Learn why your advertising campaigns need good copywriting and tips on how to do it.
Words matter a great deal in digital advertising.
The great and ever-quotable Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
As a copywriter and content writer with many years of experience, I can tell you that working with fewer words is much harder than when you can use more.
Many people make the mistake of thinking shorter is always better when it comes to copywriting and content marketing. That’s dead wrong.
No, good writing is concise writing. What does that mean?
Your copy is only as long or short as it needs to be.
Of course, with ads, you might be working with character counts and other restrictions. Still, you can make an impact on audiences with only a few words, as long as they’re the right words for the right audience.
That’s where contextual intelligence and brand safety come in.
Put your ad in the best and most appropriate environment with the correct context for a specific audience.
Make sure it’s safe for your brand and suitable. That way, you won’t offend your audiences nor waste their time with an ad about a product or offer they wouldn’t be interested in.
Learn 5 steps to a better brand-suitability strategy with this infographic.
Suppose you’re all set. You know your audience, what keywords to use in your copy, and you know just what will interest them and get them to click on an ad.
First, burn these general tips for copywriting, content writing, and writing in general into your mind:
You won’t make the right impression or impact if you don’t sound like a human being and only like an advertising drone trying to get someone to buy something. Don’t say, “leverage these advertising audiences to future-proof your seasonal campaigns.”
I just wrote that and barely know what that means. You want to keep your copy simple and to the point. If it’s not something that resonates with you, why would it to anyone else?
Active tense means using action words as verbs whenever possible. Only use passive tense if it sounds natural, and you have to.
A world of difference separates “Get a whiter, brighter smile” from “your teeth were cleaned.”
Too much passive tense stops copy dead and can make it hard to read.
Don’t tell your audience you have the best sliced bread since sliced bread. Show them.
How many people subscribe to your newsletter? How many positive reviews have you gotten online?
Mention that or that you provide award-winning service.
People think in images. Create an image in their minds so they can picture the success and benefits you’ll provide.
Reading off a screen is different from a book, magazine, or newsletter. Any type of writing or copy needs to be as readable and easy to understand as possible.
So, make good use of web writing standards. What are web writing standards? In brief, you should try to:
Ad copywriting isn't actually about your brand, product, or offer. They’re about what your audiences will do with them. So, your ad copy should speak as directly to your audiences as possible.
Your ad is about what someone will get or do. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
No one cares about a product or solution, only the value such things provide and how it improves their lives or makes someone happier.
It’s not dental school you’re selling. It’s “learn how to help people smile.”
Not Muay Thai kickboxing, but “self-defense lessons and fitness.”
Not a customer loyalty program, but more loyal and engaged customers.
So, think of an ad (and most copywriting) like you’re writing a letter to your audience. Tell them how they’ll benefit.
Besides, if an image, video, meme, or gif can make your point more sharply and quickly than words, you should go with that.
See how to create more impactful video content with this infographic, “The Power of Video Marketing.”
You should use a font and font size that are easy to read. Your CTA should also stand out. Use a button, larger font, or a different design than the rest of your text.
And your design, much like an email, landing page, or web page, should mesh well with your copy. It should all go together in one engaging experience that’s simple to understand.
As your CTA? The less generic you make it, the better.
A good CTA reflects the action you want your audiences to take.
So, if you want someone to make a dentist appointment to get their teeth cleaned or a whiter, brighter smile, it can be something like:
For an event, your CTA can be just “register now!” or something like that. Adding “now” or “today” adds urgency, but you can make the CTA more intriguing than that, such as:
The more urgent you can make your copy and CTA, the better. It drives someone to act quicker since they don’t want to miss out. Sometimes, you achieve this by just adding “now” to your CTA. Other times, you can outright tell someone they’ll miss out on a discount or sale if they don’t act soon enough.
90% of people would remember ads better if they’re funny, according to recent research by Oracle.
Online ads tend to be disruptive. Some people find them annoying or ignore them.
But if your ad makes someone smile or laugh, it becomes something memorable. Your audience might remember it better and even tell their friends and family about it.
It only makes them more likely that they’ll click through on it.
Humor humanizes your brand and makes you sound like another person helping someone or passing helpful information along to someone else rather than a bot programmed to make a sale.
Of course, humor is subjective. It depends on a great time on context and timing, so take care with it. Make sure whatever humor you use suits your audience and won’t hurt your brand reputation.
Find out more about why humor matters in advertising with the Happiness Report.
Over five billion people across the world, or about 67% of the global population, use a mobile phone. Mobile phones actually account for more than half of web traffic worldwide.
You know people might be seeing your ads on mobile. You need to take that into account.
What does this mean?
How can you check to see if your ad works on mobile?
Don’t make a rookie mistake. Preview it before it goes out.
Nowadays, many people skim rather than read the whole thing, even if it’s something as brief as an ad. That means your headline and CTA matter more than anything since they have to make the most impact and get all the pertinent details out there.
Occasionally, you might only have a headline or CTA (or maybe only a CTA). Use them wisely.
Once for an ad, I used “See why Oracle” as a CTA. When brand editorial reviewed it, one editor flagged it as bad grammar, but another saw what I was trying to do with limited space and characters.
It made my point and was clear enough for audiences to understand.
So, good grammar helps, but it’s not everything. If you can make your point, it doesn’t always matter if you don’t use a comma or don’t follow the rules of grammar 100%.
What matters is making your point clearly, concisely, and impactfully.
Want another example?
I hate using semicolons in copy. I don’t like how they look visually. And how your ad looks visually does matter.
Much of the time, I’ll use a comma instead of a semicolon.
I prefer how it looks. It also gets the same point and meaning across.
So, a subhead like “Successful advertisers pay attention to measurement; numbers pave the path to ROI”
“Successful advertisers pay attention to measurement, numbers pave the path to ROI.”
(Grammarly also told me this is grammatically incorrect, but I’m a rebel without a cause, I tell you.)
For help with advertising copy, campaigns, and creative, look no further than Oracle Marketing Consulting.
Now that you have some basic rules of advertising copywriting down, let’s look at how you can work with a limited amount of words and space.
Ads vary in length. Some might have a headline, a subhead, and a CTA. Others might be only a few lines or even one.
What does this mean for your copywriting?
You get to the point right away (even more so than in, say, an email or landing page).
The best copywriting for advertising focuses on the end result.
Remember when I said you were selling a whiter, brighter smile and not dentistry?
It’s even truer here. The headline (and maybe the only line you have) should cut right to the chase. If you have room for more details, use that room wisely. You might use an image, stat, or additional copy. But always, always make sure the headline does its job.
Look at these ad copy examples that could work as headlines or maybe even stand alone:
Sometimes, you might have more than a headline to work with.
Headline: Connect and convert
Subhead: Meet up with customers on the channel of their choice.
CTA: Make it happen
Headline: More channels, more conversions
CTA: Get the secret
Headline: A whiter, brighter smile
Subhead: Your smile makes the best first impression.
CTA: Make a teeth-cleaning appointment
Headline: Learn self-defense and get fit with Muay Thai
CTA: Sign up for discounted lessons today
You might only have one line, too.
Ad copy (both a headline and CTA): Discounted kickboxing lessons¾limited time offer!
Ad copy (both a headline and CTA): A whiter-brighter smile¾Call Doctor Goodman today!
Believe me, shorter copy can be much harder to write than longer. You don’t have as much space to make your point. And you have to make an impact.
With no room for filler, you can’t waste anyone’s time, even with an ad.
Make your point and offer value in the sharpest, most impactful way possible.
Michael McNichols is a Senior Content Manager for Oracle Digital Marketing. He has over ten years of experience in professional writing and has been widely published.