3 min read

Writing Ads: When Every Word Counts

Writing Ads: When Every Word Counts

Writing ads is an art.

Most writers hide behind a wall of words.

They enjoy a false sense of security, knowing with 500-1,000 words, there’s plenty of time to explain what you mean.

In ad copy, you have no such margin for misunderstanding.

No margin at all.

Just a couple words and a CTA.

If you can’t capture someone’s attention in less than a second, you’ve failed.

It’s a lot of pressure, which is why most writers will tell clients to write articles or long-form posts or more.

Come to think of it, I know very few writers who specialize in ad copy. It’s the old-school guys (by guys I also mean me) who literally had to do the character count exact or it’s off the edge of the printed piece of paper.


But now, there are the constraints of the platform, so it’s the same game.

Want to become a better ad writer without just throwing the dice on mad libs style effort?

Read on.

content business resources

First, Relate

Even with strangers, what do people respond to?


“Honk! Wahoo! Sage green Subaru!” Friendly wave.

Hey, that’s what I’m drinking too! Salute!

Yep, kids won’t stop singing about Bruno. Eyeroll.

We’re all just wandering blobs trying to click in with the others.

So the permission is already there:

People want to relate. They want to stumble upon something familiar.

Give it to them RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE.

(Note, if a client tells you to lead with fear/pain point or lead with an offer, refuse — it will not work as the first bit of copy).


Funny how…

Remember when…

Imagine if…

Feels like…

Been here?...

Ready to…

Hungry for…

You get the idea.

Position it against a shared moment, impulse, urge, instinct, etc. Something human. Something that makes that “them” an “us.” Immediately.

Second, a Unique Word

Speaking of familiar: people are blind to it.

It’s why we can’t find our keys.

Or remember what color socks we put on.

Or why that same piece of paper sits on the stair landing for two months and eventually just becomes part of the house.

We do not see what we’re over-exposed to.

And what are people over-exposed to these days?

Scroll-arrific, obnoxious, endlessly intrusive (drumroll please) ADS!

So right after you’ve had a very brief 4-6 word human moment… DO SOMETHING UNEXPECTED.

Something different.

And do it with words.

This is going to require you to beef up your vocabulary.

You know what would be amaze-balls?

If you used a word that was just on the cusp of “everyone knows” and “I know because I’m smart.”

If you can make someone feel smart, they will buy anything from you.

But of course you don’t know everyone and the words they know.

But what you do know is what is typical and what is not. What’s familiar language and what's a little offbeat or different.

Go there.

Go to that outskirt edge of cultural norms. Fish for some new vocabulary. Bring it home. Debone it. Season it. Grill it. Eat it with hush puppies.

Be unexpected.

It’s your second big move in an ad.

Third, a Personalized Pitch

Ads to the masses = personalized?

Believe it or not, this is the easy part.

Personalization is virtually effortless.

I mean, people literally surrender personal data points to get Dunkin’ Donuts points.

It is not hard to find out about people.

And any good marketer has done audience research and audience segmentation.

So you go back to that, those carefully constructed archetypes, and rip out the relevant bits:

What do they care about?

How does what this ad is about tie in to that?

That’s your cherry.

Plop it on top and you’ve got an ad.

Practice Writing Ads

Ok, lest that feel like an oversimplification, go practice.

Write an ad:

Opener: 4-6 words that RELATE to the audience

Body: An unexpectedly worded idea that’s the heart of the matter/offer

Closer: A personalized pitch


Try to write each ad at least six or so times. You’ll knock the edges off.

I actually spend more time editing ads than I do editing any other kind of work. This? This blog I won’t even re-read after I write it. Seriously. But an ad, I’ll edit it and rework it at least half a dozen or more times. You have to get it right. You have no margin.

Want to keep beefing up your copy game? Up next, read this: Writing a Newsletter People Actually Want to Read


Five Tips for Writing Short-Form Ad Copy

Five Tips for Writing Short-Form Ad Copy

When it comes to marketing writing, there are two distinct categories: long-form and short-form. We all know long-form well: blog articles, white...

Read More
A Guide to Writing Long-Form Copy

A Guide to Writing Long-Form Copy

Long-form copy is just what it sounds like: a long form version of a standard article of piece of information. There’s this idea that adults don’t...

Read More
Companies for Content Writing

Companies for Content Writing

Someone who is good with words is a huge asset.

Read More