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How To Write An Ad

The following are the basic principals to follow when you want to write an ad. However advertising isn’t an exact science and it is quite possible to run an ad one week and get a successful response and when you run it again the next week you get a poor response. There may be a whole variety of different reasons for this, however if you write an ad poorly then you will always get a poor response. When you write an ad that works, run it again, run it on a larger scale, after all marketing is simply maths.

For example the normal response to a good direct-mail campaign is between 2% and 5%. If you sent out 100 letters and received only 2 replies and if your sales conversion was say 40% you might not make a single sale. However if you sent out 10,000 letters you could probably expect 300 replies back, and make 120 sales from these which could make a big difference to your business and profits.

Steps to Consider Before Writing an Advertisement

Before you rush off to write your ad consider the questions Who, How, When, Where, What, Why,

  1. “Who” is the advertisement aimed at, describe in detail all about them. Their age, marital status, car they drive, number of children, income range, personality type, etc … This answers the question “Who” is your ideal client (not your target market – your IDEAL client)?
  2. “How” are you going to communicate your offer to them? What publications and media would be most appropriate to use?
  3. “When” will they be most likely ready to buy?
  4. “Where” can you find them in the highest numbers?
  5. “What” would they want to buy from you?
  6. “Why” would they buy from you as opposed to your competition (USP important here, or they will only be able to compete on price). Why do they want to by it – what are the benefits?

Advertising Basics

The basic principles behind writing a good advert hasn’t really changes since the 1920s, in fact many adverts that you see in your newspapers on the television, and even online today have similarities to the best adverts of the 20s era.

This article bases many of its ideas on how to write an ad on the advertising genius John Caples. John was a legend in advertising for more than sixty years; you can get more information in his book ‘Tested Advertising Methods’.

Caple’s Three-Step Approach to Creativity

1. Capture the prospects attention. Nothing happens unless something in your ad, your direct mail, or your commercial makes the prospect stop long enough to pay attention to what you say next.
2. Maintain your prospects interest. Keep the ad, direct mail, or commercial focused on the prospect, on what he or she will get out of using your product or service.
3. Move the prospect to favourable action. Unless enough ‘prospects’ are transformed into ‘customers’ your ad has failed, no matter how creative.

Capture Your Prospects Attention


The most important part in our system of how to write an ad is the headline. David Ogilvy, one of the all time great direct response copywriters, once said that 10 times as many people will read the headline as will read the rest of the ad. So if you get the headline wrong you can kiss 90% of your advertising spend goodbye.

  1. First and foremost, try to get self-interest into every headline you write. Make your headline suggest to the readers that here is something they want.
  2. If you have news, such as a new product, or a new use for an old product then be sure to get that news into your headline.
  3. Curiosity by itself is rarely enough, unless combined with news or self-interest.
  4. Avoid negative or gloomy headlines; use a positive and cheerful approach.
  5. Try to suggest in your headline that here is a quick and easy way for the readers to get what they want.

Headline Samples

Here are a few popular headline starters, try them out on your business:

  1. (7 Reasons) – 7 reasons YOU Should Call My Business Advice Today …
  2. (Introducing) – Introducing a Special Gift, for a Special Time of Year …
  3. (Announcement) – An Important Announcement to Business Owners …
  4. (Announcement) – Goodbye . . . to Old Fashioned Air Conditioners …
  5. (New) – New Black & Decker Garden Shredder
  6. (FREE) – FREE Trial Lesson …
  7. (Don’t) – Don’t Take Another Breath Until You Read This …
  8. (Include a date) – Make 2008 . . . the Year Your Business Growth Explodes …
  9. (News Style) – The Wines You Loved In Paris Are Here …
  10. (Price) – It’s TRUE – Genuine Kidskin Leather for Only £29.95 …
  11. (Special Offer) – Special 1/2 Price Introductory Offer …
  12. (Easy Payment) – Order Now . . . Pay January 2009 …
  13. (Offer Information) – Insiders Guide To Internet Marketing …
  14. (Tell a story) – How I Became Popular Overnight …
  15. (Here’s Why) – Here’s Why YOU Need to Call My Business Advice Now …
  16. (How to) – How to Keep Your Husband Home . . . and Happy …
  17. (Now) – Now Available … a Business Community, Designed for SMEs …
  18. (Which) – Which is the Best Value Battery for Your Car …
  19. (This) – This TimeYou Can Actually Afford It …
  20. (Advice) – Advice to Business Owners …
  21. (Can) – Can You Pass This Memory Test …

Maintain Your Prospects Interest

Writing effective copy for ads, web pages, sales letters and other marketing communications isn’t difficult when you know what works. These same rules when you write an ad for any type of marketing communication.

  1. Define your message goal
    Put your goals in writing and refer to it often as you develop your message. Everything you write should directly support this goal. Get rid of anything that doesn’t.

    Define what you want your message to accomplish before you begin to write an ad.

    • Do you want to generate leads or do you want to get orders?
    • What action do you want readers to take?
    • How do you want them to respond?
  2. Know your audience
    Maybe everybody CAN use what you sell. But one targeted group WILL be most likely to buy it. You can discover that group by defining the characteristics of your best customers. Once you know your audience and what they want you can personalise your writing to appeal to their specific interests. Advertising copy produces the biggest response when each reader believes the message was written specifically for him or her. As you write, visualise you’re writing to a single person rather than to a large group. This helps you write in a less formal and more personal style.
  3. Appeal to their self-interest, not yours
    Make sure that when you write an ad that the copy is “YOU” oriented and not full of “I’s, me’s, my’s.” Your potential customer has absolutely no interest in you, or your business or service. They don’t care for you, he or she is entirely preoccupied with his or her own needs, wants, wishes, interests and so on. Concentrate on telling them what’s in it for them and not you.
  4. Make an emotional appeal, not a logical one
    Customers buy with their heart, and then justify it with their head afterwards. Your copy when you write an ad should covey the feeling your customers get while enjoying the benefits provided by your product or  service. Get them emotionally involved so they want to start enjoying those benefits immediately. Use words, pictures and real life stories to draw readers into your message.
  5. Don’t give them any choices
    You may spend a lot of time writing your sales message and getting it “just right”. Unfortunately, your prospects will rush through it and make a fast decision. Don’t slow them down with any choices. They’ll be afraid of making the wrong choice and will protect themselves by making none. You’ll lose sales.
  6. Simplify Everything
    The job of your sales copy when you write an ad is to sell, not to impress. Keeping it as simple as possible will do more good than trying to impress them with your design. Remove anything in your copy that doesn’t add value to the sales process, otherwise you will distract your audience, break their concentration and lose the sale. Simple, clear copy is easy to read and understand. It propels your customer to the decision point with no hesitation. After you’ve written your copy, edit it for simplicity and clarity. Use lots of 1 and 2 syllable words. Shorten sentences and paragraphs. This is especially important for your web site where relief is just a click away.

Move the Prospect to Favourable Action

One basic mistake made time and time again when people write an ad is that the ad doesn’t close the sale. The headline had drawn you in, the copy got you interested and excited but the ad then fails to ask you to take action, or to get you to respond in any way.

The offer is the “deal” you’re promoting (free information, special price, free bonus with order, etc.). It’s the only reason people respond to your advertising copy. The stronger your offer the greater the response you’ll get. Always include the best offer you can afford and a reason to act fast, give them a reason why they should act NOW.

Make it easy for them to buy from you. Offer many different ways to respond to your ad or sales message. Customers already know whether phone, fax, online, etc. is more convenient for them. Also make it easy for them to pay, accept credit cards, cash, payment terms etc. They’re more likely to act immediately when their favourite way to respond and pay is available.

One of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make is to forget to include your contact details in your ad. If you want people to come to your shop then make sure your include the postal address clearly. Ifyou would prefer prospects to phone you, then include CALL <name> on 0800 123 45 67. Your contact details should be in the bottom right-hand corner because people scan top to bottom, left to right.