. (You can sign up here so you don’t miss future ones). 😉

The Coupon

Okay, and finally, the coupon. There’s something clever here which I want to share with you. You’ve probably seen it before – and for good reason. It’s effective.

And what is it?

Future pacing.

This is a common persuasion principle (for others, click here) that, in a nutshell, means that when we make a commitment to a goal, the norm is to act in accordance with it even when the original motivation has disappeared.

So by sending the coupon, the reader makes a commitment to the desire for civilised conversations abroad. This helps to keep the reader sold until the product arrives.

Many copywriters rightfully use future pacing in CTA buttons, often making them a CTV (call to value) instead.

Here’s an example:

“Learn more” –> “I want more online sales”.

It’s just a little nudge, but it often has a big impact.

Delaney also finishes with a waiter joke, which, when the coupon is cut out, keeps all the hard work the ad has done in the reader’s mind.

Boom. Done. ✅

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