Many famous novelists such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Sayers worked as copywriters before they made became big names. But copywriting is very different from fiction writing.
It’s much shorter and does not require the same flowery languages. When it’s good, copywriting also connects a product and the experience it evokes, immediately resonating with people who read the ad.
But how do you write great ad copy?
Do your research
There are two types of copywriting: branding and direct response. When you write ad copy for branding purposes, you produce content around a product or service to make people reevaluate the brand in a different way. When you write direct response ads, on the other hand, you are looking to make an immediate sale or get an immediate response.
Regardless of different copywriting styles, the very first thing you should do before you write an ad is to conduct deep research around the product or service that you are selling. Because every brand has a story and every story has many angles, the copywriter is responsible for finding the one that helps the brand stand out.
“Today many copywriters don’t get to research as much as they are supposed to. The more research you do, the better you know every aspect of the product or service you are trying to sell. That’s when your ad copy can flow,” says Cedric Devitt, chief creative officer for Big Spaceship.
There’s much information you can research for, including:
- Your audience. What are their demographics? What makes them happy and what irritates them? What are their pain points? What are they looking for?
- Your product. What is your product made of? What is its history? When is your product selling well and when isn’t it? How can your product help your audience?
- Your industry. What are your competitors offering? How does your industry approach advertising?
All these details can help you think differently about your product and find the right angle to tell your story.
A strong headline is everything
Headlines on ads are just like news headlines. Their purpose is to pick out people you can interest. Claude Hopkins, a master of advertising who popularized tooth-brushing with his campaigns for Pepsodent toothpaste, often spent hours on a single headline, much more time than on writing.
In his book Scientific Advertising, he wrote:
Often, scores of headlines are discarded before the right one is selected…The identical ad run with various headlines differs tremendously in its returns. It is not uncommon for a change in headlines to multiply returns from five to ten times over. So we compare headlines until we know what sort of appeal pays best. That differs in every line, of course.
Take a soap brand, for instance. A headline like “Keep Clean” or “No animal fats” might be so commonplace that people may not care, Hopkins explained in his book. “It floats” might prove interesting, but a headline referring to beauty or complexion might attract far more consumers.
Headlines remain important as advertising is shifting from print to digital. For a short ad that doesn’t have a body copy, offers could make it compelling.
“I remember when I was a young copywriter, my mentor told me that the most powerful ad he had ever read was six pieces, $3.99 for Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was obviously joking, but he was making a point that sometimes a heavy offer in a direct response ad cannot be beat,” says Big Spaceship’s Devitt.
Let’s put the above theory into practice and look at a few strong headlines. Back to the classic Pepsodent campaigns, before Hopkins wrote ad copy, he read book after book by dental authorities on the theory on which Pepsodent toothpaste was based. In the middle of one book he found a reference to the mucin plaques on teeth, which he called “the film” in his ads.
Hopkins’s deep research on toothpaste inspired him to advertise Pepsodent as a creator of beauty to deal with that cloudy film.
Japanese car manufacturer Daihatsu created a headline with a sense of humor. This cleverly positioned brand is selling its compact economical nature by comparing itself to luxury sports car Lamborghini. The minivan filled with happy passengers makes people smile, immediately becoming a likable brand.
Nike is another brand that has been consistently excellent in copywriting because it has a very clear brand identity. In the below ad copy, Nike explains that running is not just an exercise; running is an experience, an escape, a pressure and a fear. At the end, the copy connects all the complexities in one’s life and simplifies different feelings into one word: “run.” It resonates.
In a nutshell, conducting deep research is a prerequisite for writing quality ad copy. A powerful headline is essential, as well. If your first line doesn’t resonate with your readers, all is lost.
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