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How To Write A Good Advertisement By Victor Schwab

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Victor O. Schwab’s How To Write A Good Advertisement is a book that’ll help improve your Facebook ads.  True to the subtitle, it’s a mini course in copywriting.

Below are my notes.  I’ll add insights, examples and suggestions pertaining to Facebook advertising whenever possible.

1) A good advertisement has five components:

  • Get attention
  • Show people an advantage
  • Prove it
  • Persuade people to grasp this advantage
  • Ask for action

The typical Facebook ad does the first, promises the second, then skips to the last.  Think about that.

2) Advertisers are intruders.  Nobody invited you into their newsfeed, for example.  Your ads, to stand a chance, must offer a reward for reading.  Otherwise it’s Scroll City, son.  (Buh-bye annoying ad.)

3) Good headlines can be positive, explaining how the reader can increase mental, physical, financial, social, emotional or spiritual stimulation, satisfaction, well-being or security; or negative, by pointing out how to avoid, reduce or eliminate risks, worries, losses, mistakes, embarrassment, discomfort, boredom, accident or illness.

Important: Facebook prefers positivity.  So: “How To Get Lean And Gain Energy” instead of “Sick Of Being Overweight And Feeling Tired All The Time?”

4) Many top headlines promise specifics (to be included in the body copy) by using words like How, Here’s, These, Which, Which Of These, Who, Who Else, Where, When, What and Why; or by using exact amounts–number of days, for example.

Just be careful with claims unless you want your Facebook ad account banned.

5) Use uncommon words that act as pattern interrupts within headlines.  “Belly-Ache” instead of “Complain.”  “Rotten” instead of “Bad.”  You’ll hear this sort of advice a lot:

In The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, Joseph Sugarman says to be suspicious if a word or phrase comes to mind too easily.  Find something more unique.

6) The best way to get someone’s attention is to yell their name.

Now.  Since you can’t do that, nor can you call out details or demographics of the peeps you’re targeting on Facebook (it’s against their terms)… the next best option is to declare who the ad is for.  “Dear Expert,” “Chiropractors Only,” “For Entrepreneurs.”

7) Pictures of people, children, animals, sports and natural scenery are proven attention-getters.  Adding some text on top of such images will usually work even better.

But again, per Facebook’s policy, keep it to a minimum.  Use their Text Overlay Tool to make sure you’re not overdoing it.

And don’t get lazy.  The picture should tie in with the product or service or at least the concept of the ad.  Nothing says marketer like a misleading photo used only for cheap clicks.

8) After the headline and image do their part, show an advantage.  Immediately.  “This is what’s in it for you.”

9) The first paragraph should take the baton from the headline.  Simple words, short sentences–create reading momentum.  Ask the reader a direct question or make them a big promise.

10) The more facts you tell, the more you sell.  Proof gives people excuses to get away with their emotional decision to buy.  It builds belief.  Makes ’em feel safe, even wise, about wanting to spend money with you.

Collect case studies and testimonials.  Don’t script or edit out the authenticity though.  A phony-sounding shout out could do more harm than good.

It’s not a bad idea to interview clients who’re still struggling.  Why?  Well, it’s real.  This is a different kind of proof–proof of integrity.

You could prove popularity too.  Show how many people are opting in or attending your webinar or getting on your calendar each day.  As in: “Everybody’s doing it.”

What else?  Got emails or Facebook private messages thanking you for the great support?  Flaunt ’em.

Dig up as many favorable facts as you can.  Where can you mix these into your marketing?

11) Next, reiterate, remind and sum up what you just said.  Persuade readers to grasp these advantages by connecting the dots in the next couple sentences or paragraphs–depending on the length of the ad.

Think of this fourth component as a selling summary.  Be thorough so that even the most stubborn reader can be persuaded to take action.

12) “The gap between reading words and doing things is wide and wasteful,” says Victor Schwab.  Now for the fifth and final piece of a good ad: ask for action.

Whatever the action, make it simple, easy, specific.  My Facebook ads usually go something like this:

Click “Learn More” then enter your best email on the next page.  I’ll send the free video straight to your inbox.

If possible (and genuine), make it time-sensitive.  Why should someone opt-in right now?  What do they gain–or avoid missing out on–by not waiting?

13) Can you include all five fundamentals in every ad?  Wouldn’t that mean the copy has to be long?  Not necessarily.  Say you wanted to run a short copy ad in Facebook:

Nail the headline and image.  Then name the single greatest advantage in sentence one.  In sentence two, provide your most powerful evidence.  Put a stamp on it in sentence three.  And the fourth sentence is your call to action.  Done.

So it’s doable, yes.  But will it convert as well?  That’s the real question.

Schwab says it’s nearly impossible to pick a winner in the “short versus long” debate, but he makes a great point: “The LONGER your copy can hold the interest of the greatest number of readers, the likelier you are to induce MORE of them to act.”

The keyword there is interest.  Whaddya doin’ to hold it?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Kick the copy off with a relevant question.
  • Make it newsworthy.
  • Be as specific as possible.  “93 sales,” not “almost 100.”
  • Sell advantages, not things.  What’s in it for them?
  • Focus on major needs and desires of reader.
  • Make it emotional.
  • Give it some personality.
  • Entertain them.
  • Ask more questions as subheads.
  • Format and punctuate for clarity and simplicity.
  • Use active verbs, pictorial nouns.
  • Write in vivid present tense.  “You smack the ball down the fresh-cut fairway.”
  • Pluck unnecessary words.  Go for compactness.

The more you do of the above, therefore, the more likely you are to get conversions with longer copy.  The fewer you do, the less it matters.  And if you really suck?  Short and sweet is the safer bet.

14) The purpose of an advertisement is to produce a profit.  It doesn’t matter if me and you–your momma and your cousin too–all like the ad.  You can’t buy groceries with compliments.

15) A gifted product is mightier than a gifted pen.  Take the pressure off your words by truly being great at what you do.


About the author: husband; father x 3; runs; does push-ups; likes hip-hop more than he should; raised blue collar, graduated white collar, wears a popped collar; thinks copywriting is cool; makes a mean Facebook ad; to see case studies, opt-in to his non-douchey email list.