Ideas unlimited

Writing the ad that works


Have you ever run an ad that didn’t work?

One that attracted little response, or worse, no response at all?

It can happen, and it can happen for many reasons. 

Given that the right people saw your message - which is a happy combination of targeting the right people with the right message, media selection and luck - one reason for failure could be that your target market doesn’t see a need for your product because your message has not followed some basic copywriter’s rules to:

  1. attract the interest of your target market,
  2. create a desire,
  3. generate enthusiasm, then to
  4. encourage your target market to take action.

If you like mnemonics, you can remember this action plan through the word IDEA, or

      1. Interest
      2. Desire
      3. Enthusiasm
      4. Action

Sound easy? It is, and the good news is that the more often you write good advertising, the better you get at writing good advertising.

So let’s get started …. 



It is up to you to know who you are writing to and to ensure that your audience notices your advertising and acts on it, and not that of your competitors. You need to stand out from the crowd.

Write a headline, not a heading.

You are telling a stimulating story about a product that excites you, not regurgitating the minutes of a committee.

A headline may be appropriate, witty or just intelligent, but it must not be boring. It has to capture the interest of your target audience and invite them to learn more.



You need to find out everything you can about the product you are writing about, then find out everything you can about the people who will use that product or service.

As a professional copywriter, you are like a door-to-door salesman without the benefit of being able to actually talk to your customer.

You need to know your product and your customer thoroughly, and be prepared to anticipate every question asked by your customer because you just don’t have the benefit of face-to-face communication. 

When you know your product and your customer well, you are ready for the fun bit where you will need to answer some questions honestly.

What will interest your audience most about this product?

How can you best present this information?

Will a website work best for your target market?

Do you need sight and sound to present, ie a commercial, or will the printed word suffice?

Is it a simple message for motorists only that can be told by a highway sign?

For this product and audience, do you need to create an e-joke that will be forwarded on and on around the world, creating a market everywhere it is seen?

Do you have the budget for this – or do you need to pull your great idea back into an e-newsletter or a direct mail letter box drop?  

In other words, what does your audience read, watch, notice, believe – and how can you best present your product to create a desire in this group to acquire your product. 



You now need to generate enthusiasm in your audience as well as desire.

Desire sits back and dreams, while enthusiasm reaches for a wallet.  

It is more difficult to generate enthusiasm for a high-ticket lifestyle choice like a new car than it is for a chocolate bar, but once you have an enthusiastic buyer you have the sale.

Once you create an enthusiastic buyer, iIt will take a very, very poor salesman at the point-of-sale to lose the business.

Just look at the number of committed Ford buyers who regularly argue the respective benefits of their cars with equally committed Holden, Toyota or Mitsubishi drivers. Yet today many of the car models argued over so enthusiastically start life in the same factory, on the same production line. 

With some products, you will need to identify and create enthusiasm in two different decision-makers with different perspectives on your product, which will certainly make your task more challenging.

If you’d like to see a case history on a scenario like this, I’d recommend looking at the Royal Auto story.  

When you have created an enthusiastic buyer, all you need to do is make it easy for them to take action. 



You may have just written the greatest ad of all times – but forgotten to make it easy for your audience to act.  

Think about the steps your audience needs to take to get your product.  

Do you have a shopfront, where potential customers can see your product before purchase?

Do you want your customers to order from a catalogue, or from your website? If you have a website, remember that most buyers will want to talk to a real, live person before they make a purchasing decision.

What can you do to make it easy for your customer to acquire your product? 

Do give clients an easy point of contact. Don’t rely on a phone number if there is no-one there to take messages.

Generally speaking, your American market is far more trusting than the Australans who usually want to see and touch the product before making a purchasing decision, or at least speak to someone who can answer their questions especially if it is a large-ticket item.

Eliminate as many bottlenecks as you can by using your common sense and putting yourself in the place of your client. What would you expect, or even prefer?

Then do it –  

Writing ads that work is a lot of fun, but it can also be a challenge. If you are too busy running your business to take the time to write the ad that works for you, just follow the basic rules of good management and hire a professional. 

Like to know more?

Talk to Ideas unlimited about writing the ad that works …


Classic photo of workmen who parked their van in the most convenient spot, before they began their work erecting bollards to prevent motorists cutting the corner by driving on the footpath. They only realised they had a problem after they finished work, and found they couldn't drive away















It's easy to get enthusiastic about a great creative idea - and getting creative is a lot of fun - but creativity is more useful if you think about what you want to achieve and the steps you need to take to achieve success before you begin work. Always remember that creativity has to work with common sense to make sales.





The purpose of a commercial is not to entertain the viewer but to sell him

David Ogilvy














A lot of advertisements and television commercials look like minutes of a committee meeting, and that is what they are

David Ogilvy














Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon

David Ogilvy













No-one was ever bored into buying a product

David Ogilvy














Unless your campaign contains a Big Idea, it will pass like a ship in the night

David Ogilvy