A lot of big ads are bloated and ineffective. My theory is that the copywriter wants to say so much that he/she loses focus on how to say it.

Here’s a solution: Stick to writing offers by first writing your ad as if it were a small or classified ad. Then expand later.

My definition of an offer is that it must contain two parts:

  1. It must contain a clear action you want your potential customer to take. This action can be: to pick up the telephone and call you, to come into your place of business, to opt into an email subscription list, to visit your website, to clip out a coupon and send it in, or to request a free information product, etc.

  2. The offer must also contain a clear and compelling REASON for the potential customer to take the above action. You do this, of course, with a strong benefit that answers the “what’s in it for me?” question.
The beauty of writing out a small ad, even if you eventually want to write a large ad, is that small ads force you to stick to the basics of your offer. You simply have no room in a small ad to waste words or deviate from the straight line between the benefit and the responsive action.

If I ran a big ad agency, I would start all the new copywriters off by writing nothing but small ads over and over again until they could write them in their sleep. Too often copywriters develop excellent creative skills and learn to balance form with function, but they never really learn to write an offer.

When you write a small ad, start with the action you want your reader to take. If you ever lose sight of what you want the person to do, you ad will wander off course and get lost amidst all your creativity.

Next, write a headline that contains both a strong benefit and a powerful, compelling REASON for someone to take the action you just described.

If you are writing a big ad, start with this small ad format as a way to clarify both your offer and the headline you want to use. Then, as you expand the ad, you can include more benefits that give readers even more of a reason to act. You can also clarify the action you wish them to take.

By writing your big ad as a small ad first, you are literally writing your ad from the inside out. But, if you write it this way, your ad will never lose sight of the offer that lies at the heart of your message.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown


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