Gary Watson

Article Summary:

Ten guidelines to help you write effective ads.

How to Write an Ad

Whether your company is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, selling almost anything in today's economic climate is a challenging task. If your sales effort feels like you're pushing boulders up steep hills, it's time to take a close look at your media advertising, especially the advertising you do in newspapers and magazines. The kind called "print."

Print advertising, unlike broadcast and the Web, allows you to target your audience with a fair amount of accuracy. Plus, it gives you an environment in which you have the room and time to make your case with a prospect who's inclined to linger over words.

If you can capture attention with an intriguing, standout headline, there's a good chance your future customer or client will want to know more about your product or service. At this critical moment, your prospect should encounter readable, engaging, highly persuasive copy. And it helps enormously if the picture that goes with the words is eye-grabbing and relevant to your message.

Chances are, you're not going to be taking on this "simple" job yourself. You may have an ad agency working on your behalf. Or an in-house marketing communications group. Or maybe even a freelance copywriter. If money is tight, or you want to be meaningfully involved in the process, a good freelancer may be the way to go.

But whether you're the one who actually creates the ad, or you're overseeing someone else's effort, it's a critical enough component of your sales cycle to merit your closest attention.

So here's a brief list of ten guidelines that will help you ensure that your print messages work as hard for your company as you do. Read them, heed them, and keep them in mind as you write - or review - that all-important ad.

1. Define exactly what you're selling before you sit down to create the ad.

2. Know who you're selling to. Keep that person in mind as you write your ad.

3. Come up with a clear statement of the benefits of what you're selling. Features are important, but it's the perceived value that prompts action by the reader.

4. Write as if you're one-on-one with the reader. Think of ads that drew you in. They spoke to you. And they assumed you possessed a certain level of intelligence.

5. Stay away from ego statements unless you're skilled enough to be humble or modest or humorous. Smuckers is an odd name for a line of jams and preserves, but they turned it to their advantage with the famous line, "With a name like Smuckers, it's got to be good."

6. Make sure there's a strong connection between your headline and main visual. You want each to amplify the other in order to make a dynamic statement of benefit. Fresh donuts need to be made early in the morning, which is why Dunkin' Donuts showed a sleepy guy named Fred crawling out of bed before sunup because it was "Time to make the donuts."

7. Choose your ad environment carefully. Your better mousetrap may not be appreciated in Gourmet magazine.

8. Study competitive ads and make sure that yours is different. Work hard to make it stand out.

9. Solicit comments. Track results. Change your approach if there seems to be a problem.

10. Be certain your product or service lives up to any claims. No matter how brilliantly conceived and executed your ad is, it's satisfied customers and clients who create your best advertising.

Gary Watson writes ads that add to the bottom line. Gary has worked for clients such as AT&T, Christian Science Monitor, Comdex, Delta Dental, Harvard University Press, Inc Mag, Kodak, McDonald?s, Microsoft and many others. He?s won a lot of readership awards and has a shelf-full of the usual industry awards. To learn more, visit him at www.GWCopy.com

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