David Ogilvy famously improved the Pearce Motor cars advertisment to create a brilliant advert for Rolls Royce.
Here is an example of one of the best direct mail letters ever and could this be the advert that they got the idea from written about 50 years before (approx 1915).
Drayton Bird writes that this sales letter for the Wall St Journal ran for 20 years pulling over 2million subscribers. The words are different, but the idea is the same.
And the lesson – keep learning and studying what has worked previously. Chances are it will work again.