I want to take some time to write up a presentation I’ve given a couple of times on writing adverts.

Though my thoughts on this were targeted towards writing adverts specifically for email (i.e. to be used in email newsletters like this one), the theory can be used for most advert varieties.

So, whether you’re writing adverts for Facebook… for Google Adwords… or just for weird flyers that you hand out to strangers in the soap and detergent aisle of your local grocery store… it should help.

The lesson, so to speak, breaks down into three steps…

First up:


The first thing an advert needs is a good headline to disrupt the reader.

This can be in the form of a statement, a promise, a claim, a question or an image.

But it needs to be unexpected or out of the ordinary.

For this, you can use the four Us as a guide.

Is your headline unique? Is there any urgency? Does it offer some use to the reader? Is it ultra-specific?

Make sure you can answer at least one or two of these questions to the positive and you shouldn’t be too far off.

As for the subject matter of your headline, you can find inspiration from two main sources:

1. The sales letter the advert is linking to, or…

2. The reader who’s reading your advert.

When it comes to taking inspiration from the sales letter, look to the headline… the subheads… the lead… or even something around the offer.

The sales letter should be full of subject matter for you to base your advert off. So, above all, make sure you mix it up.

Let’s say you’re selling a book about trading, which I’ve actually been helping a young copywriter work on this week.

The idea behind the sales letter – and the book itself – is all about how you could shave years off your retirement learning to trade the financial markets by reading this book.

You might find some people react better to an advert that focuses on the free book you’re giving away. At the end of the day, some people just get excited about free books. (I mean, who doesn’t want free books?)

But other people might be more attracted to the end result… the deeper benefit of what you’re selling i.e. the fact that you could shave years of your retirement.

Both angles are valid; you just need to test them to see which takes off and to which sections of your market.

When it comes to drawing inspiration from the reader, look to what they’re reading about in the news or watching on television, or alternatively think about their personal needs and wants.

To continue with our trading book example, you could look to reports in the news about people having to retire later in life.

Because you’ve sourced this from the news and people are already seeing the story, it’s likely to be at the forefront of their mind. So, when they see reference to it in your advert’s headline, it’s going to be more disruptive.

Alternatively you could try to tap into the fact that pretty much everyone wants to retire earlier. It’s a pretty universal need, so probably an angle worth exploring.

Frankly, you should never be short of ideas – it’s just a case of working through them one at a time.

So, now you should have a disruptive headline that relates directly to the sales letter your advert is leading to.

By far this is the most important part, so spend the most time here.

But once you’re sorted, the next step is…

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With your advert headline in place, now you need to flesh it out a little by adding another level of intrigue.

You need to ask what is it specifically that makes it essential for the reader to find out more about this.

And why.

Now, the key here is to make sure you don’t wrongly interpret being intriguing as being vague.

Though you want to keep the detail of the sales letter secret, you should still use specific language and imagery.

That said, you need to keep things short and you shouldn’t try to over explain things at this point.

You don’t need too much more copy here. It should be one or two lines max that should just develop the headline with one or two more intriguing details.

More important is the next element…


The final thing your advert must do is make the reader engage with you.

This is critically important.

No matter how disruptive your headline is or how intriguing the body copy is, if the reader doesn’t engage and click…

It’s all for shit.

So, for this final line of the advert: you need to give clear guidance, incentive and reassurance to the reader so that it would be a mistake not to click.

Let’s break that down…

First, don’t assume the reader knows to click.

I know it seems obvious, but it’s very possible you could be writing to an older market that isn’t as internet-savvy as you might presume.

Not just that, but from a design perspective adverts can often blend into editorial.

So, make a very clear call to action.

But don’t stop there.

Make sure you also give incentive for the reader to click i.e. don’t just say ‘click here to find out more’. Instead, try ‘click here and you’ll receive the full details immediately.’

You need to make it obvious that the reader will get something – however small or seemingly incidental – for clicking.

Finally, if you really want to nail it, try to reassure the reader that it’s a good idea to click the advert.

So, instead of ‘click here and you’ll discover the secret’...

Try something like ‘click here and you’ll be thankful you finally discovered the secret.’

Again, it’s a really small tweak but it’s just adding that extra emotional touch that will subconsciously give the reader that extra push to click.

And once they’ve clicked…

You’re done. The advert has done its job. Hurrah.

Indeed, you can hopefully see how it’s pretty straightforward to write a decent three or four line email advert if you follow these three simple steps.

Remember all you need to do is:

Disrupt. Intrigue. Engage.


P.S. I’ve put together a simple to follow guide that outlines my own training methods as well as detailing more than twenty ways to boost the conversion of your current copy.

Filled with specific writing tasks I’ve used to train successful copywriters, I guarantee this will help improve your copywriting – or your money back.

You can get hold of a copy here.

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