Classified ad copy writing is a very exacting craft, not an art

in the way that display advertising is. It involves following a

few simple guidelines and requires little skill. That's why

daily newspapers hire school and college students to take orders

- and write - for their classified section over the telephone.

The first point worth noting is that classified ads are sold by

the word or by the line. This has a bearing on how you write

your ads, because if the ad is sold by the word, you're not

going to write an ad that has a bunch of "a's" and "the's" in

it. But at the same time, if it's sold by the line, it will be

worth your while to include these words in the ad, as they'll

appeal to the better educated segment of the market.

So an ad in at so much a line might read:

"The hottest thing in years. This is a household wonder you'll

cherish for years."

The same ad at so much a word will read:

"Hottest recent development. Cherish this household innovation

for generations."

Both are about the same length. The first reads nicely in

proper English and the second used big, powerful words to make

up for awkward structure.

When you buy by the word, which will be the case in most

markets, use the biggest, most action-packed words you can think

of. And while we're on the subject of word count, the way you

mark your address in a classified is also important.

If you live on Dog Breath Lane, mark your address as 22

Dogbreath, unless in that subdivision, there also happens to be

a Dog Breath circle, a Dog Breath Avenue and so forth, in which

case Dogbreath Lane will do. You can usually get away with this

ploy, since these ridiculous two name streets are there to sell

houses, not to please the Post Office. If you live in Apartment

12, you can usually get away with 12-22 Dogbreath, which saves

you another word. Never leave out the zip code, even a

nine-diget zip code counts as one word and in many publications

doesn't count as a word at all.

The initials of your name or company will also do unless you're

trying to project an image, and this can save you from one to

three words. Even your last name will be all right.

In most magazines and a few newspapers, your first word or line

of type will be set in darker bold letters. Choose that first

word or two very carefully. If you really want good results, do

exactly the opposite of what most other advertisers are doing,

or be different.

If you've got an income opportunity and CASH, MONEYMAKING or

INCOME are the usual first two words, be a bit creative, perhaps

with BROKE (no more! Try selling doogles! or HORRENDOUS)

(budget, a thing of the past.)

The first word or line gets your reader interested, and no

matter how large the circulation of the publication, you'll

suffer terribly if you're not attracting the reader as well as

the other advertisers. Those opening words are crucial. Like

the man said, you don't get a second chance to make a good


Once you've made the hook, hold the reader by telling him

exactly what you're offering. If it's an ad for more

information, let him know what kind of information and where it

leads. Then drop the cost on him, if any and your name and

address. If it's a product, in words that say a lot. It's fine

to pussyfoot in a display ad if you can afford the space, but

short, sharp, to-the-point is what sells from classifieds.

One minor point or style to remember, if you're offering a

bonus, leave it to the very last. "Bonus with..." won't work.

A bonus or free gift is offered for one reason only: to hook

someone who has not quite been sold by the rest of the ad. The

offer of a bonus won't work UNTIL they know what it comes with.

Writing display ad copy is much more involved and should really

not be undertaken by even the brightest English graduate without

some expert help. As we stated earlier, ad copy writing is one

of the highest-paying of the creative professions, mainly

because it is so difficult to do.

If you must do it yourself, here's a few things you can do to

make the task a bit more successful.

Making use of the techniques we mentioned earlier, determine

which benefit your client is like to be most interested in.

Target the emotion that motivates the need for that benefit in

most people. If you can do that, you'll hook the right person

for the product. If you're selling runless pantyhose for

example, you know the anti-run characteristic motivates the

buyer, and the reason why women want to buy anti-run hose is to

look better longer.

Hey, there's the lead for your copy! In big letters, you're

going to flag your ad with LOOK BETTER LONGER! You might want

to bracket it top or bottom by writing in smaller letters:

"Da-don't-run-run hose will help you "LOOK BETTER LONGER" in the

Da-don't-run-run hose." If the client is interested in runless

hose, you've got her. If not, forget it. Anything else you

could use to get a client who doesn't wear pantyhose will cost

your clients who do use them, and that's a waste.

Once you've got the initial benefit out in the open, either

explain it or be very sneaky about adding another. So say:

"These pantyhose will give you the confidence in your appearance

you won't get with other pantyhose..." or

"LONGER... and without blowing your budget. These will give

you the confidence..."

but the best way to sneak in additional benefits without looking

pushy is to say:

"LONGER! Without blowing your budget, these pantyhose will give

you the..." using the new benefit as a prefix.

And, oh, it's so much more complex than that. It's obviously a

development in synthetic fibers that allows those hose to be

superior, so that must be included too, because the customer

wants to know why they're so good.

Where do you mention it though? It might be just as effective

to get to it right after the heading, in this manner:

"LOOK BETTER LONGER! Thanks to a new development in synthetic

fibers, Da-don't-run-run panty hose will give you the confidence

in your appearance you won't get with other pantyhose."

Then the money aspect. And how do you do that? Do you make the

sentence longer or start a new sentence? YOU MUST WEIGH EVERY

WORD WITH A SURGEON'S CARE! And what about a coupon at the


Do you use a small order form or use the address of the company?

How many words do you need, and if you need a lot of words, can

you afford the space it will take to print them?

Get a word count, and fix it within fairly narrow limits or

you'll bore the reader or leave no room for graphics or blank

space, which you must have to some degree for proper esthetic


Speaking of graphics, what will you have to use? Will you have

to make your own? (Clip art used by most dealers is horribly

tacky.) And heaven forbid, you design an ad based on another

successful campaign by another firm with similar products... and

it works well that it sends their sales rising! It could happen.

There are many firms, probably even in small cities, that

specialize in print media advertising, and many do excellent


You in Canada are fortunate, especially if you live in Toronto,

Vancouver, Montreal or Calgary, since talent runs cheap in

Canadian advertising firms and you can get excellent work, and

we're sorry to say this but it will generally be more creative

than American agencies of similar size.

The fact remains, though, that you know your product better than

the agency, and you probably know how you want to sell it.

You might have ideas for wording, graphical layout, any number

of things. If you truly want to make your campaign, and

especially at that crucial first campaign, as profitable as

possible, use the services of a graphics firm that composes

print advertising at the very least, and ad agency at the best.

By the way, we've discovered a lot of graphics houses have some

frustrated ad copy writers who can give you expert direction at

low cost if you'll only ask.

Be ready to take in all your ideas at the time you get your ad

done. Every bit of work you do yourself should come off the

bill you'll be paying for the job, since it cuts the time the

agency or graphics house has to take to prepare the ad.

No comments:

Post a Comment