Ask the Editor™
Volume 9, Issue 1

In this issue:

Writing to Sell

During the Super Bowl every year, the ads generate almost as much buzz as the game itself. When you talk to your colleagues around the water cooler on Monday morning, you are just as likely to discuss the funniest, most entertaining, and most unusual ads as the actual game. Who can ever forget Apple's "1984" ad or the Budweiser Dalmatian ads?

Ordinary folks judge ads on whether they like them or not. But when you write an ad, your job is not to amuse, but to sell the product. Never lose sight of that fact when you take a seat in front of the keyboard. You are a salesman, not an entertainer.

That doesn't mean an ad can't be clever, interesting, and enjoyable to read. But if it doesn't increase sales, it's a waste of time and money. Your ad should always be dictated by your product and prospects, not the desire to produce the fanciest, most elaborate portfolio piece.

In fact, the wrong kind of advertising can actually reduce sales. A survey once revealed that consumption of a certain brand of beer was actually lower among people who remembered the ads. The brewer had spent millions on these ads.

As advertising guru David Ogilvy says, "I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don't want you to tell me you find it creative. I want you to find it interesting, so you will buy the product."

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“My definition says that an ad has a purpose other than to entertain. That purpose is to conquer a sale by persuading a logical prospect of your product or service ... to switch to yours.” Hank Seiden

Orfield Communications

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Tips on Writing Copy That Sells

Write an attention grabbing headline. According to David Ogilvy, "The headline is the most important element in most advertisements. Five times as many people read the headline as they read the copy. If you haven't done some selling in your headline, you've wasted your client's money."

Most copywriters try to be too cute and clever in their headlines. Remember that your customers want to know what's in it for them. It should offer a benefit that speaks to their needs and will draw them into the copy. Be sure the headline grabs the reader's attention with a strong sales message.

Sell the sizzle, not the steak. Customers don't simply buy products and services. They buy products and services for what they will do for them. Focus on the benefits of the product, not the features.

Know your customer. To write a successful ad, you need to know what makes your customer tick – their needs, desires, moods, personality, and motivations. This will help you to focus on only those benefits that are most important to your customer and cause them to buy the product. It will also help you understand which theme, tone, and format for the ad will fly, and which won't.

Do your homework. Unless you know the product inside and out, you will have no way of knowing its key features and benefits. Get your hands on any literature related to the product, including articles, brochures, marketing research, and product specifications. After reviewing these materials thoroughly, call or schedule a meeting with the appropriate sales or product line managers and ask follow-up questions.

What's the big idea? Make a list of features and a corresponding list of benefits for each feature. The list of benefits are the sales points you might include in your ad. Based on what you know about the customer, determine which sales point is the strongest. Use this in your headline and as the theme of your ad. Then choose which other sales points you want to use.

The next step is to put your sales points in some logical order. Make sure your ad gets the reader's attention through a strong headline that focuses on the benefit you identified. Then show the reader why they need the product and how your product can satisfy that need.

The important thing of course is to get the sale. Include a call to action that tells the reader how to order or find out more about the product.

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“The object of advertising is to sell goods. It has no other justification worth mentioning.” Raymond Rubicam

Ten Characteristics of Ads That Sell

  1. The headline provides the theme for the ad copy
  2. The headline gets the reader's attention and includes an important benefit or reward for the customer
  3. The photo or visual illustrates the benefit in the headline
  4. The layout moves the reader logically through the ad from the headline through the visual and copy
  5. The copy fulfills the promise in the headline
  6. The copy flows smoothly from sales point to sales point
  7. The copy is easy and interesting to read and generates enthusiasm for the product
  8. The ad is sincere and believable so it gains the reader's trust
  9. The copy persuades the prospective customer to buy the product
  10. The ad includes a call to action to learn more about or order the product

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“Advertising is the cave art of the twentieth century.” Marshall McLuhan

Ask the Editor™ Question

I'm working on an ad to promote a new product. How do I liven it up?

Kyle Meyer

According to David Ogilvy, "You cannot bore someone into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it." Here are some tips on making your ad copy interesting to read:

  • Write in a personal style
  • Keep it warm, friendly, light, and lively
  • Avoid long-winded copy with long sentences and big words
  • Appeal to customer's self-interest by focusing on how the product solves a problem
  • Focus on benefits instead of features
  • Speak to customer's emotions, needs, and desires
  • Write about people; tell a story
  • Use testimonials from customers or celebrities
  • Tell important news about the product
  • Talk about what the product can do for the customer rather than how it is made or works

“The Editor”

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