Let’s analyse some of the advertising copy we encounter in the world around us. I’ve trudged through the Guardian Weekend supplement and extracted a few copywriting samples from lifestyle ads. Some good, some bad. All capable of teaching you a thing or two about advertising copy. (For more examples and of everyday copy, please see the other entries in my copywriting examples archive.)
1. Corsodyl Mouthwash
Spitting blood when you brush your teeth could be an early sign of gum disease.
This is no-nonsense shock factor copy. Spitting blood is a bold headline, conjuring an alarming image that’s enough to pique anyone’s interest. It’s going to make you read on, even if you’ve never spat blood in your life. It’s cleverly designed so the personalised copy is smaller, the shock words – spitting blood and gum disease stand out. They’re frightening, putting you in a terrible situation – what do you do to prevent this horrible idea that has been planted irrevocably in your brain? You need a solution. Ah wait, there it is in the explanation below.
If you spit blood it could be an early sign of gum disease, the UK’s leading cause of tooth loss. Don’t ignore the signs. Find out more about the Campaign for Healthy Gums at www.gumsmart.co.uk.
It gives that violent message a more sombre feel, and backs it up with serious detail (a good call to action there, you want to know more and that link will give it to you). The central command Don’t ignore the signs stands out, suggesting that if you don’t do something about this problem you are being lazy or naive. If you don’t act it’s your own health at risk. Advertising copy for health products has a right to be authoritative, as it’s for your own good (supposedly!). But the real crux of this advert comes at the end.
Nothing is more effective at treating gum disease. Corsodyl.
We’ve had the shock and the problem, then the drive to act on preventing it. Finally, the simple solution at the end, the product. The copy builds trust because it encourages further reading, but it offers the product as an easy answer to a rather frightening question. This is good copy, advertising the product by capturing the reader’s imagination with shock and an effective chain of reasoning to the solution.
2. MADE by MADE.COM
Made.com have gone with a classic minimal design common for advertising homewares. Classy picture of the elegant furnishings complemented by some classy text to further convince you of how sophisticated their product is. The purpose of this advertising copy is to add value to the product by making it seem like more of a luxury. Does it succeed?
We team with existing industry talent to create our unique designs. Then we work with the best craftsmen to make them. So don’t compromise on quality.
Existing talent suggests they have a history you can trust, unique design makes it sound exclusive. Don’t compromise – it’s telling you yes, you will pay more, but these are the reasons why. Personally I don’t find it especially convincing because they’re empty claims. Who is this industry talent? Who says these craftsmen are the best?
Direct from the makers
Our award-winning concept strips back unnecessary costs from factory floor to your ront [sic] room.
It was getting better there, award-winning begins to make their claims more concrete (though there’s no sign of what award), but then you’ve got a typo. And I’m stopping there. Frankly, if you make a mistake in 75 words of advertising copy then why should any of those claims of high quality and best craftsmen be believed? If your copy is designed to justify a higher price, it has to embody that class completely. An error like this is like watching a limo driver scratch his arse.
3. Rhine Valley All Inclusive (Treyn)
Lengthy advertising copy for organised holidays is quite common in print. It’s a full page spread with the appearance of a written article, fitting seamlessly into the magazine (which builds trust). It also effectively uses Z-theory design – even though the text takes up much of the page, the reader’s eye is drawn to the pictures, then price, across the text and finally resting on the company logo. The really important copy stands out: ALL INCLUSIVE TOUR, YOU WON’T FIND BETTER VALUE, CALL NOW TO BOOK. These are familiar headlines, nothing too original, just the standard lines you what you want to hear from a holiday provider.
The overall impression is that the attractions are magical, with words like mysterious and fairytale seeping in there. Generally the description uses clichéd expressions, but the selling point comes from making the attractions seem popular. There are two techniques in the actual copy that are worth noting. First is the use of the words famous and favourite, in the early headlines. They make the attractions sound popular already, that scores of others are enjoying these sites whether you are or not.
Second, the description of the journey opts for the first person plural. We are going on this excursion. This goes against typical copywriting convention of writing in the second person, to build the impression that this trip is going ahead with or without you. The itinerary is laid out, this holiday will be enjoyed, these amazing places will be visited, it is just a question of whether or not you are there. The overall effect is to build on the ever growing Fear of Missing Out. You should be a part of this great thing that’s already happening. This works by making the trip seem exclusive and adding an edge of urgency – both are effective hooks in writing to sell.
4. Twinings English Breakfast tea
A very brief one to finish. A simple but effective piece of advertising copy that builds an image of personal comfort but doesn’t entirely suit the advert.
Full bodied and full of flavour. Twinings English Breakfast tea shouldn’t be rushed. It’s best enjoyed over a relaxed breakfast when you want to appreciate the moment.
The central idea here is sound. A simple sentence to plant the tea in your imagination, longer calming sentences to slow things down and enjoy that image. Standing alone, this piece of text works fine. How exactly the relaxed breakfast fits into the image of a beach is rather confusing, though.
The effectiveness of it tying into the hook get you back to you is questionable. It has the implicit suggestion that the real you is relaxed and comfortable, and by following the advice in the copy you will find yourself. But nothing actually ties the copy to the headline and tag. The result is an effective short piece of writing, with a somewhat confused placement that is unlikely to cement the branded product in the consumer’s mind.
To avoid the copywriting mistakes of these adverts, or to help you aim towards the successful examples, please read more of my articles on copywriting, listed in my archive, or sign up to my newsletter for regular updates.