I’ve written a lot of ads – some great, some spectacular, some… meh – I’ve written better. But that all comes with the territory. Chances are, if you’ve written an ad – whether for radio or TV, you’ve done the same. Some times you are in a groove, creativity surrounds you – it runs rampant through your veins, and you can knock out several ads in an hour or less. Other times, you struggle. You spend 30 minutes on the first line of a script – revising, changing, erasing… completely starting over. It’s frustrating – you feel defeated.
Are there tips to writing better ads? Absolutely – but those tips aren’t found easily. The web is filled with hogwashed, repurposed content “how to write more effective ads” or “how to write killer copy” or “how to make your ads shine” – all written by people that haven’t a clue about “real” ad writing. In my 15 years of writing copy, I have come to understand that writing “better” ads is a collective of 5 actions. Those 5 actions you must commit to: day in, and day out. You must unconsciously be aware of them, and unconsciously absorb all they offer you.
You writing better ads… isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s not a 6-week course and you get a certificate – even the masters are still learning, they practice, they refine, they perfect. Yes, there are tricks of the trade. Yes, there are rules to live by, thought “starter fuel.” In this article, you will not read my personal tips, techniques, etc. – I will point you in the direction on how to become a better ad writer – you must do the work.
Here’s my advice – here are my 5 actions to becoming a better ad writer:
Practice, Study/Research, Read, Listen, and Watch.
Let’s go through them one by one.
1) Practice: You have to write. Let me repeat that – you have to write. Ideas are great when they are bouncing around your head like a kid bouncing back and forth across two twin beds, but until you get those ideas on paper, they’ve got no form – no function – no structure, and chances are you will forget those ideas if you don’t put them down right away. Put your ideas on paper. Keep a small notebook handy and at arms reach at all times. At this point, it doesn’t matter how long your copy is, or if you’re just jotting down bullet points – just write it. Commit to writing, once – twice – three times a week. Make time to write.
2) Study/Research: Even though this involves “reading” it’s a different “read” than the next point. Study/Research means: finding articles, marketing books, whitepapers, e-zines, and websites. Plenty of people have written articles on “how to write ads” – some are bullshit and terrible advice, but true gold is found from the masters. I for one have an affinity for people like Roy Williams, David Ogilvy, and Herschell Gordon Lewis. Pay attention to how they write ads, their tips/techniques – and then practice by implementing what you’ve learned fused into your own style.
3) Read: Read books – books on writing (one of my favorites is Word Painting), books on poetry, non-fiction, fiction, prose, comics, and autobiographies. It’s been said that as you read… so will you write. Pay attention to how other writers convey information – specifically without directly saying it. Subtleties… metaphors, verbs. Words are electric. You can spark whatever emotion you wish to convey by properly choosing the right words. Learn to choose your words carefully. Can a 2-sentence thought be summarized in 1? Can 10 words be trimmed down to 5? Read, understand, embrace… the power of words.
4) Listen: Listen to other ads, how do they sound? Are they filled with more information about the other person (the business) than… you? I call this the “we” factor. I hate “we” in copy – “we” do this, “we” have that, “we” have been in business since ____. Who cares? Seriously, if “we” is in your copy – strike it. Omit it. Replace “we” with “you”. People rarely care about you – take it out. Listen for the active voice vs. the passive voice. Engage people’s imagination & take it where you will. Listen to old radio shows, podcasts, comedy, all these can be valuable thought starters. Just make sure to pay attention to what you’re listening to – meaning, change the way you listen. Instead of listening solely for enjoyment, study the message and delivery. Not only is what you say important, equally important is “how” you say it. Remember the example (and put the accent on the italicized words):
“I didn’t say he did it”
“I didn’t say he did it”
“I didn’t say he did it”
“I didn’t say he did it.” … How you say it, is very important.
5) Watch: Video is everywhere. YouTube, the Internet in general, is a great platform for watching videos, ads, commercials, etc. Watch them on your phone, tablet, computer – wherever. Also, pay closer attention to TV, broadcast/cable/satellite – whatever service you have. Seek out videos/ads in categories like yours – both in your state and in different states, different countries. What do you like about them? What don’t you like? Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. That doesn’t mean plagiarize and copy someone else’s stuff – just pay attention to it – then formulate your own ideas. Watch like you listen in Step 4.
Commit to these 5 actions & you will open your brain to the world of great ad writing. I could get into right hemisphere vs. left hemisphere, introverts vs. extroverts, writing for male and female audiences, segmenting those audiences, understanding and writing for various generations, and so much more. But I have ads to write myself today. We’ll save those topics for another time.
Until then, share your thoughts, share this post. As my 8th grade science teacher used to say… “Questions, Comments, Class Discussion?” The “posting” floor is open.