Tips for Creating More Effective Ads


Almost thirty years ago, I spoke as a panelist at a workshop titled “Writing for Profit.” — All day long, lecturers instructed attendees on how to approach editors and publishers with their work, what to expect in a publisher’s contract, and how to put together a writer’s proposal, primarily focusing on ” selling” their work.

At the seminar’s conclusion, five “successful writers”—among them, yours indeed—were presented, each with a brief rundown of our respective bodies of work and other achievements.

The first few questions from the audience restated material that had already been covered. Then a young man from the back of the room spoke up.

“You’ve spent the whole day telling us how to market our writing, but how do you start writing in the first place?”

When the other panelists had finished advocating English composition classes, extolling the virtues of proper grammar and syntax, and encouraging him to “just keep writing, you’ll get better,” I had the floor.

As usual, my response was brief and to the point.


Then I had to clarify my meaning.

If you want to create science fiction, read as much of the genre as possible. Get lost in the literature of your chosen genre. Eighty percent of your time should be spent reading, and twenty percent should be spent creating “sequels” to the stories you’ve read.

The young man who first posed the query is now a thriving author who earns a six-figure salary for his work. The last time we spoke, he thanked me again for my help.

That being said, I will now address the questions bugging me…

Tips for Creating More Effective Ads

You could think, “Now he’s gonna tell us to read all the books we can find on copywriting.”

False, book-breathing! First, I will tell you to toss out all the copywriting books you’ve been using to brush up on your English composition, grammar, and syntax.

Browse the Ads!

Yes, you are correct in saying that. If you want to advertise your “fancy-dancy fishhooks,” you should compile every ad you can find for fishing equipment, including hooks, lures, poles, and boats. — You should read them, reread them, and then reread them. — Don’t even bother trying to write anything. Check out the commercials!

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s so yesterday.” Keep a file of commercials for items comparable to yours, and use them as inspiration while writing your own.

False, once more, you breath-alike litterbox. — Copycat ads made entirely from your swipe file become…

The Most Common Faux Pas Committed By Inexperienced Ad Copywriters!

Inexperienced copywriters often try to repurpose an existing advertisement for their purposes by making minor tweaks to the title, rearranging the paragraphs, and perhaps adding a “bonus” offer.

Please give it some thought! That’s like taking “Moby Dick” and rewriting it so that the whale is a magnificent white buffalo, the setting is the American plains, and Captain Ahab has an amputated arm. (Don’t make fun. As far as I can recall, Charles Bronson starred in such a film. — It would be an imitation and an imperfect one at that.

Joe Karbo’s “Lazy Man’s Way to Riches” ad was incredibly successful in the business opportunity industry. — I wonder how often that advertisement has been tweaked and improved to promote a different business opportunity. — Joe Karbo told me a few weeks before he passed away that he was saddened by the fact that none of the advertising that had been inspired by his own had been successful.

Spend 80% of your time “reading” advertisements for items similar to yours; this is what I recommend to the young aspiring writer. Then …

Twenty percent of your time should be dedicated to creating “sequels” for the advertisements.

A literary work that stands alone but continues the storyline of earlier work is called a sequel.

In contrast to the many failed or partially successful advertisements that just imitated Joe Karbo’s “Lazy Man’s Way To Riches” ad, I have written at least five “sequel” ads that have generated substantial income for me over the years. My “How to STRIKE IT RICH” book is advertised in one of them. Instead of attempting to “copy” Joe’s commercial, I merely continued his story and ended on a different note—with my wares.

Apply the same method to your swipe file. — Don’t stop reading those commercials until you know everything there is to know about the things being offered. Put those ads away, and don’t even consider consulting them while you craft your advertisement. — If you’ve read specific adverts, don’t try to “copy” them.

Make a “sequel.”

Allow your ad copy to pick up where others have left off.

Repeat the process until you get a satisfactory outcome; reread the advertisements, put them away, and rewrite the “sequel” if necessary. — Don’t stop hunting for more commercials providing similar things to add to your story; instead, submerge yourself in them until you can’t see land. The advertising should be put aside while you create the “sequel” ads.

Your “sequels” will generate more and more money the better they get.

Now I will reveal to you…

The Biggest, Best-Kept Secret of Effective Ad Copy!

Despite having read thousands of pages on ad copywriting, I have never encountered the “secret” I am about to share with you.

The “sequel” ads you’re going to write…

Put the correct words into your ad to bring in repeat customers you’ll be happy to have.

The most excellent method to clarify my meaning is by example. — Consider these two examples of “opportunity” ads’ headlines…

Make $20,000/Mo.

Receive $ 10,000 Monthly.

After a cursory glance, you could assume that both headlines describe the same opportunity.

First, we have a headline starting with “Earn.” The reader will interpret this to suggest that there is some “job” or “work” that must be done to “earn” the promised $10,000.

In contrast, the second headline uses the word “Get” to imply that the recipient of the sum of money needs to do very little “work” to receive it.

You won’t believe it, but your readers make that distinction without realizing it. The headline has permanently imprinted itself on their “subconscious.”

By using the word “Earn,” you’ll appeal to consumers who don’t have an irrational fear of exertion. — More people hoping to receive something for nothing will be attracted to your content if you include the phrase “Get.”

That reminds me of something I’ve noticed about…

Books on Writing Ad Copy

Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen an explosion in the number of publications dedicated to advertising copywriting. Sadly, too many of these publications are merely rehashes of other, better-written works on the subject.

The authors of such tomes believe that one must “trick” the consumer into purchasing to “sell” something. They then attribute dishonest intent to perfectly legal methods of advertising. Journalists’ preconceived notion that advertising is inherently corrupting is bolstered by the various kooks who create books undermining sound advertising principles.

I’m against book burning with all my heart. Still, it would help if you didn’t have any advertising books in your office that advocate for foul language, vague or made-up claims, empty hype, or outlandish claims with no factual basis.

To “trick” folks into purchasing your stuff earns zero respect from me.

J.F. (Jim) Straw, who has been active in business for over 50 years, teaches “Practical Instruction in the Arts & Sciences of Making Money” at the Business Lyceum.

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