Four ad copy traps that ensnare even experienced copywriters

John Kuraoka

Writing an ad is a perilous business. To be effective, an advertising copywriter must use as a matter of course the right words, the right tone – the artistic tools of writing, if you will – all the while working toward a measurable commercial end: a sale.

Copywriting is, I believe, the ultimate writing. It is rare to find the novel or screenplay that propels itself to its end as if pulled by rockets; then, at that conclusion, compels – compels – people to rise up in action. Yet, this accomplishment is the daily work of the advertising copywriter.

If part of your job is writing your company’s ads, here are four traps to avoid. These traps are so common, that they ensnare the most-experienced copywriter. If you are working with a copywriter, you will be best served by not pushing him or her intothese traps, for they are also the four biggest obstacles to effective advertising copy.

1. Talking to yourself. This mistake finds its way into countless corporate ads, with a message that distills down to: “we are so wonderful/established/massive, you should do business with us.” Right. Despite the fact that advertising is mass communication, you err grievously if you direct your communication to a mass. Your ads must connect with each customer individually, communicating real benefits that matter.

2. Changing your message for no good reason. Advertising is in many ways – no, in most ways – like training your customer. If you send inconsistent messages, it will take longer to get the results you want. Yet, everyone likes to be involved in creating something “fresh” (even if it isn’t really). Inconsistency costs you money and may cost you customers. Consistency pays. When something works, stick with it.

3. Diluting your message. Burden one ad with everything you can think of, and it’ll become a wishy-washy mish-mash of elements that are only as strong – or as relevant – as the weakest one. There is a time for in-depth discussions of all your product or service benefits, and hashing out of reasons-why. It is in the very beginning, before you determine the direction of your ads. In the end, let each ad have a single focus.

4. Creating ads just to get attention. Never forget that there is a difference between getting someone’s attention and getting someone’s business. While your ads must command attention, they must do so in a way that opens the door to making the sale.

Avoid these traps, and you avoid the deepest pitfalls of copywriting. Some companies that fall in escape merely temporarily hobbled; other companies are never heard from again. The dot-com bust provided a graveyard of examples, and I believe the telecommunications industry will, sadly, provide a plagues-worth as well.

John Kuraoka, a San Diego-based freelance advertising copywriter with 21 years of experience in just about every product category. If you’d like to hire an experienced freelance advertising copywriter – someone you can count on to step quickly and surefootedly around the traps – just email John at.

Phone and fax: (619) 465-6100
John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
San Diego, California

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