The 5 Top-Performing American Apparel Ads, and How They Get PR for Free (NSFW)

Above and below are five American Apparel ad campaigns that ran for less than $1,500 each. Designed to get attention and create controversy, they were covered in AdWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, Daily Mail, NBC, Gawker, and dozens of other outlets and blogs.

Despite this minuscule budget, they did millions of earned media impressions all over the world. People are still talking about them today. Click on each for more context (or, in one case, an uncensored Sasha Grey).

The real question this raises is: how do you craft an message, ad, or story that people talk about years from now?

We’ll aim to answer that in this post…


Ryan Holiday is the author of this guest post, which is a step-by-step guide to getting PR for free.

Ryan develops media strategies for clients like American Apparel CEO Dov Charney and Tucker Max. He dropped out of college at 19 to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, after which he started advising bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians on launch optimization. He is currently the director of marketing at American Apparel, where his campaigns are internationally known.

Note: This is a post on the process of getting media (much like this one), which can be used for anything from environmental non-profits to military propaganda. The principles in this post are used by Charity Water to incredible effect, for instance. Like a knife, media can be used for saving lives (i.e. surgery), taking them, and lots in between. How the knowledge is used is up to the user.

This post is not intended to be a cultural discussion of American Apparel… so please relax.

Enter Ryan

The internet is lying to you. It told you that making a good product, writing a great book, or starting a cool company was enough. They said that if you built it, people would come.

I’m here to tell you that this just isn’t true. I’ve worked with too many artists, entrepreneurs and authors—whose crushingly rude awakening came on launch day—to say otherwise. Great books won’t sell a million copies by accident, start ups don’t see hockey stick growth by chance, big ideas rarely become a sensation at random.

Doing “good stuff” isn’t enough in an attention economy. Getting people to care about what you’ve done is an exhausting and bitter fight for the world’s most precious resource: people’s time. To capture it, you must be a skilled and fluid marketer who can create or spot opportunities to leverage. As part of that, you must create the conversations you want people to have about your brand. If you want to be sure you’re in the news, you create the news.

I call myself a “media manipulator,” and there are good reasons why.

“But that sounds bad…”

I use the term manipulate like a skilled massage therapist might “manipulate” soft tissue. I don’t mean hurting, robbing, or stealing.

In helping #1 bestselling authors and billion-dollar brands, my job is to get people as much attention as possible, as expediently as possible. For the last five years, I have immersed myself in the history of media, learned its patterns, stress-tested its rules, and optimized use of new tech tools. What I discovered will hopefully help you replicate my successes.

You have to play the same game that the media pros play everyday. In other words, you have to beat the pros at their own game. The question is: how?

“We play by their rules long enough and it becomes our game.”

-Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

How News Has Changed

The news has fundamentally changed. Think of the New York Times. When they decide to publish an article about you, they are doing you a huge favor. After all, there are so many other people they could write about. There is a finite number of spots in the paper. Blogs are different, as they can publish an infinite number of articles and every article they publish is a chance for more traffic (which means more money in their pockets). In other words, when Business Insider writes about you, you are doing them the favor.

And what are you reading right now? That’s right, a blog. Blogs drive our media cycle. TV and radio reporters once filled their broadcasts with newspaper headlines. Today they repeat what they read on blogs—certain blogs more than others. I’m talking about sites like: Gawker, Business Insider, Politico, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Drudge Report. You may not read all these sites, but the media elite does and is influenced by them.

Getting press on those outlets is no longer a buyer’s market. It’s a seller’s market. And there are a lot of blogs out there willing to buy your story. That means your product, your book, or your start-up has more than a fighting chance of getting press. If you properly utilize the below three tactics for generating attention, you can create a million dollar press campaign… that costs you nothing.

Here’s how…

3 Tactics for Free PR

Tactic# 1: Start Small

You want press tomorrow? Sign up for 1 (a service that matches reporters “researching” stories with sources) and you’ll have it. You won’t be the sole subject of a story, but you’ll be in a story and that’s a start. Just for fun, I had an assistant set up an account for me earlier this year and gave him permission to answer every query he could, as me, saying whatever he wanted. The more preposterous the better, I told him. Within days, I had been featured in Reuters, ABC News, the Today Show and eventually, a Sunday feature in the New York Times. If I could be that wildly successful for a prank, what could you get if your livelihood or job depends on it?

Legitimate coverage can also be secured by going even smaller. Small blogs and hyperlocal websites that cover your neighborhood or particular scene are some of the easiest sites to get traction on. Started a company? Snag an article in the newspaper where you went to college. Writing a book? Get the blog that covers your neighborhood to do a post on you. Since they typically write about local, personal issues pertaining to a contained readership, trust is very high. At the same time, they are cash strapped and traffic-hungry, always on the lookout for a “big story” that might bring a big spike of new viewers.

Starting small is your beachhead into the news cycle. Blogs have enormous influence over other blogs—making it possible to turn a post on a small site into posts on large-traffic sites, as the bigger often “scout” the smaller sites. Blogs compete to get to stories first, newspapers compete to “popularize” it, and then everyone else competes to talk about it.

This isn’t speculation. It is fact. In a media monitoring study done by Cision and George Washington University, 89% of journalists reported using blogs for their research for stories. Roughly half reported using Twitter to find and research stories and more than two thirds use other social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn in the same way. Start there, legitimize coverage of your business and then you have a chance to reach a larger audience. I call this “trading up the chain.” Work it to your advantage.

How do you find these blogs? You’re already reading them! (That is, if you’re doing your job and know the influencers in your space). If you’re not, here’s a short cut: check Reddit, Gawker, TechCrunch, Huffpo and the other big guns and see what names show up regularly, what smaller sites they link to. These are the feeders you want to start with)

Tactic #2: Always Appeal to Self-Interest

Bloggers have traffic goals, and they often have posting quotas (sometimes as many as a dozen a day). They are overwhelmed and busy. Handing a blogger an interesting story lead about your business is like handing a thirsty man on a desert island a cool glass of water. Sure, he was surrounded by water—just like a blogger is surrounded by an infinite amount of stories—but this is one he can actually drink.

Think about it from their perspective. To ask them to “cover your company” is to ask them to do a whole bunch of work. They’d have to research you, come up with an angle, craft a headline, make a graphic or photos and then hope the story does well.

Self-interest gets you further, faster. Make your pitch specific and exciting: “Would you like the exclusive story on how my company went from $0 to $1M in revenue without spending a dime on advertising?” Or “How we got 30,000 members in 3 days?” Your company has such angles, but don’t leave it to a blogger to suss them out. Instead: Craft the narrative yourself, gather evidence, and present it nicely wrapped with a bow on top. If you do the work for them, they’ll be much more likely to run your plug-and-play story.

An example:

Last year, I got tired of a speed trap camera near my house and decided to do something about it. Now, I could have gone to a public hearing, voiced my objections to these cameras, and hoped that someone in the media might report on it. But that would have left too much up to chance. Instead, I emailed a reporter at the Times-Picayune—the struggling but influential daily newspaper in New Orleans—who I knew covered this beat before. I explained to him that I was a new resident to the city who had gotten dozens of unfair tickets (including 3 on one day). I emphasized what an undue financial burden such tickets had been on my girlfriend when she had gotten some herself and how she’d been reduced to tears by a rude city employee when she protested. I sent in a picture of a busted sign near the camera. I played the victim, saying that I felt shaken down, as if a bully had taken my lunch money.

Now these things are true, but still, I deliberately framed them in the most sympathetic way. The result: a week later, a front page story in the Times-Picayune, featuring the picture I’d taken and my bully quote in huge block letters, which spurred hundreds of comments and a ton of other coverage. A month later, the city announced it was changing course on the policy and the state legislature is now debating a bill to ban the cameras.

This is how easy it is to get coverage. Do your research, find your target and give them what they need. I provided the raw materials for the story and gave the editor what he needed to do his job. I created the narrative, which others have now continued to run with. They are doing what I want, because it’s in their interest to do so.

Think about this when you seek out coverage: what kind of reaction will it elicit from the reader and the reporter? What is your angle? Will this generate Facebook likes and Twitter shares? Would you share it with your busiest friends? If not, then you don’t have a good story.

You’re wasting your time, and you’re asking for a favor…and bloggers don’t do favors.

Tactic #3: Feed the Monster

I often use the metaphor of a monster for the blogosphere. It is a hungry beast, and to keep it on your side, you must feed it it constantly. And you must know what it likes to eat.

A recent study of over 7,000 articles on the “Most Popular” list for the New York Times Magazine found that the secret to popularity was how much emotion an article generated in the reader. In fact, the number one predictor in virality was how angry an article made the viewer. There are, in fact, many viral emotions: humor, anger, fear, joy, awe, primal attraction, etc.. The one thing they all have in common: passion/extremeness. These are called “high-valence” emotions.

I think about this when I design advertisements for American Apparel. For instance, look at these ads of Sasha Grey (NSFW). She doesn’t even have any product on (well, except socks)! But they provoke sharing, and were ultimately seen by many many more people than a tame ad would have been. The internet is a hungry beast that needs material: FB and Twitter don’t feed themselves. Armed with data that shows a direct correlation between chatter about products and sales spikes, I used emotion-provoking advertising to grow American Apparel’s online sales from $40 million to $60+ million per year.

I’ve done the same thing for clients like Tucker Max, (and had a lot of fun along the way), pulling off stunts like paying celebrities to tweet offensive things and trying to name a Planned Parenthood clinic after him. In a way, this is what Tim did when he put a chapter in his last book about orgasms—yes, it was interesting and helpful to readers, but it was also a fabulous angle for everyone on the internet to go berserk about.

Uber is another great example, coming up with stunts slightly less outrageous but that are like catnip to the news hungry tech blogs (see: Free Roses on Valentines Day and Edward Norton goes surfing)

Do interesting and crazy things. It’s what the cycle desperately needs. People need things to talk about and… you can be that thing! Of course, we all have different levels of tolerance for controversy, but knowing your comfort zone doesn’t mean you should never test the boundaries. I do it all the time.

That said, you’re taking a risk by feeding the monster, and it sometimes (always eventually) bites the hand that feeds it.

If the monster does bite you, or if the shit hits the fan, remember:

*Forget winning a pissing match. (Remember the quote: “When you fight with a pig you both get dirty-but the pig likes it.”)

*Don’t throw fuel on the fire. Sometimes it is best to ignore. The cycle moves fast and everyone will forget soon

*Fight a negative story by releasing a more exciting positive story (someone writes a critical piece on you, publish a great blog post about something else that will get more attention)

*Be the one who writes history: control the language on Wikipedia after the controversy dies down, know your Top 10 Google results and use SEO intelligently (look at services like or Metal Rabbit), etc.

Cliff Notes: How to Get Attention in an Attention Economy

Tactic #1: Start Small (Pick your target)

-Look for a site that is small but influences other media, especially your target media.

-Identify past stories they have written on your “beat” (subject area or industry).

-Establish your credibility first via HARO and other media.


Tactic #2: Always Appeal to Self-Interest (Approach your target)

-Pick an angle that fits for the target.

-Send them an email that does ALL the work for them.

-Make it clear that there is traffic in it for them. If you’ll help drive it, indicate how.

Hypothetical email:



Subject: Quick question

Hey [name],

I wanted to shoot you a note because I loved your post on [similar topic that did a lot of traffic]. I was going to give the following to our publicist, but I thought I would go to you with the exclusive because I read and really enjoy your stuff. My [e.g. “company built a userbase of 25,000 paying customers in two months without advertising” or “fashion label has new campaign with beautiful naked models” or “book blows the lid of an enormous XYZ scandal”] and [indicate how in 10 words or less]. And I did it completely off the radar. This means you would be the first to have it. I can write up any details you’d need to make it great. Do you think this might be a good fit?

If so, should I draft up something around [their average] words and send it to you, or do you prefer a different process? If not, I totally understand, and thanks for reading this much.

All the best,

[Your Name]


Tactic #3 Feed the Monster (Trade Up The Chain)

-Now that you have a story. Blow it up. Make SURE it is on everyone’s radar.

-Submit it to social media sites, submit it as a tip to other news sites, drive tons of traffic to it.

-Email other blogs and offer to do an interview and get follow-up stories.

-Once you start, you can’t stop. Tomorrow, come up with a new story and start again.

To finish up, let me reiterate: If you just build it, they will NOT come… automatically.

BUT, if you come to the media with something good, something that appeals to the monsters needs and feeds it? Well, then you have something explosive on your hands—you can reap the rewards of millions of eyeballs pointed directly at the product you worked so hard to develop. You deserve that.

Baking shareable, spreadable messages into your product is the ultimate growth hack. As MIT’s Henry Jenkins puts it: on the web, “if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.” The mechanisms for spreading and popularizing content on the internet are there. Content producers are going to cover someone.

So, make sure that someone is you.

Good luck!


Afterword by Tim:

Ryan Holiday is better at media strategy than anyone I know. His new (and first) book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, launches tomorrow (July 19th) and is already shipping.

Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, calls it “a playbook for the dark arts of exploiting the media.” If asked about Ryan’s talent, I have stated simply before: “Ryan is part Machiavelli, part Ogilvy, and all results. From American Apparel to the quiet campaigns he’s run but not taken credit for, this whiz kid is the secret weapon you’ve never heard of.”

On Amazon

As AppSumo bundle: Get the book, plus four case studies and extra bonuses.

On Barnes and Noble

And one more point, as a few people have been very offended by the American Apparel ads. Here’s the deal: I love helping women who want to change the world, and in the same token, I’m not going to stop women who want to use sex appeal to make a living, make art, or sell clothing. In both cases, it’s their prerogative. I have zero problem with consenting adults sexually doing whatever they want with each other or for each other, including sexually provocative advertising. I have a live-and-let-live policy whenever possible. After all:

“A thick skin is a gift from God.”

– Konrad Adenauer

Plenty more discussion in the comments…

*Photocredits for American Apparel ads go to Kyung Chung and Marsha Brady

  1. There is also Profnet, SourceBottle and a few other such services. All are easy to utilize. 

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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158 Replies to “The 5 Top-Performing American Apparel Ads, and How They Get PR for Free (NSFW)”

  1. Excellent! I love the challenges of getting PR for free or at least making sure it pays off. The days of “no guarantee $3,000 a month retainers” should be soon gone.

  2. I like Ryan’s tactic of giving the media the fish, instead of teaching them how. Very clever. Thanks for the tips!

      1. -No-one wants to walk into a restaurant and go out the back and cook their dinner. They want their dinner. These people are your “fish” customers.

        -Some people want to know how to cook just like a hatted chef, at home. These are your fishermen customers. Sorry, fisherpeople.

        To wit, the products would be

        – fish people: concierge services, etc

        – fisherpeople: how-to guides, training the trainer, etc

      2. Well delivered Tim. I’ve never heard a more effective analogy used to compare an “I’ll buy that one please” customer to a “Show me how to do it please” customer. My whole day’s plan just changed because I just read that. Thank Ferriss. You’re killin’ me!

  3. Solid piece Ryan.

    Roy Furchgott’s take from the NY-Times HARO experiment:

    “..An earlier version of this article included quotations from Ryan Holiday of New Orleans discussing why he preferred vinyl records. The reporter reached Mr. Holiday through a Web site that connects reporters to sources on various topics. Mr. Holiday, who has written a book about media manipulation, subsequently acknowledged that he lied to the Times reporter and to other journalists on a variety of subjects, fabricating responses to their online queries. (He says he does not own a turntable.)..”

    Oh the hilarity.


  4. I know Ryan personally and I’ve seen some of these campaigns go viral while they are happening.

    I’ve also already read parts of his book and I must say his strategies are some of the easiest ways to get a ton of free exposure. Just do what he says, take action, and prepare for the results to come in!

  5. “In fact, the number one predictor in virality was how angry an article made the viewer. I think about this when I design advertisements for American Apparel.”

    Not a very positive thing to do in every case. I personally share things that I think are awesome a lot more than things that piss me off. I’d prefer to spread the message of my business that way, and attract clients and customers who feel the same. But then again, revenue and response aren’t the only markers that I measure success by.

    Otherwise, great article! Lots of cool tips.

    1. There are many viral emotions. Humor, anger, fear, joy, awe. The one thing they all have in common: passion/extremeness. They are called “high valence” emotions.

  6. This post is loaded with very clear action steps. Thank you. Super excited for my 3 copies to arrive soon 🙂

    Could this article be in someway an application of Law 13? Cheers -George

      1. I read The 48 Laws of Power and his book on Seduction almost 10 years ago, they were incredible. I loved the purple print, too! And those long side-bars. Fun reading. It’s not just handy for manipulation, it’s great for understanding and mitigating any manipulation on yourself.

  7. Thanks so much for all this nice and free content…!

    I can already imagine strategies after reading this article.

  8. It’s interesting to see how people on Tim’s Facebook page are reacting, I don’t want to say a battle of the sexes, but take a look. There’s a strong division of taste and vision and Tim, I dare you pick up on that with a little follow up blog. 🙂

  9. I have to disagree strongly against the message of this post.

    Aren’t the examples in the post the exact things we hate about ads and PR?

    It’s all noise. It’s horribly not genuine, not authentic, nor is it honest.

    We’re talking adding more noise and misery to an already dishonest, deceitful, uncaring world. Believe it or not, these exact practices over the decades have cultivated a whole generation of cynical, skeptical and very unhappy customers. We all know Zappos and the reason Zappos is doing a lot of business is because the rest of the world is a chronically unhappy place for customers. It’s time entrepreneurs cut the crap out of business.

    What does these examples do other than foster demands for more gimmicks? Sure naked bodies are great. But do we need more of that out of context what your business is?

    Let’s imagine for a moment that Tim Ferriss stands for nothing but all these gimmicks. You’ll feel like you’ve been tricked into buying his books. It will make you feel ill that at one time you actually read his blog and worse believed what he wrote. It’s just not a good way to do advertise, generate PR or do business.

    Lastly, you have to be able to handle the fallout. Can you handle the swarm of woman’s right groups, press, animal activists who will bash down your (figurative) door in exchange for the PR? Can you handle the slapsuits (frivolous lawsuits) probably generated through these methods? American Apparel has money and mostly likely a firm full of lawyers on retainer. Do you have an army of lawyers protecting you and cash to burn to keep them fighting for you?

    It is a lousy thing to do for PR. Especially if you are not swimming in cash, forget about. Disappointed once again, Tim. I expected more from you.

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for the counter-point comment. I’ll respond to Justine separately.

      Needless to say, if I’m disappointing you, I won’t blame you if you look for content elsewhere. I would totally agree that there are far better writers out there than I (or is it “me”?).

      I really enjoy the writing of Paul Graham, Marc Andreessen, and Ben Horowitz, if you like the business stuff. For great writing in general, I suggest John McPhee (non-fiction) and Neil Gaiman (fiction).

      I hope all that helps. And while I do appreciate the comment, I’d also appreciate not chastising me for variance in my content’s appeal to you. I’ve written 400+ posts for free since 2007, and that’s unavoidable.

      All the best,


      1. Thank you Tim for responds.

        In an effort of making a passionate comment, I have used a crude example to prove my point. I was looking for impact and I chose an example of poor quality. I do disagree with many of your posts, including this one. My comments are made from the idea that the blog sometimes can be enriched by an opposing point of view. However, I realized just now that I might be hindering your target audience instead of helping them. I also realized that the example I used could have interpreted as an attack on “Tim Ferriss”.(the author, the guru, the man) . Both were unintended. (never had the pleasure of knowing you)

        My point could have been made without using examples substandard to this blog. Hypothetical are no excuse, and I hold myself accountable for what I have posted. While the embarrassing comment I made cannot be retracted from cyberspace, I deeply apologize for the negative effect that it may have caused. Thank you for responding gracefully to my ugly comment.

    2. I actually don’t disagree with you as much as you might think. There’s a reason there is a monster on the cover of my book. The system is a monster–a very hungry one.

      Are there risks to feeding it? Absolutely. But is the prospect of those risks as bad as the guaranteed obscurity that comes along with pretending it doesn’t exist? I don’t think so.

      1. So if you want to be heard, then your only hope is to exploit the mammalian response to extreme emotion? Ryan, I believe that your methods work in the short term, but I don’t think they are without significant medium and long term costs. For instance, I followed Tucker Max for years but after the planned parenthood show you guys put on I stopped listening to him. With that kind of cynical media manipulation, you alienate your sophisticated (often influential) base.

        Tim, this kind of post seems out of place on this blog. At its best I’ve found 4HB to be inspiring, hopeful, and mischievous in a good natured way. Maybe Machiavellian string pulling is most effective, but are we resigned to that world? This blog has given me the feeling that we can do well by doing good in the past. I really hope for more of that kind of inspiration in the future.

      2. Hi GS,

        Thanks for taking the time to comment.

        I still believe, more than ever, that we can do well by doing good. If anything, I suppose I hoped to show two things in this post:

        – A reliable process for getting media, which doesn’t rely on scandal or anger, necessarily. Small outlet –> big outlet; appealing to self-interest (helping the journalist); and planning your hooks can be applied to just about anything, including cause-driven messages. Here’s more from me on all this, on how to get from local to national media:

        – That by studying pushing the envelope (just like the body in 4HB), you can dial back slightly to your level of comfort and still get much better results than usual.



      3. First of all – You’ve followed Tucker Max for years and the Planned Parenthood “show” is what finally turned you off?

        This was a fascinating post and exactly the sort of thing I would expect to be on Tim’s blog.

        Congrats to Ryan for all his accomplishments. I have followed him through his blog over the years and he has always been a true inspiration.

      4. There’s nothing wrong with appealing to people’s emotions. That’s marketing.

        Emotions = triggers.

        Triggers = response (buy, not buy, etc).

        People need to remember, people sell stuff. Selling stuff is NOT evil. I sell eggs, mandarins, oranges, avos from my house. I use emotive words on our signs. Manipulation? I think not. They’re triggers.

        I sell cycling travel ebooks, specifically designed to save people hassle and money wasting in France. I use fear (of hassle, getting lost) and self interest (Saving money) to trigger (hopefully) a buying response.

        Does that make me bad? No way!

        Those sales help pay my mortgage. They keep food on the table. They keep me writing lots of free articles and developing paid products.

        Selling is capitalism and it’s sure better than everything being free (not sustainable long term). Free is better described by communism/socialism and we all ought to know how that turns out.

        Your point about being turned off by Tucker Max’s PP deal is a great example of people responding to personal taste. You didn’t like it, so it doesn’t appeal to you, you respond with revulsion/distaste. Nothing wrong with that either. Some people would have responded positively.

        That’s what makes society interesting. Everyone’s different. And that’s why different types of marketers are needed, to craft marketing to appeal to all tastes.

        You might not like AA’s ads for instance, but you ought to defend AA’s right to use them (within certain obvious limits of morality)

      5. Thank you, Ryan for responding to my comment, and so late at night too. I was delightfully surprised as I thought comments posted by readers were rarely viewed. You proved me wrong, and somehow I’m happy about that. 🙂

        Just to be clear, my comment wasn’t about problems with nudity (which is awesome) or the objectification of one gender. It had to do with a long trend of business practices(marketing, advertisement, PR) which tend to abuse consumer’s emotions, instead of providing solutions or filling a non-emotional need.

        I’m glad we can agree on a few things. I’m uncertain that not participating in feeding the “monster”, and looking for a better way leads to guaranteed obscurity. As Anthony Johnson below stated there might be “white-hat” ways of doing things. Personally I don’t think I have the stomach for that kind of controversial attention. (I’m small fries I guess) However, I do see your point of enterprises going down without making a media “splash”, and you’re showing a way to do just that. And the book cover looks awesome. If I ever write my own book, I hope the covers looks as cool as yours. Thank you for the post.

    3. David, I am glad you posted your comment. I am also glad it is a man. Really – see the debate on Tim’s Facebook page (no comments from him there yet). It’s interesting. I call the firm on which this blog is about, American Appaling and their adverts do my head in. As a woman, as a human, as a consumer and as a media maker and activist. It’s so cheap, it feels like a sell out to me. We’re bombarded with things that come dangerously close to what seems teen porn. Should that just be all ok? I can go on for hours, but just watch this trailer/see this project which says it all And check out the discussion here: I’d be interesting to see Tim’s personal opinion on this discussion about sexvertisement, especially with the less than stylish comments of some gentlemen – on my personal posts and on Tim’s posts.

      1. Hi Justine,

        Thank you for the comment. Yes, the Facebook thread has certainly heated up! Sadly, I’ve found the etiquette increasingly bad on FB, so I apologize for any really off-color remarks.

        In fairness, I have not watched the documentary you linked to.

        But, speaking in general, here’s how I feel:

        – I have zero tolerance for exploitation of minors in any capacity.

        – I think Americans tend to be hypersensitive about sex, and…

        – I have zero problems with consenting adults sexually doing whatever they want with each other or for each other, which includes sexually provocative advertising.

        I’m sure I’m missing a lot of back story, but that’s my general thinking. I try and live and let live, while not taking offense easily. As I’ve learning in the last few years:

        “A thick skin is a gift from God.”

        – Konrad Adenauer

        Hope that all helps somehow,


    4. In 4-Hour Workweek, Tim says “Don’t play the game, beat the game.” This post is an example of beating the game. I get what you are saying, David, but Ryan is simply giving advice on how to stand out. Even if you don’t want to go about it exactly the same way as him, there is plenty of white-hat advice here that people could apply to their own situations. There is nothing wrong with putting out ads that are interesting or thought-provoking….which can be done genuinely without being dishonest or deceitful.

  10. Loved the article and the generous sharing of tips (something I admire in everything associated with Tim Ferris). How do I “find the small bloggs that influence the big news sites?

    1. I bet you already know them. How do you read every day?

      Look at this site right here? Last weekend Tim Ferriss was a full page feature in the NY Times. They basically ran a poster of him. That’s the blog-to-offline cycle I’m talking about.

  11. This is without a doubt one of the most info-stuffed pieces you have blogged! Thanks Tim and Thanks Ryan!

    1. I told Tim I wanted this to be the post that every start up, author, and marketing exec printed out and put on their wall.

      He was very generous to give me the opportunity to try.

  12. Great post.

    Although I love how everyone is now using Tim as an outlet to launch their products/books. Oh and also on top of being well timed for a release in a few hours.

    1. Hi Mark,

      Really? I don’t think “everyone” is fair at all. I’ve known Ryan for around five years now. In the last 6 weeks at least, I can recall two posts even mentioning books: an exclusive endorsed by Warren Buffet (I would never turn that down) and a personal mentoring offer from Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, which almost anyone in Silicon Valley would kill to have. The latter piece was mostly original writing exclusively for this blog.

      Am I missing something?



  13. Read the post, got great value out of it, pre-ordered the book.

    Sometimes great PR is about giving great value too 🙂


  14. It works because it hits the instinctual part of the brain that deals with sex and fear. That’s why they’ve been the best mass selling tactic since history began. But besides all that, that’s some serious camel toe going on there.

  15. Dirty? Underhanded? Less than honest? Maybe, but Ryan sure knows his shit.

    I do a lot of work in the financial arena, and I can tell you that 99.9% of what’s being reported is utter bullshit. It used to piss me off. Now I know the game.

    And it is a game. The financial media regurgitates so much BS they actually believe it – even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And while you may not like it, it’s how the game is played. I’d rather play along than bitch about the rules.

    1. Right, I think have the discussion about whether this is the best system to have, what it means for culture and so on is for a different article (or book, and that’s why my book has two halves).

      What I am trying to say in this post is simple: this is the game, here are the rules it operates by. You don’t have to play it if you don’t want to, but if you want attention from the media, it is currently the only way.

      1. Reminds of an old trading adage: “If you want a friend, get a dog.”

        It’s the game. It’s not fair or unfair. Right or wrong. Good or bad. It just is.

        Well played, sir…

  16. If this was guerilla marketing for the book “Trust me I’m lying”, then… it worked. I just pre-ordered it on Amazon to be delivered wirelessly as soon as it’s published.

    This is the second or third book I bought from your recommendations on Facebook, so as long as those recommendations keep beeing good, I’ll keep checking them out.

    In a way, a good blogger does that.. filters out the good stuff so their reader’s trust remains high. I see a bunch of blogs that need material and start dropping their standards. IMO, the beginning of the end…

    Cheers, Joao

    1. Thank you very much, Joao 🙂 I do take the filtering very seriously, and really appreciate you reading the blog.

      Pura vida,


    1. I love that one (though it was before my time). The ad is several years old and people are STILL talking about it as though it ran yesterday.

      1. Yeah, I worked out of the LA office for a couple months back in 2005 and I remember Dov wanting to run an ad for the new Summer-T that would be kind 70s vintage style where the girl would be wearing only the t-shirt and the only thing covering her cooch would be her pubic hair. A few of us thought it was a great idea, but somehow he got talked out of it.

  17. Thanks for the recommendation, Tim. I read this to learn how to promote my own (very good but unknown) ebook and by the time I reached the end of the post I’d pre-ordered Ryan’s book from

    Guerrilla marketing genius— d*mn you guys are good. 😉

  18. Ordered your book through Appsumo. Can’t wait!

    I am curious how do you see in creating a message opposed to direct-response marketer who don’t care about promoting the institutional image or branding. They are more concern of how they can reach customers emphatically and tracking the data based on a/b split testing or multivariate testing.

    Ryan, do you do the same approach the direct-response marketer gauging their ads?

    I wonder how do your data results compare with the giant direct-response marketer like Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy, or the copywriters at the Board Room?

  19. Best article of the year Tim but aren’t ideas just going to make bloggers more effective at spreading BS stories? What happens after you give the secrets of horribly innacurate blog sites (eg Gawer) to the masses along with the insider tips to get their BS into respected media outlets like the times? Will we all suffer the consequences of falling deeper into the media circle jerk or will exposing the holes in the system effectively close them to all?

    1. You’ve got to know the con to catch when it’s being run against you.

      I will say that in my experience, conning the conmen has got to be one of life’s most perverse pleasures.

      1. Preverse yet sweet indeed!

        That said although my blog network (maritime news) is still in a fairly innocent stage I bought 10 copies, one for each blogger we have on staff plus another gor our publicists.

        Like I said, best post of the year!

  20. Hi Tim,

    I cannot believe that such ads are considered controversial in the US. Amazing what I read on your Facebook profile. When you show such ads in Europe – the only thing you would get is a big “yawn” Are you aware of the old Benetton campaign? THAT was really controversial. 😉

    And yes – I do have 3 kids in the teen age. And no – I would not mind showing them those ads. Guess what, they have seen naked people before. I dont think that this would be harming them in any way. Naked does not automatically has a sexual meaning to it. Unless you make it that way.

    Cheers from Europe,


  21. This post complements Chad M’s guest post perfectly. Really, really motivating. Ignore all the people complaining about guest posts Tim, this is excellent stuff and I really appreciate having access to it.

  22. Any thoughts on how one would further their study here? What steps did you take to learn the system. It seems that that the media world is it’s own beast with a different set of rules. I think I need to find my own Robert Greene.

  23. Hi guys,

    I am from The Netherlands, and I am annoyed by the adds of American Appalling. I live in Amsterdam and reside the creative, free media and art world. I do not consider myself a feminist, as I think everyone should be and do what makes them happy without hurting others. But herein lies my problem with these adds. And it is a growing annoyance; perhaps more so as a woman to whom it is impossible to NOT be subconsciously influenced by the message of modern day media and beauty/seduction standards. One thing I have noticed, is that is not ‘cool’ to speak out about this. But I have been a whislte blower before, so I know the ordeal. In that sense, I have grown thick skin. Comments such on Facebook are ignored in my mind as they say more about the other than me. But with adds like American Appalling, it just hits home. I cycle (Holland) past one everyday.

    As a woman AND as a media maker there is something about it that rings wrong with me. I do not oppose porn, for an instance. It is not in my face all the time, if you enjoy it, fine! Also in porn, I feel there should be some regulations as to what can be shown primetime etc. I am shocked by how normal near rape scene’s have become. I see it all as one trend.

    I don’t think this discussion necessarily has to do with the States. I know both cultures well, and I know people who don’t like the adds for several reasons. In my case, as a media maker, I think the media has a responsibility of the images they feed the world. To what ends are you willing to go for (free) PR? I think it is an illusion this is the only way to attract attention – by mammal brain arousal. I agree with Tim, live and let live. It is something I try to live by. But I personally feel we need a paradigm shift, to speak in the words of the just deceised Stephen R. Covey, bless his soul.

    The problem is not nakedness – then I would also oppose some of my favorite art works. I oppose a certain trend in advertisement – and it’s not considered – again – ‘cool’ to speak out about it. I have noticed it before. But I have also noticed that quite a few people (women) feel relieved when I do. It’s about the pose, the styling, the look in the face, eyes…Do not get me wrong, I do modelling at times and I have close model friends. It’s not about that. It’s about that trend, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’d need to talk to experts. But most importantly, it is my emotion, and it is exactly the emotion that advertisement targets. Well, it’s missed it goal with me in this case, and they’ve lost a customer and gained opposition on the side of media. That’ll be me. 😉

    I agree with the comment that talks about short-term v.s. long-term client bonding. There are so many other ways. But as a company – you can have long-term bonding if you have long term quality, class, excellence and also a mission based strategy. If you’re really about something solid. Then you do not need to lower yourself to quick fixes. While I do not mind artistic nakedness, with respect and as a celebration of human beauty. Just not the teen-seduction-porn that is sending confusing messages to kids, teens, women, men…

    I could look the other way and say, oh well! But if I see the results in society (hardening) – even though this is not directly evil but as a trend can lead to evil, I think of the quote ‘”All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good (wo)men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

    Also it reminds me of this quote: ” All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgerize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.” William Bernbach

    In my eyes, if you write about the subject, advocate the tactics of such companies as American Apparall, then too should you take the responsibility of getting more in-depth info of the societal effects of what you promote. I think it is our duty as media makers and writers. Do we decline, I think we indeed do disappoint our readers to the extend that we live off the income we get of being ‘informers’. We are the ones who can shape or reshape our societies so we should, in my opinion, take a minute and think (deeply at times) what we are putting out there as influencers. And Tim certainly is an influencer who I normally enjoy a lot and who’s philosophy I usually like indeed.

    It might seem far fetched, but I saw this great quote and I feel it has a place here. It is again, about how you relate to the world. In a sense, I at this moment am being ‘disobedient’ to a media trend. There are not many like-wise sounds out there. And often they are wiped off the table as being ‘frustrated feminists’. This has nothing to do with it. It’s about dignity and dignified advertisement. Try humor for an instance. It’s harder, but it works better and it will prove to be truly creative. Or try nakedness of men or women in a empowered way.

    “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

    ? Howard Zinn

    If you wish to read studies on the societal effect of sexual images and pornography, here’s what I found:

    1. Hey Justine,

      I just studied the effects of sexualized media on teens (Especially girls) self image. It definitely has a very strong, and in the case of sexually objectifying media (Different than nude), negative effect on girls self image and the way they think about themselves (As a sex object VS a person who will be valued for their achievements). I am no expert, (Basically everything I know comes from a few articles and this lady’s DVD: but I am concerned about this issue.

      I see the effects of this on my female peers and it saddens me. Many of my female friends have been subtly affected by this to one degree or another and it is sometimes manifest in their interactions with guys, the way they carry themselves, etc.

      On the other hand, marketing is about showing people something that appeals to them in order to sell a product, and obviously sexually objectifying media is everywhere. You can’t crawl under a chair and ignore the fact that you gotta do what it takes to get noticed.

      When I grow up and use naked ladies to sell products, I will make sure they are naked “ladies” not passive sexual objects.

  24. While Ryan’s tips are effective, I think I’m fatigued on witnessing these methods. It falls into advocating Attention Whoring…along the lines of FOX NEWS. I get the sense that Ryan is the Ringmaster…the Jerry Springer of PR. This seems to work well in only certain venues. Consequentially, for many people and businesses that tact is just not classy enough and contradicts important personal or corporate mission or vision statements.

    I would venture that in that case these methods would undermine long-term business goals while still having some short-term buzz.

    Is the method only effective when it relies on being sensational? Or would Ryan consider doing a different version for people who place a higher priority on integrity?

  25. Except that American Apparel is on the verge of bankruptcy.

    I guess some people made small fortunes at American Apparel but long term you still need good product and value for price.

    American Apparel reflects today’s short term thinking in America, create a fad for a few years, take as much out of the company as possible, and then who when you go bankrupt and need to fire all the employees.

    It’s just “capitalism” correct? Then go vote for Mitt Romney.

    1. American Apparel is on track to do $600M in sales this year–a record year in fact. It’s doing alright.

      I have one job at the company and I do my very best at it. Some problems–like the financial crisis, a broken immigration policy, etc–are beyond my scope and my control.

      But trust me, AA will be around longer than you and I probably will. It’s that kind of company.

      1. At the risk of sounding like a hater…

        Revenues do not equal profits and are not an indicator of a sound business.

        AA’s losses over the last three years amount to ~$125M on ~$545M in revenues.

        AA’s cash only increased ~$1.2M over the same period, even with a ~$22M stock issuance in 2011. pgs 66-69

        AA’s Q1 ’12 results did not show improvement… losses of ~$7.5M, cash down ~$3M… we don’t have Q2 results yet. pgs 6-9

        I think it’s fair to say AA’s ads generate interest in their products given the revenue number. But I don’t see AA “doing alright” in the last three years.

        Love the post. Buying the book. Enjoy Ryan’s blog. Just trying to point out that revenues are not an indicator of a successful company and I think it raises concern when a company is described in sales rather than in profits.

        Thank you for writing the post. Very, very helpful.

  26. Interesting stuff! Thanks for sharing your thought and for allowing us to get behind the curtain of a brand that has managed to really get inside the mainstream by being outside of it.

    In terms of clicks, yes the pictures add, but I can’t help but wonder if they actually took away a bit from how solid the ideas you outlined were. I’ll have to check out your book. Good luck with it!

  27. Ryan,

    I can’t stand American Apparel (too many colours), but you’re bloody good at what you do, which is why I bought your book just under a minute ago on Amazon.

    Looking forward to reading, Tim has never let me down yet.



  28. The American Apparel piece reminded me of a campaign that Benetton did in the 80’s – which may be of interest if you can find it.

  29. This article packs the most true value to potential users of any of the articles I have read on your site Tim, thank you.

    It also makes me sad. How much of my outlooks on the world have been fed by someone like Mr. Holiday or someone even worse, still lurking in the shadows. Granted, Ryan uses his talents to sell shirts and books, however others I am sure are using these sames tactics to push much darker agendas. I am sure even more are now going to try.

    1. Hi Cisco,

      Thank you for the comment.

      Sadly, the media is a broadcast tool. Like a knife, it can be used for good (surgery), bad (murder), and everything in between. It depends on who wields it.

      All the best,


  30. I kicked the hornets nest and cash fell out.

    Read 4HWW, then needed to make some changes. Mini Retirement. Needed to sell my house fast. Sold it myself and needed exposure. I got $30,000 in free advertising from Canada’s most prestigous news paper which is read by my target market (those who would buy my house). I ended up getting in the paper 4 weeks in a row as seen here ( ) and here ( ). BTW both these articles were in the print version of the paper… on the cover of the R/E section and had a 1/2 page article inside. Exposure 300,000 readers, value approx $60,000. All for free.

    I would have never got in the paper if I was all vanilla, so I spiced it up with some fun trash talk, but by the last article I was making peace with the industry I needed to bash in the first place.

    Well, now I’m taking the money and running. My wife, 6 year old daughter and myself are going around the world for the next 12 months.

    Thanks Tim! I blame you for all this good trouble. Hope to see you on the road somewhere.


  31. Tim the “follow me” twitter bar on the side of your website makes reading annoying on a smart phone. Should be removed/made non floating

  32. The other ones are definitely eye-popping, but they sure are memorable! Oh, teen looking girl’s crotch hair? No Problem! haha

    The only one I don’t like is the pregnancy one. It’s not controversial, it just is ugly fashion for pregnant women. Then again it works because I’m like ew man.

  33. This is great, no prior guerilla marketing for this book, all this attention in one day with one post on Tim’s blog, shit the day is not even finished and the madness ensues. I love it, hope you sell a shitload of books.

  34. Very good information. Printing this out for sure.

    I hope this post is here to stay, regardless of the <20% of people getting rattled by it.

    Thanks again, Tim and Ryan.


  35. This is a very useful article. I certainly agree with the 13th Law of Power!

    A brief, and neutral, comment on the controversy: I think in society in general women are sexualized more than men, which is unfair. The Sasha Grey ad is seen as being part of that, so people object to it. If an equal number of sexual images of men and women were floating around it would be less offensive to people, but because that isn’t the case it’s arguably perpetuating inequality. To put it another way, if the image was of a male porn star it wouldn’t have made as much money!

    1. True. That’s what I always say Benedict, or either I want an equal amount of naked porn like men in advertisement and media, or I want some regulations c.q. paradigm shift. I can do all the wanting in the world I want, some thought provoking action would only help. Hmm perhaps I’ll put some explicit imagery of girls in there to attract attention…woops just kiddin’!

      1. Hahaha… I’m glad you have a good sense of humor, Justine.

        Here’s my simplistic thinking on the equal imagery idea:

        – Women (females of almost all species, for that matter) evolve to attract males. Seduction is a biological imperative. This is also partially why even heteronormative women often find beautiful women attractive, whereas this isn’t true for most men. All of this means that female-based advertising is more successful, on the whole. Succeed breeds replication, so we see a lot of sexy ladies in media.

        – Men are “objectified” along different lines. Put differently, they are valued, in an archetypal/evolutionary sense, for power and resources. I can get pissed at the richer guy who gets the girl all day long, but, in the end, I understand the subconscious drivers that would lead to the decision.

        – Men are also rewarded for looking certain ways, but again mostly related to power. Here’s a good example:

        In my house, for instance, I have artwork that includes female nudes. BUT, I also have photos of male Olympic weightlifters and similar sport-based “body” shots of men. To me, the different context has nothing to do with inequality; it has everything to do with embracing our wonderful differences. I love the healthy polarity of the male/female dynamic, and I enjoy celebrating the best that both sides have to offer.

        OK, now back to editing I must go 🙂


      2. Tim, I’m not saying nudity isn’t great. Bodies aren’t shameful. However…

        “The BEST that both sides have to offer?”

        Somehow I don’t think that Marie Curie’s boobs were her best feature.

        Men’s power vs. Women’s sex appeal aren’t the same sides of different coins. Men can work out, and make money. Women tend to just be born with a great body or not. One of my older sisters is a Double-D and 5’6″, the other is an A-cup and under 5 feet tall. Young men don’t starve, purge, and get cut open in order to get healthy and wealthy, yet women feel tremendous pressure to do unhealthy elective surgeries to get attention.

        I once dated a short, plain guy who was funny, built, and had a great income. His best features were conscious choices. But my sister can’t Think or Work her way into becoming a bikini model.

        That is why there is a double standard, and why women have such low self-esteem.

        That said, it is a biological imperative: men like to look at pretty ladies, so both sides should be sensitive of this.

        Imagine for a moment, Tim, that the only way for you to attract really hot women was invasive surgery every five-ten years, and constant dieting. You’d be pissed.

        So, is it fair that women get compared to a generally unreachable standard? No. On the other hand, when it really comes down to it, a great guy goes for personality. Just not first. First, he’s looking at my great legs, which I can only credit to genetics. But life’s not fair, and there’s no point demanding that it become so.

      3. Agreed on many points. Marie Curie was a bad-ass. I once met Madeleine Albright — bumped into her and apologized, actually — in a breakfast buffet line. I was totally awestruck and at a loss for words. Sadly, a lot of really competent women don’t get the airtime they should.

      4. Hmm. While “seduction is a biological imperative [for] females of almost all species” sounds like convincing logic, I’m not sure the evidence agrees.

        A quick review of nature seems to show the opposite – females of most species are typically plain and dull while it is the males who grow large, colorful, with various decorations in order to attract a female mate. Do not confuse societal conditioning with evolution!

        Different but equal *sounds* nice, but when you suggest that the value females contribute is in their visual appeal, while men are valued on performance and strength, it stops sounding quite so *equal*.

        An alternative interpretation is that naked women=appeal to men, and that men are who is important > most media ends up looking like male-audience soft porn.

        Side-note: I have no problem with consenting adults doing as they please sexually (love it, actually ;). But when porn-like images are put into broadcast media, people no longer get the choice to opt in or out. Their consent is effectively circumvented through broadcast.

      5. Justine, Thank you so much for bringing this up with all your comments above. It’s an important discussion. And Tim, thank you for your well-thought out reply here.

        My feeling is that there is a danger in saying anything like “I didn’t make the world, I just live in it” because just by virtue of living in the world we unavoidably partake in creating it.

        However, I very much appreciate that Ryan has published a powerful playbook that we can all learn lessons from and use for good. The internet changes so fast that it’s really hard to find stuff that’s up-to-date when I’m studying internet marketing. It’s like milk, it has a short shelf life and most people online are selling expired information (when it comes to internet marketing.)

        I, for one, plan to study Ryan’s experience and knowledge and use what I learn for positive, forward-thinking action.


      6. Don’t let me distract you from writing the new book! I want to read it, aside from anything else. I wonder if you write your longest blog comments when procrastinating. 😉

        The evolutionary argument is a tough one. On the one hand we can’t deny our evolutionary history, but on the other we can’t use it to justify uncivilized behaviour.

        The ways in which men and women are objectified are themselves unequal. Women are only objectified by their appearance, which is very hard to change. Men are objectified by their power and resources, which they’re in a better position to acquire if they don’t have them. Similarly, anyone can build muscle with a little help from Occam. Really, it’s not accurate to say that men are “objectified” in this way since objects are not usually thought of as active agents. Men also have the advantage with regards age, here, and the consequences of male “objectification” are also less hazardous for men: I’ve never heard of a man being sexually assaulted for being a hedge fund manager.

        I very much appreciate the article and am not criticizing it, just offering an alternative perspective as I think it’s an interesting subject!



      7. Katya,

        I think you’ve got a lot of great insight, however it might be valuable to think about what you are using to compare both sides.

        Looks are thought to be a very superficial or “shallow” method of attraction. Your counter point, the short funny man with the ability to make conscious choices. His strongest quality you saw was not at the “shallow” level. So the fact you are a “great girl” similar to many “great guys” that you described, it should be noted that it is effecting your argument.

        The equivalency Tim made to looks for men is power, while power can be gained through an immeasurable amount of ways, and in my opinion (based on bias, no facts) than that of physical attraction, the common paths to immense power are shunned in society much like plastic surgery and anorexia are for looks.

        That being said, I would consider “power” a superficial or shallow method of attraction. So that being said, you see young men regularly spiritually starving, purging their ethics, and cutting apart their morals in order to get powerful and wealthy to attract the opposite sex.

        As for your sister, she may not be the “model” body type but several healthy methods could improve her attractiveness to the opposite sex, just like several healthy methods could improve a mans power and wealth to be perceived attractive, without needing the morally questionable methods.

        Will both of these lead to being an idolized individual? Not likely. Is it more possible for a man to gain an “idol” status over a woman? Certainly debatable, though in my bias opinion without any data, yes.

      8. “Women (females of almost all species, for that matter) evolve to attract males.” – Tim Ferriss

        Since Mr.Ferriss is busy editing, perhaps someone out there that agrees with the above statement can supply some supporting evidence.

        With all due respect, my findings conflict and I am curious if there is something I am missing or perhaps I am reading this wrong.

        Thanks in advance,


      9. Miles,

        I agree with what you say, also, thanks for highlighting the male-behavior equivalent of a boob job. =)

        I knew of such a man. If he had worked on his self-discipline, on his spirituality, so to say, he would have had no trouble attracting a good, attractive woman. But in his efforts to date only a “perfect 10”, he resorted to unhealthy egotistical behaviors, manipulations, and ruined himself spiritually. Now he’s in more “elite” circles and more powerful, but ironically he lost the friendship of the girl he really wanted because of it.

        Just as I find a woman most attractive who takes care of herself with healthy pride but not vanity, I find the power most attractive in a man is power over himself, and that includes “spiritually”.

        Some of the most impressive men I’ve met had the ability to become incredibly successful by some standards (money and authority), but controlled themselves for a less ostentatious path. One handsome genius superman (I swear he’s John Galt personified) went and did volunteer work in China and Mongolia, and focused on education which would refine his mind and body, and his ability to help the world and move freely through it. And then he attracted a beautiful, faithful, intelligent wife, and she’s no gold digger. They live in a comfy cabin in Alaska with the kids.

        And I have many more such friends. They won’t likely ever be seen in magazines, but I’m way more likely to “buy what they’re selling”.

        So I concede that the media and society can tempt both men and women to commit spiritual short-cuts or fraud.

        I also concede that the advertisement will encourage sexual-attention-getting teenage girls to buy more thigh-high socks, and this will make more money for AA, regardless of how I feel.

        Maybe we should try to encourage self-discipline in our teenagers instead of in advertisers, though. =) The best censure is the consumer.

      10. I think irregardless of what many books and studies suggest, the women evolving to attract others might be more of a cultural thing than it is a biological thing (or perhaps both). I think many of our daily experiences are subtly influencing our thoughts subconsciously and how we perceive the world. It is perception that often drives our behavior rather than actual understand (for most people).

  36. Outstanding stuff! I am going to put what I have learned here in practice. Moreover, I’ll probably buy the book, which I never do seldom do, unless the author’s name is Godin. (Though I did read 4 Hour years ago)

    Isn’t the growing monster what ends quality journalism? Won’t that open up an opportunity for journalism that doesn’t get its stories from the self-interested?

    And how will the self-interested then be able to get involved in that? 🙂

    1. Hi Byron,

      Thank you (and all) for the comments. The media machine/monster has always been here. Look at some of Benjamin Franklin’s old exploits! The tech changes, but human natures doesn’t seem to.

      There is always a place for high-quality, long-form media. It just rarely gets you in front of millions at a time. Totally depends on your goals.



  37. ..everything in moderation.

    From the post- “Aren’t the examples in the post the exact things we hate about ads and PR? It’s all noise. It’s horribly not genuine, not authentic, nor is it honest. We’re talking adding more noise and misery to an already dishonest, deceitful, uncaring world.” The conning the cons so to speak! You decide what’s right for your brand, anything and everything in moderation though. *biztag

  38. If these ads only cost $1500, how did they get a major adult star to agree to this for next to nothing? If its publicity for herself, then sure I get it but we don’t all have that publicity to offer someone so the $1500 is fairly misleading.

    1. The rate for modeling for American Apparel is around $50 an hr (sometimes including travel). This ad was also from 2008ish so the scene was a little different.

      1. Ryan, glad to see you here, I wanted to let you know that I absolutely love your video trailer regarding your book. Is it 100% SimpliFilm ideas or did you work on it ?

        Very well done, it catched my attention and secured you one more sell 😉

      2. I wrote the script in collaboration with them and it’s based on a concept from the book as well as some artwork from the designer who did the cover. But the video work was Simplifilm and they did an amazing job making this thing. I would work with them again for sure.

  39. Location: Panama!

    Occasion: Miniretirement NUMBER TWO!

    Reasons for comment:

    1. This is one of two blogs I read no matter where I am in the world…The content is unparalelled.

    2. The industry that I have had a job in for the last several years is suffering from ineptitude in dealing with the media. ( i’m in the saving lives business…people think i’m in the union business…)

    3. Obviously, this was post was gonna generate some serious visceral response, so my two cents from personal experience to those that (I think…) might miss the point: It doesn’t matter what your message is…the better manipulator wins. I’m sorry, i’d love to be all puppy dogs and unicorns with you, but the fact is this: I have saved more lives in the last several years DIRECTLY…meaning me and my team were there delaying death (because that’s really all anyone can do until the life extension people come up with better…). Twenty four hours a day…All year…NON F*ING STOP…My friends and those like them. Oh yeah, and more of us are dying directly and indirectly from what we do for a living. We’re hourly employees averaging about 18.50 an hour…but, guess what…People believe the people that took their money, squandered it on projects that benefitted not a single human being except those that were making outsized returns on the investment (and maybe temporarily those that were working on the project until they got laid off at the end.) Why?

  40. Thanks for the post Tim and Ryan. It came at a great time when I am getting ready to launch two new websites. I believe in eating the meat and spitting out the bones. So I totally agree with this statement above from Tim – That by studying pushing the envelope (just like the body in 4HB), you can dial back slightly to your level of comfort and still get much better results than usual.

    I don’t have to agree with everything to get some benefit from the post. 🙂 Going to put this to the test and gain some market share for my two new innovative websites!

  41. Tim,

    So how would you market the legalization of marijuana, if you even believe it should be legalized for personal or medical consumption?

  42. Oops…Hello Panama internet!

    Why? Those who did what they did got every talking head in the media to repeat the mantra that they’d created. It was genius. Hey…those guys that are always there for you no matter what…It’s their fault! I would’ve never thought it possible but I was naive.

    Tim and Ryan don’t need me to say it, and i’m not a bleeding heart, but man…Ryan is right. You better figure out how to deal with the monster that is rather than lament the Unicorn that isn’t (Except for those unicorns that girls get on their shoulders sometimes…which is a whole other thing…).

    I’m either finding a way to hire Ryan for my industry…Or figuring out how to manipulate for my industry (In the name of the f*ing truth) myself…Book sold.

    Ryan…How much, man? How much…I know several thousand good people who could use your kind of help…right now.

    Great content as always!


  43. I love the blogs about amazing fantastical exploits you and others have made in conquering the physical universe,including time and space. Loved the tango segment! Loved the archery from horseback. Loved the 4HWW and 4HourBody. I like the idea of taking time out of the equation for success.That is the stuff dreams are made of – the kind I like to have for a better life and a better world.

    This one, not so much.

  44. Suppose a retailer like JcPenney wants to hire you, Ryan. JcPenney give you a condition that you can use any risque material and they are serious about not showing pubic hair on advertising.

    1) Do you take gig that limit your use of risque?

    2) No big deal, you can make it work and go big being not nsfw?

  45. Honestly I feel a little torn after reading this. On the one hand, it’s kind of a sleazy operation, on the other, it’s led to some pretty original and subversive ads.

  46. It’s been interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look here at how ‘media’ really is…the book looks really interesting and from my impression – I feel it will be much more influential and helpful in helping readers protect themselves from this broken system then it will to teach readers how to rig it.

  47. Hello All,

    A friend sent me this link to Tim’s site. Needless to say, I’ll be back.

    I have a question-and I’m a bit embarrassed to ask, but in the early part of this article it was written that “-ad campaigns that ran for less than $1,500 each.”

    How were these ads initially introduced to the public? I realize they were later “picked up” and some may have gone viral and therefore the exposure exploded.

    How were put out there?

    Thanks in advance,


    Vvego International

    1. I bought space for them on several small blogs and they were noticed and picked up from there. The lawyer ad ran in the UCLA Daily Bruin one time. Total the spend was all incredibly low because they weren’t just ads. They were ads + a news story

  48. Modeling the ads of company that’s been steadily losing money and approached the verge of bankruptcy may not be the best idea.

    1. Model your ads on a company that did $600M in sales on an ad budget of $10M? Crazy.

      If American Apparel followed the convention wisdom about advertising and manufacturing the company wouldn’t exist. The fact that some factors were outside our control (like the economy and immigration laws) is regrettable but I don’t think it warrants shutting your mind to learning from it.

  49. It’s been really interesting reading all the comments on Tim’s post. Controversy still sparks reaction. It’s a timeless thing. I how ever am no marketing or advertisement specialist, so I can not join in that conversation. I can only speak from the consumer/female/media maker side.

    One thing I do know, I will buy Ryan’s book to learn the tricks to promote my anti-movement woahahaha (evil roar)! 😉 As you sad, feed the beast, or monster.

    On a more serious note, here’s some food for thought about how the sexualization of girls in advertisement is starting at an increasing younger age. Almost a third of girls’ clothing for sale at 15 major retailers has sexualizing characteristics, a new study finds, a trend that psychologists say can encourage girls to view themselves as sex objects at an early age.

    I see these trends as linked. Agree? Disagree? I’d be interested to hear.

  50. Love the tips, Tim! Signed up with HARD, wrote up a couple of responses, enjoyed doing it, and … can’t wait what manifests:)

  51. It’s been really interesting reading all the comments on Tim’s post. Controversy still sparks reaction. It’s a timeless thing. I how ever am no marketing or advertisement specialist, so I can not join in that conversation. I can only speak from the consumer/female/media maker side.

    One thing I do know, I will buy Ryan’s book to learn the tricks to promote my anti-movement woahahaha (evil roar)! 😉 As you sad, feed the beast, or monster.

    On a more serious note, here’s some food for thought about how the sexualization of girls in advertisement is starting at an increasing younger age. Almost a third of girls’ clothing for sale at 15 major retailers has sexualizing characteristics, a new study finds, a trend that psychologists say can encourage girls to view themselves as sex objects at an early age.

    I see these trends as linked. Agree? Disagree? I’d be interested to hear.

  52. Ryan:

    During the course of the past few weeks, I have become your biggest fan ever – though not in a “Misery”/Kathy Bates sort of way.

    You, sir, are everywhere right now – EVERYWHERE – and while promoting both yourself and your book have played the media as though it were a fine musical instrument.

    Though I’m not willing to implement all of your marketing tactics into my own business (I really don’t think that my wife would want me working with a pube flashing Sasha Grey), I have to say that I am in complete and total awe of your drive, work ethic, ability to analyze an industry, and big ol’ cojones.

    You are truly the Maestro.

    1. Thanks Matthew.

      I felt like I made a lot of big claims in the book and the marketing efforts for the book had to prove I was as good as I said. Glad to see you think I got close.

      1. Ryan:

        I think you’ve been able to do a bit better than merely “getting close,” and the publicity storm that’s enveloped you these past few weeks (a self-made, well-played publicity storm for the most part) is proof of your skills

        As a quite side note, it seems to me that your greatest skill is an ability to recognize patterns and associations. You’ve been able to work the media for many reasons, though chief among these reasons is the simple fact that: a) there are social and business associations within the different media cliques. (i.e: “Birds of a feather…”) b) you analyzed the process of how news/marketing/ideas go from small and local to big and national (or worldwide), and you were able to spot a pattern within this process.

        The truly great feature of your skill set (i.e.: the ability to recognize patterns and associations) is that it can be applied to almost anything: news, product launches, politics, seduction, etc, etc…

        It’ll be really interesting to see what your next venture is and where you go with it.

  53. Just want to say I love seeing Tim and Ryan all over these comments connecting with the readers. Ryan I just bought your book, I love what you’ve done and the boldness in which you do business. Best of luck!

  54. I’d be lying if I’d say I not rather see things happening like this joined artists’ initiative. True creativity, spreading some truth and food for thought, originality and on a smaller budget than many AA adds…This grabs my attention AND respect. And conjures a smile upon my face. How lovely. Brandalism (Ryan, check out photo number 9 on page 2 in the photo gallery, I’m sure you’ll love it – not being sarcastic). 🙂

  55. Yeah the dangling pubes are a little crass….but what are you going to do? Men simply have to have daughters of their own in order to rethink this stuff – that was definitely the case with me.

    Anyways, Tim I’m thinking about MAKING all my future clients read the 4HWW before I agree to work with them. I’m sick of *suggesting*. More than a few people have stiff-armed me with, “I’m too busy to read (a book on time management)”!

    Maybe from now on it’s a mandatory assignment and I hand them a quiz before any consultation???

  56. It reminds me of the “vitamins in the icecream” argument. Get the attention with something that someone wants, maybe spark controversy. But then when it dies down a little the deeper conversation starts like what people comment about the Sasha Grey Ads after they get over the shock. The conversation may have been the real intention.

    The thing is they won’t listen in the first place unless there’s some icecream.

  57. This article is full on information that cannot be verified. Do the AA ads really lead in increase in profit? If you do the research you will find out.

    However what do you expect from the guy who said he was once a “Chinese kickboxing champion”. You cant verify that claim either.

  58. Very cool post guys!

    I especially liked the free PR tactics and the run down of how the media gets content. Definitely a big difference from the past.

    Nice spice up with the American Apparel ads – they can definitely generate emotions in the crowd.

    Ryan, I wonder how this works on a more local scale. What if all of city’s PR and advertising are controlled by a certain group of people who only publish what they like? So even if you have a cool story it doesn’t matter because if they don’t like it it will never make it out to the city channels?

  59. Duh -simple message – SEX SELLS.

    Animal sex sells. Procreative, making baby sex sells. Porn star, hairy coochie sex sells. Old sexy lady, experienced sex sells.

    How is this new? It’s not. Sorry.

    Advertising and marketing is selling happiness and sex, just not in that order.

    Come on, Timmy. Selling sex is not earning media.

  60. Awesome read, as an SEO myself I could immediately connect with what was said about reputation management in the top page of Google’s “SERP”

    I have personally worked on a few campaigns of this sort and they are pretty interesting to say the least!

    I would also recommend for anyone who doesn’t know how to keep an eagle eye out on what is being said about them or their business or a specific topic on the internet to check out Google Alerts (

    What was said about don’t feed the fire of the publicity that you DONT want is totally correct. If you bring any more traction to a page that is not sending the message you want portrayed, it will only make it rank higher in the engines, get more publicity and stick forever. Instead (as mentioned) write or do something that will by far and away blow that piece of content away, like a case study, or just something outlandish of your own that you are okay with.

    Great post as always Tim!

  61. Honestly can’t understand the negative comments here…

    4HWW/4HB is about testing assumptions and finding ways to game the system or realising that “rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men”.

    Like anything it can be used for good or bad but that comes down to the character of the individual. Anyone unconvinced is obviously entitled to that opinion however I would point them in the direction of an essay by Richard Feynman entitled The Value of Science – he makes a similar point but far better than I can!

    Really useful post.

  62. Love that thread of comments which is, to me, a good illustration of how people get excited about the conversation.

    I started my blog few weeks ago and those lines are great piece of advice, especially : “You’re wasting your time, and you’re asking for a favor…and bloggers don’t do favors.”

    And BTW, I like the Twitter button on the side of site. Anyone knows where to find it ?


  63. Wow this is so cool. This is the kind of thing that really excites me, unusual and effective marketing campaigns that break the mold!

    I love alternative marketing concepts and this is an alternate method that i think is awesome!

  64. Hi Tim: love the 4HB. Great work. Just a quick question on PAGG: I’ve noticed that Zestlife produces a PAGG stack – do you recommend this?

  65. Update:

    Bought, received and read the book. Ignore at your peril. Ryan’s scathing exposé of what qualifies as ‘news’ is illuminating. Ryan, thank you very much for your insights, you’ve crystallised why I avoid sites like Gawker like the plague.

    PS It’s not gone past me that my update happens to be at the bottom of the page!

  66. Awesome awesome post. Super insightful. Took notes, bought your book via audible and dig this quote “if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.”

  67. Just picked up the book from Barnes & Noble and got right into it! Great stuff! I am only 50 pages in, but it is very difficult to put down.

  68. Great post to bust the myth if you build it they will come.

    You still have to market! And some great tips and a few links I took away from this post.

  69. I wanted to thank you for this information. I have started my own home based business in October and have began my internet marketing in January. I like your tactics and will begin to work them into my business plan, now.

    Thanks Again,

    Paul Truman

  70. Great article and thank you very much for the information. I am a very struggling self funded Charity targeting Neonaticide or murder of a newborn infant less than 1 month old: , with multiple websites/ a self published health book, 40 odd press releases, and NO traffic. I am at the end of my abilities to further this cause, hopefully the information I can gain from the free sections of this post will make a difference.

    once again thank you.

    Daniel P. Warren

  71. First time I’ve ever read an entire comment thread here at 4HWW. Really well done. If sex and manipulation are still controversial in your world you haven’t been paying attention!

    Perhaps Tim and Ryan chose the most controversial of Ryan’s ads precisely to get more reads? I bet he does much more subtle work using the powers of persuasion that he has learned.

    In fact, I’d like to find out. How do I go about hiring Ryan to work with me?

  72. For case in point, taking in them throughout the P.

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