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  • Writer's pictureDr. Gary Witt

How to Write an Effective Ad: Part 3, What to Say After You Get Their Attention.

Dr. Gary Witt Marketing Psychology

This is the third part of our series of articles on creating effective print advertising. While many of the ideas are also applicable to electronic ads, the focus here is on the common display ads used by many businesses.

So far in the series we've looked at advertising's "stop 'em signs," the headline and picture. Ten times as many people read headlines as go on to read the body copy. When they do look at your message, you'd better have something to say that they like. What? Promise to satisfy some of their needs, wants, fears or desires. How you do that is the focus of this article.

One important note. Many companies are engaged in business-to-business advertising. These rules still apply. Why? Because you're selling to a person, not a company. The best ads will appeal to both their corporate and personal motives, like saving the company money and looking good for a promotion.

Here are some writing tips to remember as you begin

(1) The purpose of your ad is not to sell your product. Its purpose is to sell your message. It offers the “bait” to get them to take the next step. It is unrealistic to expect 50 - 100 words to do the entire job of selling your product. Let your salespeople close the deal.

(2) Your body copy has two jobs –create interest so readers will want to take the next step, and help them remember the product's name and why they liked it. How? First, create a memorable image in their minds that centers on your product's name -- not just "beer," but "Miller beer." Make it highly visual, people remember pictures. Second, use repetition. Tie your product's brand name to its promise several times in the ad.

(3) Give your first paragraph impact. The first paragraph of the body copy must lure the reader deeper into the text where the pitch is kept. To entice the reader, design your first paragraph more like a headline. The first sentences should promise excitement, interest, amazement, romance, power, wealth, etc. -- in other words, stimulating one of their "hot button" EMOTIONAL motivations, then promising to satisfy it. Often it is tied to the headline ("Never be embarrassed again with new Viagra+.") The first paragraph sucks the reader into the second, and so on.

Here are a few ideas to remember as you write your opening lines.

a) Stimulate the reader's "hot button" motivation, such as love, security, romance, greed, ego, and so on. Be sure your words stimulate the specific motivator which you've decided is best satisfied by your product. For example, most perfume ads really sell romance, not perfume.

b) Use short, common words and simple sentences. Don't make the reader puzzle at the meaning of any words or ideas.

c) Use words with emotional associations to help create an emotional reaction. (e.g., love, embarrassment, pride.)

d) Don't be coy. If you're trying to create a romantic tone, use words that immediately convey romance. Don't make the reader guess at the situation.

e) Make it interesting. Make the reader want to read the next paragraph. If the reader thinks the material might be entertaining, educational, stimulating, or inspiring, that serves as a value-added component of the message making it more likely to be read.

f) Keep it short. No more than two or three sentences. Don't scare the reader off by the size of the first block (paragraph) of type.

g) Use the "active voice," rather than the "passive voice" in your sentence construction -- people doing things, not having things done to them.

(4) Tell a story. Most people love stories, especially stories about people. Consider stories

about how your product or service helped an individual person or family. Or look inside your company. Find an appealing human interest story among your employees. If necessary, make up a story (just don't call it "true.")

A proven writing technique to capture and hold the readers' attention is the three part story structure. First, introduce the character(s) and their problem (which is identical to the readers' problem.) Make the characters appealing so the reader will want to identify with them. Second, get them in trouble -- everything goes wrong, leaving them in despair. Third, let them take action to rescue themselves by using your product. It's important they do it; don't let someone else do it for them, and that your product is their tool for winning the day.

Your story doesn't need to be elaborate or long. The entertainment they get from your story is their "payoff" for giving you their time and attention. Your payoff is that your company, workforce or product is humanized, improving your image and increasing its memorability.

(5) Explain how to do a task. America is a nation of doers. From fixing cars and screen doors to fixing our health and business plans, we like to do things, and do them pretty well. Ads which promise information about how to do something will get attention and readership.

To sum this up, remember that you are like a safari guide to your readers. Your job in writing the ad's body copy is to point out the sights that will be interesting and useful to them, keep them moving down the right path, and make them happy they took the trip. Make your ads interesting and courteous, clear and concise, then ask readers to visit you, and many will walk in the door.

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