Top Ten Mistakes In Advertising #10 – Ad COPY Creative Strategy

Today for Number Ten and this one strikes at the heart of creative and that’s quite simply, how to not create lousy ads and the importance of good copy based on a a creative strategy. You’ve seen them, you can probably rhyme two or three off the top of your head just like that. There is no way to put it delicately but most advertising fails, as high as 90% by some reports.

WHAT!!  Ninety percent! Yes, and why? Because they don’t excite and engage the reader. They don’t pique curiosity. They don’t tell the reader to pay attention. They blend into the background and become invisible. They are too boring.  As I said, there’s not a way to put this delicately. But if your message isn’t that engaging to pull someone’s attention, how in the world are you going to get them down to the bottom of the ad when you can’t even get their interest at the top of the ad. 

I mentioned Mr. John Caples earlier in this series. He was a prolific ad tester. He was also a very good ad writer and arguably his most famous was an ad he wrote for a US School of Music correspondence in 1926 where the headline read:

“They laughed when I sat down to play the piano, but when I started to play!”

Then he went through some wonderful storytelling. That headline captivated people through the entire ad and directed them to the clip out coupon to order some music lessons by mail. It was an unqualified success and it was repeated for decades because it continued to pique the readers’ curiosity. 

Caples’ Three-Step Approach to Creativity

Capture the prospect’s attention. Nothing happens unless something in your ad, your mailing, or your commercial makes the prospect stop long enough to pay attention to what you say next.

  • Maintain the prospect’s interest. Keep the ad, mailing, or commercial focused on the prospect, on what he or she will get out of using your product or service.
  • Move the prospect to favorable action. Unless enough “prospects” are transformed into “customers”, your ad has failed, no matter how creative. That’s why you don’t stop with A/I/A (Attention, Interest/Action), but continue right on with testing.
  • Your headline makes or breaks your ad and many a seasoned copywriter will tell you just how important those few words are to a getting the reader into the rest of the story.

Caples’ Five Rules for Writing Great Headlines:

David Ogilvy on the importance of Headlines

1. First and foremost, try to get self-interest into every headline you write. Make your headline suggest to the readers that here is something they want. This rule is so fundamental that it would seem obvious. Yet the rule is violated every day by scores of writers.

2. If you have news, such as a new product, or a new use for an old product, be sure to get that news into your headline in a big way.

3. Avoid headlines that merely provoke curiosity. Curiosity combined with news or self-interest is an excellent aid to the pulling power of your headline, but curiosity by itself is seldom enough. This fundamental rule is violated more often than any other. Every issue of every magazine and newspaper contains advertising headlines that attempt to sell the reader through curiosity alone.

4. Avoid, when possible, headlines that paint the gloomy or negative side of the picture. Take the cheerful, positive angle.

“5. Try to suggest in your headline that here is a quick and easy way for the readers to get something they want.

That’s what you have to do. To fix this dear readers, well quite honestly you simply have to create better ads. It all starts with the words. Those 26 letters of the alphabet are your key to sales. Whether you write it for yourself or you have an agency or a professional do it for you. You want ads that are informative, that get the prospect eager to have more of this. Whatever your this happens to be.  To get them into the ads you need to create a great headline. And a great headline is responsible for upwards of 80% of the success of the ad. It has to stop you and pull you in. It has to have STOPPING power. 

INSIDER TIP: These fundamentals of advertising copywriting can be used in all your marketing communications as the importance of a subject header in an email newsletter, headline in a billboard, banner ad, print ad and flyers. The rules are different for radio and tv and pre-roll video as the words are replaced with sound and video.

About the Author: Dennis Kelly is an advertising expert with 30 years of wisdom to share for Office Today readers and is the author of two books “Nine Secrets To Improve Your Advertising” and “57 Media Spikes”. CLICK HERE to learn more. Office Today Readers receive a FREE 30 Minute consultation with Dennis to discuss what your next media moves should be. Send an e-mail with OFFICE TODAY CONSULTATION in subject line and the best times to chat. Email