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Winning the War of Words with Effective Ad Copy

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But that pithy little saying is made up of words, not pictures. Some things can only be said with words. That is why we have them. And that is why we need to learn to use them more effectively. It is true of political words, educational words, and of course, sales words.

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It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But that pithy little saying is made up of words, not pictures. Some things can only be said with words. That is why we have them. And that is why we need to learn to use them more effectively. It is true of political words, educational words, and of course, sales words.

These are all competitive arenas where the major battles are fought primarily with words. If you have any hope of coming out on top, you have to master your message using words, the mightiest of armaments.

Use the following tips to create more effective ad copy, and win the war of words:

Use the Right Words for the Right Medium

A TV ad is not a radio ad, is not a magazine ad, is not a telephone directory ad, is not a flyer, is not a billboard. These are all very different things, and have to be treated in very different ways. You cannot just create what you believe is the perfect bit of copy and use it in all of your advertising regardless of what and where it is.

A good example would be a 4′ text ad in a directory, a cardboard display ad in a retail setting, and a billboard along the highway. Each of them is dramatically different in size than the other two. The billboard: the largest of the ads is the one that should probably have the least amount of copy. That is because people are driving. On a freeway, they are driving really fast. They do not have the time to whip out a pen and paper to write down all the details of the ad. They also do not have time to safely read it and absorb the nuanced message. This article on effective billboard advertising is adamant about not using more than 10 words. By contrast, the 4′ ad is an excellent place to include more details because the one viewing the ad is in a position to read ad copy, and act based on the competitive information she sees.

A good cardboard display for retail space is also a better place than a billboard for copy, but that copy has to be extremely focused without taking attention away from the graphics, and of course, the actual product on display. If you have an end-cap, you have already done the bulk of the work of getting the customer’s undivided attention. At this point, too much text can only give them reasons to think about it an not act. The point is that each bit of copy must be tailored to the medium on which it will live.

Don’t Give Them a Reason to Think About It

This is one of the most common ad copy mistakes, and it will cost you money, making the ad a liability rather than an asset. This kind of mistake is easiest to see for products or services that are price sensitive. Look at the difference between these two statements:

  1. This widget is perfect for moms on a budget.
  2. This is less expensive than all the leading brands.

#1 is a far more effective message than two for more than one reason. #1 assures mom that her budget is safe, while #2 practically dares the shopper to compare the price to the leading brands. Furthermore, #2 reinforces the fact that your product is not the leading brand. That makes them wonder what they might be missing.

It is not the number of words that kills the second message. It is the fact that it made the shopper think about the transaction, and the competitors. They still might choose your product. But you have lost the advantage by giving your customer something to think about.

You don’t want customers to think about your product. You want them to buy it. Don’t talk yourself out of the sale with the wrong copy. Check out #3 in this list of common mistakes.

Appeal to the Emotions and Sensations

Finally, regardless of media, make sure your copy appeals to the humanity of the shopper. We experience life through emotions and sensations. You want your customers to ‘taste the rainbow’ ‘feel the softness’ ‘smell the freshness’ and so on. If all your ad copy does is help them to ‘know the facts’, then you have missed the point of advertising to humans. When we have robot shoppers, knowing the facts might be enough. But humans shop emotionally. Your ads must reflect that.

Whether you are using ten words or a hundred, language makes or breaks the success of an ad campaign and whether or not you are able to generate new revenue. So make every ad count. ‘and for pity’s sake, don’t use a hundred words if you can help it.

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