Modern Interpretations of an Historical Snippet of Irresistible Copy

On Monday, December 29, 1913 this ad appeared in London classified ads…

MEN WANTED FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY.SMALL WAGES,
BITTER COLD. LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS.
CONSTANT DANGER. SAFE RETURN, DOUBTFUL.
HONOR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.

or so some stories go.

There is general consensus that this is how Shackleton’s copy read…

  • A few accounts suggest the help-wanted ad was placed in 1914…
  • At turns the tale reports 5,000 men answered Sir Ernest Shackleton’s help wanted notice.
  • Again that this 5,000 included 3 women…
  • and another source reports that “twenty-eight” men responded…

BUT, to date, Shackleton’s real help-wanted ad remains at large…

Whether this “irresistible” distillation–ideal “sales” copy, ideal “leadership” copy, ideal “triumph against all odds” copy– was an honest to goodness piece of Shackleton history, is moot….fact remains: SOMEONE wrote it.

This 7-year old thread on Google Answers (a now defunct service) titled, Historical Classified Ad, provides a link to a source that asks this question:

“Who would ever respond to such an ad…?”

Who? Indeed….

What possibly could be the appeal in Shackleton’s short ad snippet…

Ever heard of the French Foreign Legion? (wasn’t it the demise of the down-and-out guys and those pitiful jilted lovers in all the old movies to slink off to join the FFL?)

Here’s their ad:

A new opportunity for a new life …

Whatever your origins, nationality or religion might be, whatever qualifications you may or may not have, whatever your social or professional status might be, whether you are married or single, the French Foreign Legion offers you a chance to start a new life…

How about The Marines…? “We’re looking for a few good men…”

and their latest commercial :

AMERICA’S FEW:

THOSE WHO ANSWER THE CALLING

WILL FIND OUT IF THEY HAVE WHAT IT TAKES

And why exactly do men and women to this day leave their loved ones behind to strike out in search of death-defying adventures in which they risk life and limb?

When one is faced with the opportunity to be remembered for something remarkable…and against all odds…to be part of an elite team…get branded as “brave” and “honorable”… that’s some powerful punch.

Despite our hopes that Shackleton was responsible for this ad copy, it nevertheless has been virally handed down to us as one of the most remarkable examples of sales copy ever penned….

sheer poetry for a Friday afternoon.

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