In the course of a day, you’ll come across about a bazillion ads (I’ll have to cite that study later…). Many of them are good, but many are not so good. As a new copywriter, it’s crucial that you learn to tell the difference. Today, I’ll teach you how to do just that.
Today’s question is from Seth P. who asks, “I’ve been trying to take more notice of the ads and copy I see like you say to. But how can a I tell if an ad is any good?”
Being able to tell if an ad is any good is crucial since you’ll need to be able to apply that same discernment to your own work. After all, if you can’t tell if an ad is bad or good, how will you tell if your own ad is bad or good?
I’ll start first with a little disclaimer: What we’ll talk about today is what makes an ad good from the perspective of how likely it is to be effective. We’ll define good ads as those likely to make the intended audience take the action the advertiser wants them to take.
The funniness or cleverness or impact of an ad can be part of this effectiveness, but those elements themselves can often be a matter of opinion. For that reason, we’re not going to touch on them very much here.
A note: If you really want to get the most benefit from today’s post, I’d recommend grabbing an ad and following along.
First: A good ad needs to make clear how the product/service/person its selling will benefit you. If you ask “What’s in it for me?” the ad should very clearly, and immediately, answer it. If you have to ask, “Why would I even care about this?” it’s a bad ad.
Wait—one caveat to that. The ad is geared to its target audience. Just because you don’t care about something, doesn’t mean it’s a bad ad. However, if no one would care about it or if it doesn’t convey a benefit at all, then it’s a bad ad. (Actually, if it doesn’t have a benefit, it’s a very bad ad.)
So, second, a good ad needs to speak to its target audience. Put yourself in the target audience’s shoes. Does it appeal to you? Does it resonate with you? Does the copy use words you (as the target audience) would use? If yes, great. If no: bad ad.
Third, does the ad have details to support this benefit? Do you know how the product/service/whatever creates this benefit? A good ad gives the reader exactly the information he/she needs to make the decision to take an action. (No more and no less.) Now, if the benefit is very straightforward and easy to understand, it may not need additional details. But if the details are needed…are they there?
Fourth, take a look at the copy overall. Is there any unnecessary copy? Copy that doesn’t really serve a purpose or explains things that don’t need to be explained at this point in your interaction with the product? If an ad is unnecessarily wordy, it’s definitely veering into the bad ad zone. A good ad has a specific purpose for every single one of its words.
Fifth, a good ad makes it very clear what the advertiser wants you to do next. Is the call to action clear? Are you supposed to buy now? Or visit the store? Or sign up for a newsletter? Do you know what you’re supposed to do?
Now, some ads—like magazine ads, especially—don’t always feature a strong and direct call to action. They may leave it to be “understood” that by advertising this great product, they want you to go to a store and buy it. This might be dictated by the style of the magazine or the client’s request. I would argue, though, that the very best ads don’t make you guess what they want you to do next or where you can actually purchase their product.
Lastly, the best ads are memorable. They accomplish all of the above, but they stand out from the crowd and make their target audience take notice. And the best ads don’t just make you remember the ad, they also make you remember the brand. How times have you seen an ad and described to someone, but when they asked what company put out the ad, you couldn’t remember? Probably a lot. What’s the point of an ad if it doesn’t make you remember the company and the product?
Now, this was a pretty quick overview of what makes an ad good or not. There are certainly other elements that can contribute, but the elements above are the ones that must be part of an ad for it to be good. Starting with these basic building blocks will help you craft your own effective ad.
Your turn! Which elements of great ads did I miss? (And remember: We’re talking about elements that make them effective.) Let us know in the comments below!