Write Better Ad Copy

By James Thorpe     |     September 13, 2017

Have you ever gone into a high-end, expensive restaurant where you had to order from a counter, take your meal on a tray and bus your own table? Probably not, because that sounds like a restaurant you would never go to. It’s not a cohesive experience, and unless that’s the point, customers are going to feel weird and turned off by the whole experience. Most copy on the internet is like that bad, weird, restaurant. So yes, this is a (probably needlessly) elaborate analogy for writing good, cohesive copy.

Unlike this fictional restaurant, your copy should match the tone and embody the style of your subject. This is what it means to ‘show don’t tell,’ as the old cliché goes. If you’re writing a character, don’t talk about what your character would do; just have them do it. It’s the same for brands. You don’t say ‘we’re funny’; you just be funny. Otherwise it’s like when you tell a joke and instead of laughing, someone says ‘that’s funny.’ If it was actually funny, they would have actually laughed.

That’s what we were going for when we produced this short recruiting video for our agency. In particular we wanted to highlight our agency culture, which is that we’re a bunch of hard-working weirdos. So we led with the ‘hard-working’ part and got to the ‘weirdos’ part as quickly as we could. Along with genuine traits we were looking for, we sprinkled in a bunch of wily descriptors for our ideal candidate: committed, smart, humble, weird, non-GMO, cream-filled, not currently on meth, 100% beef, etc. Clearly we have high standards for potential hires.

One method I find helpful for creating a cohesive copy experience (a phrase I hope somehow makes it on my tombstone) is to think of words and imagery associated with the subject you’re talking about. So when writing about organic food brands I use words like grow, flourish, flower, blossom, bloom, etc. When in doubt, consult your friendly thesaurus. Where else would you find a more rhythmically appropriate substitute for the word ‘pulchritude’? The flow and sound of the words is important too, which is when reading aloud comes in handy. There’s really no substitute for hearing the words out loud to asses the rise and fall of their rhythm.

So when you’re writing copy, think of your audience’s experience when they encounter it. What are they expecting, and how does what you’ve written interact with those expectations? Sometimes of course you’re trying to dash those expectations, but that should always be intentional. Otherwise, give your fans what they want: if they’re going to a fancy restaurant, don’t give them fast food. Give them fancy, expensive words they can take pictures of and post on Instagram.

About James Thorpe

Copywriter, wannabe rockstar. James is a lifelong creative with an MBA who passionately eschews the right/left brain divide and moonlights as a puffy Cheeto evangelist.

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