How to Write Eye Catching Display Ads

The truth is, they're not going to see your ad unless you can "grab" their attention and entice them to read all of what you have to say. Your headline, or lead sentence when no headline is used, has to make it more difficult for your prospect to ignore or pass over, than to stop and read your ad. If you don't capture

the attention of your reader with your headline, anything beyond is useless effort and wasted money.

Successful advertising headlines are written as promises, either implied or direct. The former promises to show you how to save money, make money, or attain a desired goal. The latter is a warning against something undesirable.

EXAMPLE OF A PROMISE: “Are You Ready To Become A Millionaire -

In Just 18 Months?”

EXAMPLE OF A WARNING: “Do You Make These Mistakes In English?”

In both of these examples, I've posed a question as the headline. Headlines that ask a question seem to attract the reader's attention almost as surely as a moth is drawn to a flame. Once they've seen the question, they just can't seem to keep themselves from reading the rest of the ad to find out the answer. The best headline questions are those that challenge the reader; that involve their self-esteem, and do not allow them to dismiss your question with a simple yes or no.

"You'll be the envy of your friends" is another kind of "reader appeal" to incorporate into your headline whenever appropriate. The appeal has to do with basic psychology: everyone wants to be well thought of, and consequently, will read into the body of your ad to find out how they can gain the respect and accolades of their friends.

Wherever and whenever possible, use colloquialisms or words that are not usually found in advertisements. The idea is to shock or shake the reader out of their reverie and cause them to take notice of your ad. Most of the headlines you see day in and day out, have a certain sameness with just the words rearranged. Readers may see these headlines with their eyes, but their brain fails to focus on any of them because there's nothing different or out of the ordinary to arrest their attention.


Another attention-grabber kind of head-line is the comparative price headline: “Three For Only $16, Regularly $16 Each!” Still another of the "tried and proven" kind of headlines is the specific question: “Do You Suffer From These Symptoms?” And of course, if you offer a strong guarantee, you should say so in your headline: “Your Money Refunded, If You Don't Make $100,000 Your First Year”

“How To” headlines have a very strong basic appeal, but in some instances, they're better used as book titles than advertising headlines. “Who else wants in on the finer things” - which your product or service presumably offers - is another approach with a very strong reader appeal. The psychology here being the need of

everyone to belong to a group - complete with status and prestige motivations.

Whenever, and as often as you can possibly work it in, you should use the word "you" in your headline, and throughout your copy. After all, your ad should be directed to "one" person, and the person reading your ad wants to feel that you're talking to them personally, not everyone who lives on their street.

Personalize, and be specific! You can throw the teachings of your English teachers out the window, and the rules of "third person, singular" or whatever else tends to inhibit your writing. Whenever you sit down to write advertising copy intended to pull the orders - sell the product - you should picture yourself in a one-on-one situation and "talk" to your reader just as if you sitting across from them at your dining room table. Say what you mean, and sell THEM on the product you’re offering. Be specific and ask them if these are the things that bother them - are these the things they want - and they're the ones you want to buy the product...

The layout you devise for your ad, or the frame you build around it, should also command attention. Either make it so spectacular that it stands out like lobster at a chili dinner, or so uncommonly simple that it catches the reader's eye because of its very simplicity. It's also important that you don't get cute with a lot of unrelated graphics and artwork. Your ad should convey the feeling of excitement and movement, but should not tire the eyes or disrupt the flow of the message you're trying to present. Any graphics or artwork you use should be relevant to your product, its use and/or the copy you've written about it. Graphics should not be used as artistic touches, or to create an atmosphere. Any illustrations with your ad should compliment the selling of your product, and prove or substantiate specific points in your copy.

Once you have your readers' attention, the only way you're going to keep it, is by quickly and emphatically telling them what your product will do for them.

Your potential buyer doesn't care in the least how long it's taken you to produce the product, how long you've been in business, nor how many years you've spent learning your craft. They want to know specifically how they're going to benefit from the purchase of your product.

Generally, their wants will fall into one of the following categories: Better health, more comfort, more money, more leisure time, more popularity, greater beauty, success and/or security.

Even though you have your reader's attention, you must follow through with an enumeration of the benefits they can gain. In essence, you must reiterate the advantages, comfort and happiness they'll enjoy - as you have implied in your headline.


John Brennan Ed.D. Dr. Brennan is President of Interpersonal Development, LLC, a training and development firm. Interpersonal Development has provided sales training and coaching to more than 3,000 sales reps from over 100 companies. A native of Australia, Dr. Brennan received his doctorate from the University of Rochester. His dissertation researched the effectiveness of Behavioral Modeling Technology in training people in interpersonal skills. While he has spent most of his career designing...

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