Writing Ad Copy in the Digital Age

As a copywriter, your role is to create the perceived value of your product and brand. As an advertiser, your role is to get this value in front of the highest volume of qualified traffic at the lowest cost possible.

Once you understand the client’s perspective of their product & positioning, you’ll:

  1. Establish the Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

A USP is the unique selling proposition. It’s what differentiates your product from competitors & alternatives — this can be a feature of the product or new positioning in the market (done through messaging). Here’s the how-to:

Create Intelligently

Read reviews from Amazon, the client’s site, the App store. Reviews for both client’s product, competitors, and alternatives.

Look for:

  • Repeated & memorable phrases
  • What people want
  • What they complain about
    • Downplay these
    • If it’s a competitor review & you don’t have those problems – highlight that

Features and Benefits

  • Make a side-by-side list with product/service features on the left side, and the benefit of that particular feature on the right
  • Decide which benefit(s)is/are most important — this is your headline (and ad theme)
    • This practice is especially useful, because headlines should be clear and engaging — not too clever; the second your customer has to think about what you’re trying to say, you’ve lost them

Types of USPs

  • Stress an under-publicized or little-known benefit
    • An important benefit your competitors may be ignoring
  • Reposition a known benefit in a compelling fashion
  • Build long-term brand personalities (high budget; brand awareness play)

Putting it All Together

Establish a strong USP: Remember your strongest benefit? What about that makes it different than your competitors? This has to be something your customer cares about.

If your product or service doesn’t have anything distinctly different about it, think of something your competitors haven’t highlighted. e.g.:

  • M&Ms
  • Feature – hard shell
  • Benefit – doesn’t melt
  • UPS: Melts in your mouth, not your hand
  • Now, M&Ms has that position in consumers’ minds. There are definitely other candies that don’t melt, but M&Ms discovered that it was a position they could take, did and now they own it.
  1. Establish an Audience

Depending on your product or service, this may come before, after or at the same time as establishing your USP. Often, you’ll do the features and benefits, establish your audience and choose which benefit works for which audience and apply that USP to them.

  1. Writing the Copy

People buy based on emotion, then rationalize the purchase decision with logic. Think of the potential customer’s beliefs, feelings, and desires.

There are a few approaches to writing copy that can help you frame out effective, emotional copy. Use your instinct about which of these fits your goals the best, but it’s a good barometer to ask, is my copy doing this?:












  1. A/B Test

Test everything for underperforming ads, but do it one variable at a time.

Good click-thru, time on site but low conversion? Something on the site is losing them. Try message matching ad copy to site headlines & using Optimizely to test variants on-site.

The Copywriter’s Handbook: http://www.amazon.com/The-Copywriters-Handbook-Step-By-Step-Writing/dp/0805078045

Copy Hackers: www.copyhackers.com

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