Advertisement Copy

The first words of an advertisement’s body copy or text are all-important; nothing must be done to diminish the reader’s interest. If the advertisement’s headline and illustration have done their job properly, then the reader should carry on taking in the rest of your message.

One often hears that “people don’t read copy” or “there’s too much copy”.  That’s true only if the headline and illustration have failed, or if the whole advertisement is completely irrelevant to the audience.  It’s also true that there should be only enough copy as is necessary, but there has to be enough to satisfy the reader that the time taken to read the advert was worth while.

When it’s a response advert you are compiling, remember that it’s often wiser to have lengthy copy.  This is especially important when you expect people to buy from you through the mail, the internet or by telephone.  Longer copy (provided it’s relevant) is also a way of making a classified advert stand out on a page.  It makes it look different to the rest.

When writing, select in your mind a reader who is typical of your customers – preferably one with whom you get along well!  Write your copy as if you were addressing that person, all the while trying to get across your strongest product benefit in terms that will be the most appealing – to that customer.

Advertising copy, while doing its job to provide information, works best if angled at human appeals:

  • Making money.
  • Saving money.
  • Winning praise.
  • Family or individual fun.
  • Impressing others.
  • Saving time and effort.
  • Self-improvement.



  • The copy MUST fulfill the promise of the headline.
  • Use a human appeal.Have a real person in mind, not some grey mass.


  • Write as you talk, but speak the language of your reader.


  • Believe in what you’re writing.Use “action” words that excite or create visual impressions.  The best examples of these are found in restaurant menus, where exotic names and descriptions of food dishes conjure up visions of culinary delights.


  • Also use words that are emotive, sentences that conjure up visions of the reader enjoying himself with your product.  Invite him to become involved in your advert.


  • Use short sentences, but vary their length.  Too many of the same length are like the boring drone of a fly.


  • Be honest.


  • Beware of humour – and respect the reader’s intelligence.  NOTE: humour most certainly does not belong in trade directories.  The reader scans it in search of help, not to be entertained.


  • Provide information.  You have to convince the reader about what you are promoting.


  • Copy must be specific, so sell one thing at a time.  Leave the rest for another advert.


  • Long copy should be broken up.  It looks too formidable when it is clumped together in reams.  Break it up into small pieces, so that it appears as blocks of copy.  Or use columns.


  • Be logical in your sales arguments.  Lead the reader line by line, with each flowing smoothly into the next.


  • Make it clear what you want the reader to do.  Must he come to your store by a certain date, telephone in, or write?


  • Let meaning take precedence over grammatical rules – within limits!  Make sure the spelling of words is correct, and that especially apostrophes are correctly used.


  • Price makes good copy.  Price your products and services right, especially at certain times of the month.  At the same time, be clear about what the price does and does not include.Work with the professionals, either at your local newspaper or, if you hold a franchise, with those at their head office.
  • Repeat the key benefit at least twice, in different words or through illustrations or examples.
  • Include as many emotional reasons for buying as possible.
  • See how much can be cut from your body copy without confusing or weakening the ad.  One way of achieving this is by making them bullet statements.  Ruthlessly trim your copy of metaphors, clumsy sentence structures, repeated words (we all have our favourites!).  See whether lengthy sentences can’t exist as two or more separate ones.
  • Leave the whole thing for a day or two.  A fresh look might reveal the flaws.  Let someone else read it.
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