Advertisements that sell – 10 tips on how to write a killer ad

Writing effective copy for advertisements is a true artform.
Here’s an example of a clever ad from an outdoor
advertising company selling billboard  space.
You need to know how to stand out from the competition and sell with your words.
Whether you are selling a brand, product, service or idea you need to be persuasive.
The good news is that writing ad copy is not vastly different from writing other business materials. There are a few ways though that can help take your ad to the next level.
Here are my top 10 tips to help your ads sell.
1. Know your purpose
It’s critical that you know the purpose of your advertisement before you start writing.
What do you want to achieve? Do you want to build brand awareness? Do you want people to pick up the phone and purchase a product? Do you want them to come into your shop for a particular sale? What is your call to action?
Be very clear about this.
2. Be prepared – know your facts and audience
You need to know the context of your advertising activity.
What is the medium you are writing for? Is it TV, newspaper, social media? What are the guidelines, space, word count?
Who is your target audience or market segment? Who is the exact customer persona or personas you are speaking to? What appeals to them?
What is your organisation’s vision, brand key messages or tagline? Do you need to incorporate these or ensure your ad copy supports these?
What is your point of difference and how will you make this clear?
What design element, images, vision, charts, testimonials need to be included?
3. What’s in it for me?
If you are asking your audience to do something (which of course you should be doing) you need to make the specific benefits for that particular market clear.
Your customer has a problem and you are offering the a solution.
Make the What’s in it for me? (WIFM) clear and tailor your copy to your target market.
4. Nail your headline and hook
Advertising legend David Ogilvy says the headline is 80%.
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
Make it short, punchy and to the point. It has to hook the audience to read or listen further.
5. Be persuasive
There are a few techniques or approaches that will make your ad copy more persuasive, here are some examples:
Highlight your claim – what is your claim? How are you solving the customer’s problem?
Use Experts or big names or customer testimonials – can you get someone credible or respected to back your claim?
Refer to facts and figures – numbers, data, research and indisputable information can be very convincing
Harness emotion – can you appeal to their emotions?
Elicit trust – can you get them to believe and trust in what you are saying, can you empathise, put yourself in their shoes?
Create a sense of urgency – convince your audience they need to act now.
Talk directly to the person – if you are speaking one-on-one to a customer you should use their name. If you are reaching a broader audience you still want to speak directly to them. Use ‘you, your’ wherever possible. Focus on the person not the product or service.
6. Use strong active words and positive language
Positive language is always more powerful than negative phrases, just as active language is stronger than passive.
What this means is that you should use strong verbs and action words wherever possible.
Active words means ‘doing something’ instead of ‘having it done’.
For example: ‘ ‘It is my recommendation’ (passive) vs ‘I recommend’ (active), ‘You can make an application’ (passive) vs ‘You can apply’ or just ‘Apply now’ (active).
There are some golden phrases and words in advertising that continue to sell and get good responses (as long as they are not overused).
Top power words that sell include Absolutely; Accomplish; Achieve; Benefit; Best; Clear-cut; Compelling; Convenient; Critical; Dependable.
Experts agree that words and phrases like ‘money’, ‘immediate benefit’, ‘save $150’, ‘protect your child’, ‘find love now’ and ‘lose weight in two weeks’ are still very effective, as long as they aren’t overused.
You will also find a comprehensive list of 100 positive words and 70 action getting phrases at this link.
Some of these phrases include: Act now! Send your name. Free. Be first to qualify. Booklet free. Everything supplied. Free booklet explains. Get started today. Get your copy now.
Just remember though, it’s all fine to use positive language, as long as the statement are based on truth. That is, you need to be able to back up what you claim in advertisements.
Make sure you ad copy complies with relevant laws and regulations, such as Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Laws as well as Anti Discrimination Laws. You can find information on relevant Australian advertising codes at the Ad Standards website.
7. Be specific and concise and specific
Less is best when it comes to ad copy. Use short, simple words and language. Get straight to the point and be specific.
In print and online ads you want there to be as much white or clean space as possible. The less words to read the more likely you are to keep the reader engaged. The same applies for TV or radio ads, where too many words can be distracting.
Look for opportunities to simplify words.
For example:
  • Accordingly > so
  • Adjacent to > next to
  • Approximately > about
  • Utilise > use
  • Obtain > get
8. Finish off strong
Finish off your ad copy strongly with a call-to-action and relevant contact details.
For example, ‘Book your appointment now on [phone number]’, or ‘Find out more at www.website.com’.
9. Step away from the computer
After you have written your draft ad copy, you should try and step away from the desk. Take time to let the copy marinate and give yourself a breather.
Come back to it the next day if you can wait that long. Read it again with fresh eyes. Check it carefully in hard copy. Reading the copy backwards or with a ruler under each line can help focus your editing eyes.
Check for appropriate style and tone for your audience. Is the WIFM and call-to-action clear?
10. Revise and check!
Once you have made your revisions get someone else to check your copy. Better yet give to two different people.
Often it helps to give it to someone who knows nothing about the content as they can give you a new perspective, as well as a subject specialist.
Always double, no, triple-check phone numbers, contact details and names.
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