How to Write a Good Advertisement

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    • Wordsmith
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    You guys know I’m a true follower, and believer, in the classic masters of direct response advertising.
    Those guys knew their shit before the internet and “big data” was even a thing.

    As such, I would gladly trade 100 “new” theoretical books on copywriting, for a single copy of a book written by Gary Halbert, Eugene Schwartz, Robert Collier, or any of the brilliant masters from 100 years ago.

    And that’s why I’m sharing some classic wisdom with you today from a book titled “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Victor O Schwab.


    It was originally published in 1942 (about 80 years ago) but even now it still tells us more about how to write good ads (online or offline) than 99% of the books or courses written today.

    So before you go spending any money on anything that talks about “the new psychology of copywriting”,  here’s something from one of the all time great books, from one of the all time great advertisers.

    I hope you find it useful…

    (Excerpt from How to Write a Good Advertisement by Victor O Schwab)…


    What Do People Want?

    Now, to make sure that you concentrate upon what the product will do for your
    reader (or what it will do better than a competing product), let us review the
    human advantages that people want to gain.

    Below is repeated the summarized check fist given in Chapter 1. It was given in
    that chapter because it applies to headlines. It is purposely repeated here
    because it is so important—and because, of course, it also applies to the writing
    of your copy. So here is the summary of the two broad generalizations.


    First, the plus one:
    Show people—in words, or pictures, or both—what they can save, gain, or accomplish with your product… how it will increase their mental, physical, financial, social, emotional, or spiritual stimulation, satisfaction, self-respect, well-being, or security.


    And here is the minus generalization:
    Show people—in words, or pictures, or both—what risks, worries, losses,
    mistakes, embarrassments, doubts, drudgery, or other undesirable conditions
    your product will help them to avoid, lessen, or eliminate… how it will decrease their fear of poverty, illness or accident, discomfort, boredom, offense to others, and the loss of business, personal, or social prestige or advancement.


    Now let’s get specific
    How can you tie up the particular advantages of your product with the personal
    desires of the greatest number of your readers? This list of strong and specific
    advertising appeals will help to guide you:

    Better Health:
    Greater strength, vigor, endurance. The possibility of longer life.

    More Comfort:
    Ease. Luxury. Self-indulgences. Convenience.

    More Money:
    For spending, saving, or giving to others.

    More Leisure:
    For travel, hobbies, rest, play, self-development, etc.

    Greater Popularity:
    Through a more attractive personality or through personal accomplishment.

    Pride of Accomplishment:
    Overcoming obstacles and competition. Desire to “do things well.”

    Improved Appearance:
    Beauty. Style. Better physical build. Cleanliness.

    Business Advancement:
    Better job. Success. “Be your own boss.” Reward for merit.

    Security in old Age:
    Independence. Provision for age or adversity.

    Social Advancement:
    Moving in better circles. Social acceptance. “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

    Praise from Others:
    For one’s intelligence, judgment, knowledge, appearance, generosity, or other
    evidences of superiority.

    Increased Enjoyment:
    From entertainment, food, drink, and other physical contacts.


    And here is a quick check list of some of the other desires most people want to achieve:

    Be Good Parents
    Appreciate Beauty
    Have Influence over Others
    Be Proud of Their Possessions
    Be Sociable, Hospitable
    Be Creative
    Be Gregarious
    Acquire or Collect Things
    Express Their Personalities
    Be Efficient
    Resist Domination by Others
    Win Others’ Affection
    Satisfy Their Curiosity
    Be First in things
    Be Up-to-Date
    Improve Themselves Mentally
    Emulate What Has General Acceptance as Being Admirable
    Be Recognized as Authorities
    Summing it all up in another convenient form we may (since it is so important)
    do it in this way:

    People Want to GAIN… (1) Health (2) Time (3) Money (4) Popularity (5)
    Improved appearance (6) Security in old age (7) Praise from others (8) Comfort
    (9) Leisure (10) Pride of accomplishment (11) Advancement: business, social
    (12) Increased enjoyment (13) Self-confidence (14) Personal prestige.

    They Want to BE… (1) Good parents (2) Sociable, hospitable (3) Up-to-date (4)
    Creative (5) Proud of their possessions (6) Influential over others (7) Gregarious
    (8) Efficient (9) “First” in things (10) Recognized as authorities.

    They want to DO… (1) Express their personalities (2) Resist domination by others (3) Satisfy their curiosity (4) Emulate the admirable (5) Appreciate beauty (6) Acquire or collect things (7) Win others’ affection (8) Improve themselves generally.

    They Want to SAVE… (1) Time (2) Money (3) Work (4) Discomfort (5) Worry
    (6) Doubts (7) Risks (8) Personal embarrassment.

    If you will tie up the advantages of your product with what people want to gain,
    be, do, and save, you will make them want to buy. And if you will check back over the motivating forces just listed, you will realize that Napoleon was not merely being cynical when he said, “There are two motives to action: self interest and fear.”


    So there you go…

    A short excerpt from one of the best copywriting books ever written. If you’ve never read the book, I highly recommend it. But if you don’t want to read the entire book, then this short excerpt can still help you write advertisements that are miles ahead of 90% of the ads being written today.


    Here’s to writing better copy that makes more sales, more often…

    All the best,

    A good marketer knows how to think like a marketer - A great marketer learns how to think like the customer...
    SARubin - Direct Response Copywriter / Conversion Rate Optimizer

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