strong copy - julia deakin, writer
words with zest
agency-trained copywriter - freelance 16 years - extensive experience in business and education - plain English specialist - reasonable rates

How to write better ads: 1

The trouble with received advertising wisdom is that a lot of it was first tested on Americans half a century ago. These days not everyone thinks like Fred Flintstone or Granny Clampitt. So here's a view from this century, this side of the pond.

Big or small? A big ad is not the same as a big idea. As Kotler reminds us: "Larger-sized ads gain more attention, though not necessarily by as much as their difference in cost."

Body copy: long or short?
Generally, the less there is to pay, the less you need to say. Long copy works best for dearer products such as financial services, where people need to think carefully about committing large sums. Otherwise I'm with Alan Tapp: "if marketers can still edit their copy without detracting from the power of the sales message, then it is too long."

Headline: long or short, top or bottom?
Research shows 30% of readers stop after three words and 70% after seven. Seven words, then? Well, a very short headline risks saying nothing - but with the right visual it can still work (to the extent that some, like the Danish Bacon sandwich ad, need no headline at all).

Long or short it's probably best above your copy, with a subhead, at least half way up the page. But not always; a good art director will tell you where to put your headline.

There are six types of headline:

  1. News (Most people fall in love in 4.7 seconds)
  2. Question (Could you be cleaner?)
  3. Narrative (the classic "They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but then I started to play!")
  4. Command (Buy 3 for 2)
  5. 1-2-3 ways (Three great reasons to move your mortgage)
  6. How-what-why (The fastest way to learn a language)

Whether knowing this helps you to write one is another matter.

part two - 24 feelgood factors »

Find out more
» How to hire a copywriter
» How to write better ads
Did you know?

Julia Deakin is a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.