Why “Ugly” Video Sales Letters Are Worthless

Let me begin with a qualifier. When done right, i think video is an excellent sales format.

But the ugly VSL ain’t “right” and is an ABuse of the online video medium.

The “ugly” Video Sales Letter (VSL), as popularised by Ryan Deiss, from here on known as the Digkhead Deiss VSL…is made up of (1) a headline, (2) an auto playing video, and (3) a hidden order button that appears precisely at the 42 minute mark not a moment sooner.

The video itself is 1+ hours of some asshole narrating his long-form sales letter. The video is stripped of its controls and progress bar, and has no way to pause, skip, or fast-forward the video.

As a potential buyer, you have two choices when you land: (1) watch the autoplaying presentation for at least 42 minutes if you’d like to buy…or (2) turn around and fugk right off.

Remove your gooroo fan hat and have an independent think for a minute.

If the Titans of Direct Response or whoever digkhead copywriter had not told you that this format converts 10% better than text (which is the actual number Jon Benson, the inventor of the format claims)…

Would you intuitively think this kind of page works?

Go on, be honest.

No, right?

And that’s the reality. I’ve split-test this format with Ben Settle and saw a negligible difference in conversion rate. Perhaps Benson saw an improvement in response because he was dealing in huuuuuuge volumes of traffic and he didn’t use the Digkhead Deiss version…his video was not stripped of controls, and he had an always visible order button. He also had experience creating winning (non-ugly) sales videos and saw reduction in cost, time, and energy to produce…which makes the 10% improvement more useful to him than you or me.

But wait a minute.

Why don’t we know the difference in performance between an UGLY VSL vs a professional VSL?

Hmm…probably because the ugly VSL performs the same or worse than a professional VSL.

So sorry, give me a sec here…

The revelation then is that video outperforms text? You don’t need a split-test for that…anyone with half a brain intuitively understands that the intelligent use of video can be more effective than text. But the Digkhead Deiss VSL doesn’t count as “intelligent” use of video.

Either way, unless you’re doing millions of dollars in sales, a 10% improvement will hardly matter.

But i don’t hate on the VSL because it’s ugly or because its sales improvement is suspect.

No. I think the Digkhead Deiss VSL is a TERRIBLE user experience and a symptom of a much larger problem in the industry.

The VSL with no video controls or page navigation goes against conventions of how we are accustomed to using our computers and how we expect software to operate.

Problem is, direct response has its roots in PRINT not in software.

But the internet, which is made up of software, has its roots in a 1977-1985 COMPUTER manual written by Apple about intuitivity and ease of use.

A sales page is nothing more than a user interface of your design.

What has always set Apple apart from all other computer companies is the “user friendliness” of their interfaces. Foundational is their idea that friendliness means that a user will intuitively know how to interact with a new software, immediately.

An example is the original iPhone’s unlock feature. It was something they obsessed about for MONTHS…when one of the designers entered a bathroom stall and used the sliding lock, it occurred to him that sliding a lock was an excellent metaphor. It was both an intuitive way to unlock a phone and a gesture users couldn’t do by accident. He implemented this idea in a prototype and gave it to his 3 year old daughter who immediately grabbed it and opened it as if that was the ONLY thing to do.

Apple advises its software creators to take real world objects and make on-screen metaphors of them…for instance, a paintbrush icon is a metaphor for a drawing tool…without instructions, without a manual everyone easily understands what this tool does and how to use it.

A button is the same. Because it sits curved and shadowed above the page, gives feedback when hovered on, and the mouse pointer turns into a finger, it intuitively invites a CLICK.

In an online video, the metaphor is a VCR controller, a remote, or a tape player…we expect that a video can be paused, forwarded, scrubbed, skipped, and rewound…just like a VCR or tape deck. We also expect to be able to look and find out how much time has elapsed, how much time is left, and so on.

Removing controls to force focus doesn’t need reinventing.

While playing, videos do not show any controls by default for this very reason: focus. This is a convention. But if you hover your mouse over a playing video, controls appear. Clearly, by moving your mouse you intend to control the video or get its status.

If you follow Digkhead Deiss’ suggestion and remove video controls and progress bars entirely, all you’re doing is breaking a convention your viewers expect…and annoying them in the process.

And guess what?

You can take away all the choices from a user when they’re on your page, and use your slickest sales copy to keep them looking at your sales pitch…but the one choice they’ll always have as long as they’re using an internet browser not written by a direct response arsecunt…in spite of all your best efforts…it’s the choice their browser gives them:


Which, btw, is built on the concept of “forgiveness” in software–the ability for a user to recover from a mistake without consequence. Coincidentally, also described in that 1977-1985 Apple manual.

So if you give users a weird, unexpected, and unfriendly experience at your site, all the copywriting finesse in the world won’t save the sale. They’ll give you the finger, hit back, and click next onto my page or a page belonging to one of my clever students.

Direct response copywriters have little to teach us digital marketers, because rather than adapt direct response to the computer and internet, they’re always trying to regress internet selling to a time pre-1990’s with a medium which they’re more familiar…PAPER.

NEWSFLASH: We’re selling on the internet.

We don’t believe you need to be a super copywriter to sell well online. In the Super Traffic Machine, i teach something called User Interface Marketing which is selling focused on intuition, choice, and consistency in styling, formatting, and non-text, interactive elements on your page. This creates frictionless buying experiences. Which leads to more sales.

We teach you to think of your website as an interactive user interface, instead of a sales letter printed on paper.

We teach you to think of your traffic, leads, customers, and visitors as HUMAN beings, not as numbers and search keywords and email addresses.

As long as you understand your market, serve them with good products, and turn up with an attitude of giving…you’ll get all the sales that are yours. And you’ll do better than the top direct response copywriters ever could.

Learn more at our detailed long-form, navigable, intuitive sales presentation at the link below…

Once inside, you’ll have access to 3 killer extras for building an incredible website with absolutely no reliance on 3rd party services. Intuitive, friendly, and beautiful designs. Two of these extras are full fledged courses in their own right. The third is a summary of an incredible course you unfortunately missed two deadlines earlier…but the third extra, which is a concise summary, is as close as you’re gonna get to everything important inside it.

For full details of JUST the extras you get by joining this month, before March 31st, read at the link below…

There’s only 14 days left to get these extras free. So make sure you know the details of what they’re about in case you agree with me that they’re unmissable.


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