How to Write Retail Advertising Copy

September 13, 2011  |   Advertising and Marketing   |     |   0 Comment

Another classic short story about advertising from The Clock that Had no Hands And Nineteen Other Essays About Advertising By Herbert Kaufman

A skilled layer of mosaics works with small fragments of stone—they fit into more places than the larger chunks.

The skilled advertiser works with small words—they fit into more minds than big phrases.

The simpler the language the greater certainty that it will be understood by the least intelligent reader.

The construction engineer plans his road-bed where there is a minimum of grade—he works along the lines of least resistance.

The advertisement which runs into mountainous style is badly surveyed—all minds are not built for high grade thinking.

Advertising must be simple. When it is tricked out with the jewelry and silks of literary expression, it looks as much out of place as a ball dress at the breakfast table!

The buying public is only interested in facts. People read advertisements to find out what you have to sell.

The advertiser who can fire the most facts in the shortest time gets the most returns. Blank cartridges make noise but they do not hit—blank talk, however clever, is only wasted space.

You force your salesmen to keep to solid facts—you don’t allow them to sell muslin with quotations from Omar or trousers with excerpts from Marie Corelli. You must not tolerate in your printed selling talk anything that you are not willing to countenance in personal salesmanship.

Cut out clever phrases if they are inserted to the sacrifice of clear explanations—write copy as you talk. Only be more brief. Publicity is costlier than conversation—ranging in price downward from $10 a line; talk is not cheap but the most expensive commodity in the world.

Sketch in your ad to the stenographer. Then you will be so busy “saying it” that 71you will not have time to bother about the gewgaws of writing. Afterwards take the typewritten manuscript and cut out every word and every line that can be erased without omitting an important detail. What remains in the end is all that really counted in the beginning.

Cultivate brevity and simplicity. “Savon Français” may look smarter, but more people will understand “French Soap.” Sir Isaac Newton’s explanation of gravitation covers six pages but the schoolboy’s terse and homely “What goes up must come down” clinches the whole thing in six words.

Indefinite talk wastes space. It is not 100% productive. The copy that omits prices sacrifices half its pulling power—it has a tendency to bring lookers instead of buyers. It often creates false impressions. Some people are bound to conceive the idea that the goods are higher priced than in reality—others, by the same token, are just as likely to infer that the prices are lower and go away thinking that you have exaggerated your statements.

The reader must be searched out by the copy. Big space is cheapest because it doesn’t waste a single eye. Publicity must be on the offensive. There are far too many advertisers who keep their lights on top of their bushel—the average citizen hasn’t time to overturn your bushel.

Small space is expensive. Like a one-flake snowstorm, there is not enough of it to lay.

Space is a comparative matter after all. It is not a case of how much is used as how it is used. The passengers on the limited express may realize that Jones has tacked a twelve-inch shingle on every post and fence for a stretch of five miles, but they are going too fast to make out what the shingles say, yet the two feet letters of Brown’s big bulletin board on top of the hill leap at them before they have a chance to dodge it. And at that it doesn’t cost nearly so much as the sum total of Jones’ dinky display.

Just so advertisements attractively displayed every day or every other day for a year in one big newspaper, will find the eye of all readers, no matter how rapidly they may be “going” through the advertising pages and produce more results than a dozen piking pieces of copy scattered through half a dozen dailies.

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