WRITING CLASSIFIED ADVERTISEMENTS
CREATIVE WRITING LESSONS FROM CLASSIFIED ADS
By Stu Leventhal
Writing successful advertising copy of any type takes thought, innovation, research and hard work. You are trying to convince someone to part with their hard earned money! Now imagine how tougher it must be to sell if you are given a word restriction limit of only 35 words and you are competing for readers’ attention with 100s of other tiny 35 word ads all cramped onto the same page! You have to find a way to make your ad copy jump out of the page to attract the reader’s attention. Your words have to be so compelling that they command your reader to forget all about browsing the rest of the ads and click your link or pick up a phone and dial your phone number. There is no space for a frivolous word. You must make every word count. Can you see how that premise is the same basic principal and key to all good creative writing boiled down to the bare essentials?
Valuable concise communication, never a word wasted and not a word to spare is the goal any responsible author should strive for whether working on writing a five hundred page memoir, a twenty two page college economics essay, a 1000 word flash science fiction story or advertising and marketing copy of any length or nature. No matter what genre of word smithery in which you pen your trade, it is certainly worthwhile to take a close look at the skills of crafting and wording of what marketers say is the advertising industry’s toughest ad copy to successfully construct; classified ads.
Everybody wants to make more money. In fact, most people would like to hit upon something that makes them fabulously rich! Seemingly, one of the most true and tried strategies of making a quick, fabulous buck is called ‘placing classified ads’. Many new entrepreneurs, looking to strike gold fast, are attracted by the classified ad marketing platform. This may be because classified ads are small and therefore cheap ads to place which lends itself to the ‘get rich quick’ mentality. Small investment + a big circulation of viewers = fast and big profits! There lies the myth.
Classified advertising is not the easiest road to the fulfillment of dreams of wealth and leisure. Money can be made and has been made but the competition is stiff! It takes a real word wizard to write classified ads that have a high return on investment and contrary to what most believe, success relies more on experience in learning the do-s and don’t-s that coming up with catchy phrases. Writers from all genres will do themselves a great service by studying and learning the text crafting lessons that the lucrative business of writing successful classified ads teach.
The reason most classified ads fail to draw customers is that hardly anyone puts the amount of real thought necessary into the vital ingredient of selling via the classifieds; the writing and wording of profitable classified ad sales copy! A lot more goes into the creative writing and design of those little 25-35 word classified ads than one would think at first glance; research, testing, tweaking then more testing. For a classified ad campaign to succeed, the ad copywriter must acquire the expertise of writing classified ads that sell the specific products and or services being pushed! The targeted purchaser must be studied and the competitions weaknesses must be exploited. All this must be reflected in a few short sentences, confined inside a small square, which must stand out from all the other squares, like the brightest star in the sky!
So, let’s look at what makes a classified ad good or bad and then perhaps we can apply that same strategy and principals to all our other writing ventures.
First of all, the ad must appeal to the reader. And, as such, it must say exactly what you want it to say. Secondly, the ad has to say what it says in the least possible number of words in order to keep your operating costs within your budget. With classified ads the higher your word-count the more you pay to place your ad! Thirdly, the ad has to produce the desired results, being further inquiries or direct purchases.
Grabbing the reader's attention is your first objective. You must assume the reader is "scanning" the page on which your ad appears in the company of two or three hundred classified ads. Therefore, there has to be something about your ad that causes him to stop scanning and look at yours! So, the first two or three words of your ad are of the utmost importance and deserve your most careful consideration. Many studies show that words or phrases that quickly involve the reader, tend to be the best attention-grabbers. Such words as: FREE... WIN... MAKE BIG MONEY...
Whatever words you use as attention-grabbers, to start your ads, you should bear in mind that they'll be competing with similar attention-grabbers of the other ads on the same page. Therefore, in addition to your lead words, your ad must quickly go on to promise or state further benefits to the reader. In other words, your ad might read something like this: MAKE BIG MONEY! Easy & Simple. We show you how!
In the language of professional copywriters, you've grabbed the attention of your prospect, and interested him with something that even he can do. Now, can you see how that same premise also relates to choosing and designing your book or story titles to attract the eye of browsers in a book store, magazine rack of newspaper stand?
The next rule of good classified copywriting has to do with the arousal of the reader's desire to get in on your offer. In a great many instances, this rule is by-passed, and it appears, this is the real reason that an ad doesn't pull according to the expectations of the advertiser.
Think about it - you've got your reader's attention; you've told him it's easy and simple; and you're about to ask him to do something. Unless you take the time to further "want your offer," your ad is going to only half turn him on. He'll compare your ad with the others that have grabbed his attention and finally decide upon the one that interests him the most.
What is being said is that here is the place for you to insert that magic word "guaranteed" or some other such word or phrase. So now, we've got an ad that reads: MAKE BIG MONEY! Easy & Simple. Guaranteed!
Now the reader is turned on and in his mind, he can't lose. You're ready to ask for his money. This is the "demand for action" part of your ad. This is the part where you want to use such words as: Limited offer - Act now! Write today! Only and/or just...
Putting it all together; your ad might read something like this: MAKE BIG MONEY! Easy & Simple. Guaranteed! Limited offer. Send $l to:
These are the ingredients of any good classified ad - Attention - Interest - Desire - Action... Without these four ingredients skillfully integrated into your ad, chances are your ad will just "lie there" and not do anything but cost you money. What we've just shown you is a basic classified ad. Although such an ad could be placed in any leading publication and would pull a good response, it's known as a "blind ad" and would pull inquiries and responses from a whole spectrum of people reading the publication in which it appeared. In other words, from as many "time-wasters" as from bona fide buyers.
So let's try to give you an example of the kind of classified ad you might want to use, say to sell a report such as this one... Using all the rules of basic advertising copywriting, and stating exactly what our product is, our ad reads thusly:
MONEY-MAKER'S SECRETS! How To Write winning classified
ads. Simple & Easy to Learn -should double or triple your responses.
Learn Powerful Principals of Writing that apply to all writing genres!
Rush $1 to ABC Sales, 10 Main Anytown, PA 75001.
The point we're making is that:
l) You've got to grab the reader's attention... 2) You've got to "interest him" with something that appeals to him... 3) You've got to "further stimulate" him with something (catch-phrase) that makes him "desire" the product or service. 4) Demand that he act immediately...
*This is the basic principles behind all successful writing only magnified and dramatized due to the brevity of classified ads and the additional problem of a cost per word! There's no point in being tricky or clever when writing classified ads. Just adhere to the basics and your profits will increase accordingly.
One of the best ways of learning to write good classified ads is to study the classifieds. Try to figure out exactly what they're attempting to sell and then practice rewriting them according to the rules we've just given you. (Just like; studying the great masters of literature will help you learn how to create better prose. Or, studying the many great poems will help you acquire more knowledge and build your understanding of rhyming, tone, stanzas and meter.)
Whenever you sit down to write a classified, always write it all out. Write down everything you want to say then go back over it, crossing out words and refining your phraseology. (This also works great for any other literary genres.) Quitting the all-important step of writing and revising too early is the main cause of most literary as well as marketing copy failures.
The final ingredient of your classified ad is of course, your name, address to which the reader is to respond - where he's to send his money or write for further information. Generally speaking, readers respond more often to ads that include a name than to those showing just initials or an address only. However, because advertising costs are based upon the number of words, or the amount of space your ad uses, the use of some names in classified ads could become quite expensive. If we were to ask our ad respondents to write to or send their money to The Research Writers & Publishers Association, or to Book Business Mart, or even to Money Maker's Opportunity Digest, our advertising costs would be prohibitive. Thus we shorten our name Researchers or Money-Makers. Online ads should include shortened url links or click on anchor text or brand icons. The point here is to think relative to the placement costs of your ad, and to shorten excessively long names. The same holds true when listing your post office box number. Shorten it to just plain Box 40, or in the case of a rural delivery, shorten it to just RRl.
The important lesson for all creative writing is to limit any distractions. Keep anything that isn’t helping to establish your itinerary or convey your intended message to a bare minimum. In profitable classified ad writing, this is imperative to keeping your costs in line, especially if you are attempting to do business globally and intend to place hundreds of thousands of ads the world over. On all writing platforms, as well as when writing classified ads, writing clearly and concisely and keeping distractions to a minimum is the difference between a reader reading your writing all the way to the end or having a reader bail on you in search of greener pastures.
Now you know the basics... The rest is up to you…
Go make your mark in the classified advertising copywriting industry or take these basic principles of creative word wizardry in any of the other fine fields of creative writing.