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  • Writer's pictureDr. Gary Witt

How to Learn From a Great Ad

No, this is not a great ad! It is a terrible ad. But you can learn a lot from it, too. Like, "Don't ever try to be funny about a tragedy!"


A great ad should be built from the blueprints of a Buyer Motivation Analysis using marketing psychology. Before getting into the ad, it will be helpful to review the key ideas of marketing psychology itself:

1. The fundamental principle of marketing psychology is “People do not want what you are selling. So you must promise to sell people what they REALLY want to buy – Satisfactions, not products or features.”

2. To discover a buyer’s SPECIFIC motivations, you must think beyond the product or its features. Buyers are motivated to buy satisfactions.

3. Use the Buyer Motivation Analysis (BMA) tool to discover the satisfactions each customer segment wants to buy. The BMA has four parts: Needs and Wants (logical motivators) and Fears and Desires (emotional motivators.) Do this before writing anything. You must do a BMA for each segment of your target buyers – many will require different messages.

4. Needs are deal-breakers, so you must discover what Needs each customer segment expects, and put them in your message.

5. Wants are the cherry on top, the additional logical satisfactions that make a good deal look even better, that tip the scale in your favor.

6. Fears are a marketer’s best friend. Using Fears and Needs together are a powerful persuasive combination. We buy mostly on Fears, but justify it with Logic, so include both in your message.

7. Desires are daydreams. Build a story showing those dreams coming true with your product or service for someone the buyer will relate to. Be sure your desires can be expressed as feelings.

But how do you apply that knowledge of true, underlying buying motivations to the actual writing of a marketing message? Learn what satisfactions will persuade them, then build your message around those satisfactions. It isn’t rocket science – it is brain science!

The following analysis will show you how an expert at persuasion uses specific satisfactions his buyers want to create a powerful ad. You'll see just HOW to use words and pictures to attract, create interest, and persuade a buyer – and all without the buyer ever noticing how he/she is being persuaded!


Look carefully at this ad for e-Harmony, an online matchmaking site. Try the analysis of the ad yourself before reading more. You’ll see the categories to analyze. Jot down your ideas. The body copy (the words in the paragraph) are a masterpiece, every line is there for a reason. Can you figure it out? Finally, it all fits together like a puzzle, leading the reader to the final Call to Action.

Let’s see how you did on the analysis.

TARGET MARKET: People who want to find a life partner, not a one-night stand or casual romance.

KEY SATISFACTIONS: (there are more, but these are important and representative.) Needs: A loving, honest, caring mate I can be happy with and depend on. A method I can depend on to deliver my Satisfactions (NOTE: they don’t care if that method is a bar, a friend, a church or a website, as long as it delivers.)

Wants: Good value for what I spend; relatively easy to do and use. Fears: Will be a waste of time; will be ripped off; will end of with terrible dates Desires: I’ll meet Prince or Princess Charming soon and live happily after.

PICTURE: The perfect picture for the target audience. This is an ordinary-looking couple, just like the reader. They look so happy because they just got married, the event I want to badly. And it is a real couple, see their names? I can easily see myself in that picture.

HEADLINE: Short and on-target with the single promise all the targeted people want: Everlasting love. The picture and the headline work tightly together – it shows you what you want then reinforces the visual promise with the headline, the promise of Everlasting Love, just like this couple. Together the picture and the headline make the reader want to know more. It makes them think, “Maybe this could just be the way I find my true love!” It is worth reading more – and THAT is the goal of the picture and headline, to grab attention, make a promise, and get them to read further.

BODY COPY: Go back and read each line, then read the analysis below.

> First sentence: This line reinforces the promise, the third time the satisfaction is promised that you WILL get your primary Need, “A loving, honest, caring mate I can be happy with and depend on.”

> Second sentence: Lots of subtle promises here, all of them focused on making you believe your second Need will be satisfied. Look at the details . . .

  • their “patented Compatibility Matching System tm matches you . . .” To assure you this isn’t a waste of time or a site run by amateurs will take your money and time (addresses a Want and a Fear)

  • they tell you their system is “patented” so it must be valuable;

  • the process is named in Capital Letters, making it sound more real and important;

  • the name has just the right sound to it, another promise for compatibility matching;

  • the process is also “trademarked” to give it a little more patina of value.

  • And this is the high class matching system that they will use to find you Everlasting Love. Then the sentence continues with even more promises!

  • they will match you with other “singles” – no marrieds allowed!

  • their wonderful Compatibility Matching System used “29 deep dimensions . . .” Why 29? Because it was a smaller number like 9, you wouldn’t think the results would be pretty shallow, but if it was 88, you’d think you didn’t have time to go through all those questions. In short, 29 sounds like it could dig deep, but be manageable for you to do. And this addresses your Want for a system which delivers but is “relatively easy to do and use.”

  • you get a spouse with whom you’ll have a “happier, healthier relationship.” Not only is your Need promised here again with a deeper twist, but it addresses a key fear of women who have been in bad relationships – a “healthy relationship.”

> Third sentence: “If you are ready . . .” The call to action starts. Because it is a question, it forces you to make a choice – and clearly the answer is “Yes, I am ready to find the love of my life.” It is a little, silent commitment not just to that hope, but to taking the next step here. And that is followed by exactly what you need to do “right now” – “logon to e-Harmony.”

> Fourth sentence: “See for yourself . . .” In other words, don’t take our word for it, go to our site to check it out yourself. Of course, to do so you have to visit our site – the whole purpose of the ad! Then the ad offers proof that it can help you – more people on e-Harmony get married than any of their competitors. People want “third party validation” for claims, but they don’t have to be long or detailed, this is plenty. It gives buyers a logical reason for making an emotional decision – they desire the picture, they long for the “everlasting love!”

> Fifth sentence: This offer is for the “fence-sitter,” the person who is almost convinced enough to take the next step and visit the website. This little extra FREE item often tips the scale – after all, who doesn’t want to learn more about themselves for free? Note the $40 regular price. The only purpose of the number is to create the belief that this Personality Profile is worthwhile getting. If it was a $10 profile, it wouldn’t seem worth much, but a $100 profile seems like too much to be giving away free, so it call into question the believability of the whole ad!

So you see how much marketing psychology was packed into this little bundle of 73 words! How many different logical and emotional satisfactions it addressed and promised to deliver. The best messages are often short because many people don’t like to or have time to read much.

Finally, remember this ad is not designed to sell e-Harmony, it is only to get the reader to take the next step in the buying process -- go to the website. Present only what is needed for that, no more.

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