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Writing Effective Ad Copy
By Amrit Hallan

Advertising copy is all about selling. Whether you are selling a product, a service, a tourist destination, or an event, the sole purpose of an advertising copy is to spread the word in order to generate business. The "business" need not always be money. The right result is the nirvana of a good advertising copy.

Advertising copy can also be used to establish a brand, but then again, in the long run, brands help generate long-term business gains.

I think advertising copy is one of the trickiest writing jobs available. In a few seconds, you have to grab the attention of a reader who is bombarded with scores of ads every day. Then you have to put your point across in as few words as you can manage, and then stimulate the reader enough to act on your words.

So what makes a killer advertising copy? There is no scientific or statistical formula as such. Anything can click at a particular time. Every advertising copywriter has his or her own style, but if you follow some fundamental rules in the beginning, you can keep defining your own way of writing advertising copy.

SET THE OBJECTIVE  

This is the beginning. You can never write convincing copy unless you know what it needs to achieve. A better understanding of the objective helps you coalesce your thoughts and focus your skill. It's just like charting a roadmap to a destination before embarking on a long journey.

BEGIN WITH HEADLINES AND SUBHEADINGS

Headlines and subheadings contain words those are most critical to your message. So choose them carefully. Only an interesting headline makes one read further, so consider it the most vital part of your assignment. Your most important words should appear there. Your headline should give the reader a fair idea of what the remaining copy comprises. If you can, prompt the reader to perform the desired action in the headline itself.

On the other hand, the headline doesn't always have to make sense. You can write an attention-grabbing headline just to make people react. Or to confuse them so that they are forced to think about it. For instance, you can ask a question such as:

"Haven't you always wanted this?"

"What have I always wanted?" the reader will think, and read further.

BE SPECIFIC

Coincidentally, while I'm writing this article, my brother-in-law has sent me a link to a website so that I can tell him whether the website is offering a genuine business opportunity or not. I'm going through their "online presentation." I have read four pages. I still don't know what business opportunity they are talking about. All I can make out after four pages is that there was this couple who was very poor but once they got involved with this business opportunity they started earning $35,000 per month in a span of a few months. They have a dream home. They have an assortment of dream cars, and their expensive boat is lying somewhere. What business they do? I have no idea. I can know this only after I purchase their business kit. I've told my brother-in-law to give this "once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity" a skip for the time being.

WRITE IN THE LANGUAGE OF YOUR AUDIENCE

Like the HSBC tagline says, "The world's local bank," you have to adopt the local nuances while writing your advertising copy for a region-based audience. It doesn't mean learning a new language from scratch with every consecutive copywriting assignment. You just have to stick to those words and phrases that a population is comfortable with. Nobody has time to learn words in order to understand the benefits of the product or service you are trying to promote.

USE WORDS THAT ARE STRONG BUT STRAIGHTFORWARD

Words and phrases like "money," "immediate benefit," "save $150," "protect your child," "find love now," and "lose weight in two weeks" sell like hot cakes. They may sound clichéd to you, but if you notice, they promise you a tangible result. They give a clear picture of what your copy intends to convey. Avoid ambiguities and jargon.

PROVIDE A SOLUTION

We all need immediate solutions, to be frank. If I want to improve the way I live or earn my living, I want to know in simple words whether your product or service can help me achieve that or not, and how fast and at what cost it can be done.

TOUCH YOUR AUDIENCE EMOTIONALLY (I don't mean to say you
emotionally blackmail them into buying your product)

Advertising copy is about strumming the emotional strings of your audience. Whether you like it or not, emotions rule the world. Great wars and revolutions are unleashed under the aegis of emotions. Use them, rightfully.

BE CREDIBLE  

Don't promise the stars if you are selling the candles. Do not make exaggerated claims. Believe me, they do nothing but put off the reader. Sound sincere, be frank, do not patronize your readers unnecessarily and tell exactly what your product or service does for the consumer.

ADDRESS THE PERSON

Talk directly to the person. Use as much "you, your" as you can and use "us, we, I" as little as you can. The reader is not interested in knowing what all your product or service can do. He or she wants to know what all your product or service can do for him or her. Focus on the reader, not on your product.

Copyright ©2003 Amrit Hallan

Amrit Hallan is a freelance copywriter, copy editor and a writer. He also optimizes web page content for higher search engine ranking. For copywriting and copy editing services, visit: http://www.amrithallan.com. Read his weekly essays and articles by subscribing to amritscolumn-subscribe@topica.com.

 

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