5 Steps to Writing Better Ad Copy

By Jimmy Harris, Certified Commercial Copywriter

Thinking of refreshing your On-Hold messaging? Here are five writing tips I use to make scripts more effective. Not only are these great tips for writing on-hold scripts, they will also translate to any type of writing you do.

Tip #1 - Start with the end in mind.Before you even begin writing, always ask yourself this question: "What do I want my listener to do after he hears this message?" Attend an event? Buy a ticket? Begin specifying a particular line for commercial work? Whatever it is, write it down. It's really easy to get lost in the writing process, and answering this one simple question can really save you a lot of time, and write a much more effective marketing message.

Tip #2 - Use the rule of One! I love the power of the proverb to make a point. Like this one: "He who chases two rabbits will go to sleep hungry." I think it's a Chinese proverb, but you certainly don't have to be from China to get the point. Don't confuse your listener with more than one message. If you're advertising an upcoming sales promotion, don't talk about your friendly courteous staff or your new showroom - if you do, your primary message will get lost.

Tip #3 - Focus on your listener! Everyone's favorite radio station is WIFM (What's In it For Me)! Guess what that means? People are about as interested in how many years you've been in business or how your company got started as they are in looking at your family vacation photos. Your listener needs to know how you are going to help them save time, make more money, live longer, or become more attractive to the opposite sex. Pick one of those, and stay with it. If you aren't doing one of those things, you probably won't be in business long. So tell them HOW you can help THEM. Really, it's all they care about.

Tip #4 - Don't use ad-speak. When you pick up your mail, what's the first thing you do? I pick out all the ads, and toss them. They don't make it into my car or house. Your listener does the same thing. He has trained his mind to ignore messages he has learned have little value to him. Anything that sounds "sales-y" gets trashed. Now. So if you want mindspace, don't sound sales-y! Avoid phrases that sound like bad radio commercials, like "Looking for fun in the sun?" or "It's that time of year again!" or "Our friendly knowledgeable staff..." These, and a hundred other phrases, simply won't make it through the filter to your listener's mind and heart.

Tip #5 - Don't try to be "creative"! Don't get me wrong, I'm not against creativity. I like it, in fact. And if you're entering a poetry contest that judged primarily on creativity, then that should be what you're doing. But if you're writing advertising to help you move product or increase customer loyalty or increase attendance at your next shindig then,if creativity happens, great! But don't try to be creative for creativity's sake. (Or "funny" for that matter - but more on that next time.)

In summary, advertising copy that gets you the results you want will be results-oriented, single-minded and customer-focused, while avoiding ad-speak and "creativity" whenever possible.

In Part 2, we'll talk about how MANY times someone has to hear a message before they really hear it... but that's next time.

Til then, good writing!