Want to write the greatest print ad, radio spot, or TV commercial of all time? Well, there are two basic things you need to figure out before you craft your work of art:
1. What you want to say
2. How you want to say it
While it may seem easy, deciding “What you want to say” can be a difficult task. You need to figure out the single most important selling point of your product or service. Too many copywriters try to cram several selling points—or benefits—into the ad’s basic message. You need to focus on one selling point and only one.
The more specific you can be the better. Writing the main selling point in one, simple declarative statement is the best way to approach it. For example, the main selling point for Wayback Burgers, a Davis Advertising client, would be “Wayback Burgers offers burgers the way they used to be back in the days of classic ‘50s diners.”
Once you have figured out “What you want to say,” you can move onto the fun part, figuring out “How you want to say it.” This is where your creativity kicks in, trying to make your ad as memorable as possible. After all, David Ogilvy, the famous adman who started the agency Ogilvy & Mather, said, “You can’t bore people into buying your product.”
Below are five ways to follow his advice.
Five Ways to Write a Great Ad
- Surprise people. Tell them something they never knew about your product or service. Or show them the benefit in a surprising way. For example, the ad below for Aquafresh flexigel toothbrushes demonstrates the flexibility of their brushes in a totally unexpected way.
- Appeal to their emotions. If you touch people on an emotional level, the ad is sure to be memorable. For example, a classic print ad for Goodwill Industries asks readers to donate everything from old clothing to used electronics. The photo shows a man in a wheelchair fixing a television with the headline, “What you see here is a TV set repairing a man.” With the simple turn of a phrase, the ad makes the point that a donated TV can do more than just provide entertainment; it can help a man rebuild his life by teaching him a trade. If the ad had said, “Please donate old TV sets to Goodwill,” it would not have had the same impact.
- Make them laugh. Funny ads are always memorable. For example, this Super Bowl commercial for Tabasco Hot Sauce takes a humorous look at their powerful sauce in action. The only tricky part about writing a funny ad is making sure that the reader remembers the product you’re advertising and is not just getting a good laugh at your expense, so to say.
- Be interesting visually. Advertising, except for ads on the radio, is a visual medium. Copywriters often forget that and think in words instead of pictures. But a sure way to stand out is to create images that are totally memorable. A recent TV commercial for Nationwide Insurance takes the expression “Your car is your baby” literally. The results are unforgettable.
- Appeal to their sense of reason or logic. Make the reader or viewer feel like a complete dummy if they don’t buy your product, and do it in a way that no one can disagree with. A classic TV spot for Fram Oil Filters featuring two auto mechanics is a good example. The first mechanic explains that you have two options: you can buy a new Fram Oil Filter from him when it’s needed, or you can go to his assistant Joe for an expensive rebuild of your engine after it breaks down. “You can pay me now,” says the first mechanic,” Or pay me later,” says Joe.
- Tell a great story. An intriguing story keeps viewers glued to the screen and makes them follow the action from start to finish. In a classic TV commercial from Xerox, 90 seconds long, a high school football coach, desperate to get some offense going in a rain-soaked game, sends a player into the locker room to make Xerox copies of a new play.
Those are just five ways, therefore, you can write a great ad. Just remember to nail down the “What you want to say” part and then make the “How you want to say it” part as surprising, emotional, funny, visually interesting, sensible, or intriguing as possible. Easy, right?