Think before you ink. Try 'AIDA' - Attention Interest Desire Action
The Attention part is the banner or headline that makes an impressive benefit promise. Interest builds information in an interesting way, usually meaning that this must relate closely to the way that the reader thinks about the issues concerned. If you seek a response you must move then to create Desire, which relates benefits to the reader so that they will want them. Finally you must prompt an Action, which may be to call a telephone number or to complete and send of a reply coupon. Advertising that does not prompt action is a wasted opportunity.
Your main message must be the most prominent.
Do not be tempted to devote 50% of the space to a striking picture or a quote from Shakespeare. The biggest part of the advert must be your main benefit statement. This is the part that entices the reader to read on.
Offer a single impressive benefit, quickly and simply.
Research proves that where responses are required, the best adverts are those which offer an impressive, relevant benefit to the reader. This 'promise' should ideally contain the business brand name, take no longer to read than is normal for the media (direct mail is about 4 - 8 seconds, or about fifteen words) and be clearly the most striking part of the advert. This point cannot be stressed enough; you must keep it quick, simple and to the point. And the trend is for ever quicker points: David Lewis, an eminent consumer psychologist, says, "Copy is getting shorter, and a major factor behind this is that people these days suffer from acute shortages of both time and attention. Younger generations are extremely visually literate. They have been brought up on computer games, so they couldn't deal with a lot of polished copy, even if they wanted to." Think about the vocabulary and language you use; know your target audience: a simple test is to avoid any words or grammar that would not be found in the newspaper that the target group would read.
Your message must be quick and easy to absorb.
Use a clear layout, clear fonts and clear language. Do not distract the reader from the text by overlaying images or using fancy fonts. Use simple language, avoid complicated words, and keep enough space around the text to attract attention to it. Use simple traditional typestyles: serif fonts are quicker to read than sans serif. Use ten, eleven or twelve point-size for the main text; smaller or larger are actually more difficult to read and therefore less likely to be read. Look at newspapers and library books, which are almost always serif fonts of ten to twelve point size.
Avoid cluttering the advert with fancy images, colours and backgrounds. Make it easy to read.
For the same reason avoid italics, shadows, light colours reversed out of dark, weird and wonderful colours. None of these improve readability, they all reduce it. Use simple black (or dark coloured) text on a white (or light coloured) background. for maximum readability.
Involve the reader in your writing style - use the 2nd person: you, your, and yours.
Refer to the reader as 'you' and use the second person ('you', 'your' and 'yours' etc) in the description of what your business does for the customer to get them visualising their own personal involvement. Describe the service as it affects them in a way that they will easily relate to it.
Incorporate something new.
People respond better and are more easily attracted initially to a concept that is new or original. If they've heard or seen it all before it will be no surprise that they take no notice at all. People must believe there's something in it for them right from the start.
Develop a proposition that is special or unique and emphasise this.
Why should people be interested if your proposition is no different to your competition? You must try to emphasise what makes your service special. Unless your code of practice prevents you from claiming superiority over your competitors, you should put as much emphasis as you can behind your USP (unique selling point), and either imply or state directly that you are the only company to offer these things. Again refer to the selling article about developing unique selling propositions.
Your proposition or offer must be credible and believable.
The Advertising Standards Authority or equivalent would prevent you from making overly extravagant claims anyway, but you should still attempt to make your offer seem perfectly credible. This is usually best accomplished by explaining 'why' and 'how' you are able to do the things you are offering, in support of your claims; you can also increase credibility by showing references or testimonial quotes from satisfied customers.
For example, if you claim particularly good customer service, this can be reinforced with an outline of your policy on seeking customer feed-back and carrying out satisfaction surveys.
Use lower case type - word-shapes are lost when capitals are used.
People read by recognising word-shapes not individual letters, do don't use upper case (capital letters) for text, and ideally not for headlines either, as it takes longer to read and reduces impact.
Headline should be three-quarters up the page or advert space.
Position your headline statement where it can be seen quickest. Do not put headlines at the very top of the space. The eye is naturally drawn to between two-thirds and three-quarters up the page or space, which is where the main benefit statement needs to be.
Advertising is often referred to as a 'Black Art' because it is mysterious, and is rarely a precise science. Things sometimes work which you imagine wouldn't, and plenty of things you think should work, don't. The Direct Mail Campaign Story is a amusing example of the unpredictable nature of advertising ideas and methods.
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