How to Write a Great Advert

How confident are you that you could write a great advert? An advert that would result in high traffic to your website and lots of conversions. For most people the answer is “Not very confident”.

Now imagine that you commit to spending the next three months of your life working on this advert. That’s a huge commitment, it’s probably about half a percent of your entire career devoted to just this one thing.

Let’s say that over this three month period you plan to test around 100 variations of the advert. Every day you will review qualitative feedback (emailing people who didn’t buy to ask why, showing the advert to as many people as you can whether that’s colleagues, focus groups or people you meet out and about) and quantitative feedback (looking at click thru rates, conversion rates, bounce rates, etc).

As the days, the weeks, then months go by you gradually become obsessed by this advert. You wake up in the middle of the night and scribble down ideas. Your partner complains of neglect. Your entire life becomes focused on this advert. I have found myself showing adverts to everyone from strangers in bars to parents at the school gate.

If you were to put yourself through this, how confident would you be that a great advert would emerge? I strongly suspect that most people would be able to produce a pretty good result.

What I have described is the difference between relying on luck and expecting to be able to roll a six first time; compared with following a lengthy process where you role a dice over and over again until almost inevitably the six appears.

When I’ve done this for real I’ve never actually had to go a full three months, usually about a month of focus on an advert is enough to get it right but I do think it’s important to be psychologically prepared to go much longer.

This also highlights why it’s generally not a good idea to do too many things in the early days. Doing some Google Adverts, some Facebook, some print adverts, maybe some inserts is almost exactly what you shouldn’t be doing.

I think it’s generally better to choose a digital advertising format to cycle thru the changes. It is technically possible to produce 100 magazine or TV adverts but it’s not really very practical. It’s much better to do the learning in a more malleable digital format like Google or Facebook then once you’ve worked it out you can roll it out in a harder to change format like print or TV.

As the baseball player Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

The trick to writing a great advert is the process, not the inspiration.

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