The power of an ad copy - Attention, Desire and Action

peterman_catalogSome of you might remember the Peterman Catalog (either from the Seinfeld show, or from getting the actual catalog, or from the book ). John Peterman built a mail order apparel business on an archaically styled catalog that featured drawings, accompanied by long, poetic descriptions, that marketed mood more than specifics. What it showed was the power of an “Ad Copy”; the motivation that goes behind the sale of a product.

In the last few months, I encountered a couple of amusing examples of superb ad copies on Ebay - yes, they might have been serendipitous, unintentional ad copies but they still illustrate the basic point that the ad copies can make or break a sale - very often it is not the “product” it is the “ad copy” that motivates the buyer.

Dawn, a mother of 6 kids, recently put a baseball up for an auction and the listing started as:

I’m selling the baseball that started my wonderful first day of spring break. Do you want to know why I’m selling the baseball that started off my wonderful first day of spring break? Only because Ebay won’t let me sell my kids who were playing with the baseball that started my wonderful day. Is spring break over yet?! Here’s the whole story…

You can read the full story here. The auction attracted 220,000 views and the ordinary baseball sold for $1125!

Just last week, a father bought the holy grail of the 2007 Christmas gift, “Guitar Hero III”, for his 15 year old son. But when he caught his son smoking pot, the father decided to put the gift on Ebay. The story was heart warming and it wasn’t long before the bidding for the game, which typically sells for $125, had reached $9000+.

ImageWhen the advertising legend, David Ogilvy, was told that copy should be short and terse, because nobody reads more than a few words of an ad, he wrote the classic, “At 60 miles and hour the only sound you hear is the clock.” It was a full page of text, describing the features of the Rolls Royce. It sold a lot of cars.

A few of the critical items an ad copy needs are attention, desire and action, rest is fungible. A promise of benefit; credibility, persuasiveness, and other things are needed to create desire or induce an action.

A good ad copy is not just for selling an item from a catalog, or a baseball or a Guitar Hero video game. It is equally important for a startup to develop their ad copy for the investors and customers. An elevator speech, a fast pitch, a power point presentation, a business plan, are all ad copies for different clientele - attention, desire and action is all you need.


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