#1 Copywriting Tip

There are many important elements and guidelines for effective copywriting. And among those who write copy for the business world, there are different viewpoints on which would be the most important.

In my testing experience, “the offer” is the most vital — at lear in terms of generating actual revenue. The offer is how you are presenting what it is you are selling (product or service).

Although some argue that the headline is the most important element of copywriting because it is the first point of contact with potential visitors, in my experience, no matter how many individuals you drive to your offer through an effective headline, you will not capitalize on that traffic without an effective offer.

Conversely, if you have a weak headline for an email or direct mail piece or print ad, you can still convert the visitors that do arrive to your offer -– as long as you have an effective offer!

Of course, the headline is very important, and it would not make sense to craft a weak headline and a strong offer. The point is that focusing on and testing different headlines for their value in determining which is the best headline to attract visitors, should be done in conjunction with testing which offer is the most appealing to your visitors, to generate sales. In fact, a heavier emphasis should be given towards testing the offer.

Here are a few traditional components for crafting an offer:

  • Presenting Something New
  • Rightly or wrongly, consumers are more interested in “new” stuff as opposed to old stuff, even if old stuff might be better. What can you present as “new”?
  • Sale
  • Positioning any product or service for a reduced cost is the surest way to boost sales.
  • Premium or Bonus
  • Including bonuses for “buying now” are an effective way to sweeten any offer.
  • Limited Time Offer
  • Making any offer available for a limited time will inspire some potential customers who are sitting on the fence to “Buy Now,” which is always a good thing, since so many transactions that don’t occur “now” will simply never occur.
  • Free Trial
  • If you can introduce people to your products or service for free, so they can experience the real value you are presenting, you will eliminate the major obstacle that potential customers have when considering a purchase: “Am I going to get ripped off?” Of course, a percentage of those users who take advantage of your free trial will never become clients or customers anyway, but the percentage of those that DO give you money for your offer will be higher overall than if you didn’t offer a free trial.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later
  • “Multiple payment” options, and “buy now, pay later” also lower the barrier of uncertainty among potential customers. This tends to work best for large ticket items: the perceived cost is reduced by breaking up an expensive purchase into multiple smaller payments.

The best offer includes many of these ingredients. In fact, whenever I write a sales letter, landing page or email copy for a client, I will attempt to include as many of the above elements as possible to craft a number of powerful offers, and then test them to see which is the best!

How ads follow you around the internet

This video outlines how cookies work and how they’re being used, along with some context from Lou Montulli, who invented cookies in the summer of 1994 while working at Netscape.

Cookies do improve our online experience. In fact, without cookies, the internet we know couldn’t exist. But of course, they impose privacy concerns, as well,.

A browser cookie is a small piece of code stored on a user’s computer by your web browser to access websites. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember information (such as items added in the shopping cart in an online store) or to record the user’s browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited in the past).

Cookies perform essential functions. Perhaps most importantly, authentication cookies are the most common method used by web servers to know whether the user is logged in or not, and which account they are logged in with. Without such a mechanism, the site would not know whether to send a page containing sensitive information, or require the user to authenticate themselves by logging in.

The security of an authentication cookie generally depends on the security of the issuing website and the user’s web browser, and on whether the cookie data is encrypted.

Security vulnerabilities may allow a cookie’s data to be read by a hacker, used to gain access to user data, or used to gain access (with the user’s credentials) to the website to which the cookie belongs.

Furthermore, and most pertinent to this article, the revenue from advertising is a strong incentive for companies to track online behavior. Brands want to sell products by serving ads. Publishers, who create content, want to make money by serving ads when visitors are on their site. And middlemen are in the business of ensuring the ads from the brands are delivered to the right people.

In other words, there’s a lot of vested interest in maintaining cookies. So, expect ongoing tension between privacy concerns and the big business of online advertising.

The Whole Working-From-Home Thing

I don’t buy Apple products, but I’m generally a fan of their ads. Their newest video-ode to the “Work From Home” (WFH) culture is a sequel to their “Underdogs” spot from last year (see below). 

As a reflection of the 2020 working reality, the protagonist crew is collaborating remotely. This is a compelling product promotion couched in a character-driven story of our plucky (or not-so-lucky) coworkers against their nemesis, the dictatorial boss, as well as Mike from Finance.

And regardless of whether you’re an Apple fan or not, the story does a humorous job of highlighting how technology facilitates team productivity when working anywhere with an internet connection.

Critics of the ad harp on the representation of the oppressive corporate leadership that drives the plotline of underlings working to accomplish the impossible for the demands of an overbearing boss. But it’s so obviously presented as tongue-in-cheek that such reprovals are more reflections of the complainers’ sense of humor (or lack thereof) than a failing of the scriptwriters or those signing the video production paychecks.

Apple has once again established the makings of an entertaining series.

For further context re another of Apple’s humorous TV ad series, visit their “Get a Mac” campaign from 2006-2009.

Most businesses do not have the budgets to produce and distribute messaging on this scale, but Apple’s examples do serve to represent how creativity can make advertising more engaging.

Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes

In the above video, hosted by Jared Bauer, he explores the topic of “Why Our Ads Are Different Now,” referencing the history of advertising from the book: Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes by Juliann Sivulka.

The book’s description on Amazon describes it as an examination of “How American advertising both mirrors society and creates it.”

The video illustrates the evolution of advertising from early newspaper ads in colonial times to today’s online advertising.

It further highlights the growth of advertising in America, the promotion of brands and products and how advertisements and agencies reflect and introduce cultural trends and issues.

The video notes the difference between “hard sell” advertising and “soft sell” advertising. Hard-sell ads focus on specific features and benefits that inform the message and visual components while attempting to promote reasoned self-interest.

Soft-sell advertising is more subtle. Instead of emphasizing rational benefits, this type of advertising attempts to establish positive emotional connections to the brand or product. These types of ad messages tend to be warm and fuzzy. Think most modern big-brand TV commercials.

Whether advertising is becoming better, or not, is debatable. Certainly, most consumers are generally not enthusiastic about being subject to advertising. However, what has been understood by surveys is that consumers are less resistant to ads about products or services that are relevant to them. And of course, the modern advertising industry is getting better at individual targeting, although that also introduces privacy issues.

One key takeaway is that advertising is not only a prominent driver for business promotion, but it’s part of our cultural heritage.

The Problem with Google Video Partners for Google Ads

Google video partners are additional websites and mobile apps where you can show your video ads, beyond YouTube.  That’s the good news. The bad news is that when you set up a Google Ads video campaign, the partner sites are default-enabled. Now, it’s not a problem to disable them — and generally you should — but if you’re still learning the ropes around Google Ads, and particularly their video ads, it’s a setting that could be missed, among the many settings that require decisions for every campaign.

Now, to be clear, it’s not that the video partners should never be used.

It’s just that if you are doing any advertising (video or otherwise) you should be testing and optimizing the settings as well as the video and messaging themselves. Hence, the basic idea is to minimize the variables to begin with and then test them when you’re ready.

In other words, the video partners should be tested separately than presenting your videos directly on YouTube. Find out for yourself if the video partners are increasing or decreasing your ad performance. Don’t just take Google’s suggestions, when their goals are different than your own.

You, of course, want to optimize your advertising so that it benefits your business the most with the least cost. Google wants you to spend more of your money with them.

They will tell you that it’s in their best interest to provide you a good experience so that you’ll continue to spend money with them. But the truth is, most new advertisers are not going to do a good job, which means you won’t be continuing your advertising, which also means they would like to generate as much revenue from you as possible, while they can.

The professional way to approach Google Video Ads or any advertising, is to test different messages, demographics, geographical zones and other targeting options, as well as the messaging, and test them all discretely and one at a time, so you can find out for yourself what is supporting your goals and what is not.

Don’t get me wrong, Google Ads and Google Video Ads are worthy of testing and for many businesses, Google can be an important channel for business growth.

But you’re better off going through a strategic, step by step testing process which will give you a stronger opportunity for winning.

YouTube Video Advertising Formats Explained – Different Types of YouTube Ads

YouTube has a number of video advertising options. Each have their advantages and disadvantages. Some have intuitive applications, such as Outstream Ads which are specifically for mobile. Ad Sequence videos are unique in that you can show a predetermined series of ads to individual viewers in the order that you define.

Others have length limitations, such as Non-Skippable In-Stream ads (15 seconds or less) and Bumper Ads, which are 6 seconds or less.

Here are the primary YouTube video ad formats:

  • Skippable in-stream ads
  • Non-skippable in-stream ad
  • Discovery ads
  • Bumper ads
  • Outstream ads
  • Video Discovery ads
  • Mastheads ads
  • Ad Sequence (This one is unique in that you can use a combination of the first three formats above to present a series of messages).

Using square and vertical video formats for mobile provides more screen real-estate, which is a plus for making a bigger viewer impact, although the standard horizontal format is best for desktop and can be shown on mobile.

One point not mentioned in the above video is the benefits of testing different ad formats to find which works best for your product or service, as well as your overall industry.

How to Create Successful Facebook Video Ads: A 3-Step Formula

Sales and marketing funnels are similar, although not identical. The number of steps and naming of the steps can vary from presenter to presenter. But the idea of moving cold traffic to warm prospects and ultimately to paid customers is an apt depiction for the purpose of any funnel. In the above video, the funnel steps are only 3 in number and the naming of the steps are as follows:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Conversion

In this presentation, the 3-step funnel is further correlated with basic sales and relationship building such as know, like and trust.

  • Awareness = Know
  • Consideration = Like
  • Conversion = Trust

Extending the concept of this funnel even further, this presenter (Dennis Yu of BlitzMetrics) also appends the following: why, how and what. These latter concepts are intended to inform a storytelling framework in conjunction with the funnel.

  • Awareness = Know = Why
  • Consideration = Like = How
  • Conversion = Trust = What

In terms of promoting on Facebook, the gist of the presentation here is to be authentic, more story-driven and less overtly promotional.

People want to learn, be moved or entertained, so once again, the idea is to tell a story that will resonate with the audience, rather than being purely self-promotional.

Although much of this presentation is common marketing and advertising knowledge, my favorite part is the emphasis on low-cost message testing by strategically boosting short posts on Facebook (a form of pay-per-click advertising). Once a test shows that your video is productive towards your marketing goals, then it’s time to increase your investment with that message, since Facebook will show the video more frequently for lower cost and you may even benefit from social sharing.

The above presentation also touches upon the reality of Facebook advertising by noting that the majority of your video ads may not work, as well as what would actually constitute being effective (“hitting a home run”).

Although the “formula” itself is informative and useful, personally, I would emphasize the testing over and above the funnel, since you can do the steps upside down and backward and still get results if you prioritize the testing. But if you do the steps perfectly without an emphasis on testing, there’s still no guarantee that you’re going to be successful.

In short, if you want to get your message out effectively via video, then tell stories, build relationships and test, test and test. And most importantly, never stop testing.

Video Editing: Sometimes it’s not Inconspicuous

Nike can regularly be counted upon to present compelling messages, particularly via video and TV. In their latest television debut, narrated by professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe, “You Can’t Stop Us” juxtaposes athletes from a variety of sports in creative split-screen actions that present a message of diversity and unity by converging different athletic moments into harmonized motions.

For those in the video production world, this uniquely features the least visible of the three most fundamental components of video storytelling: writing, directing and editing. Generally speaking, editing is not supposed to call attention to itself. It’s the inconspicuous power in the background, like the electricity that runs through a building. It enables what you see, but editing, like electricity, is intended to be unseen itself.

That’s thrown out the window in this video. The editing is front and center as the conspicuous storytelling element, energizing the message in a way that invokes attention while inspiring the viewer.

Like so much of big-brand advertising, this is not selling a specific product or service. Its job is to associate in our mind positive feelings about the sponsor and by that, not only stir our imagination but hopefully, inspire us to buy whatever the message-bearer is selling. The fact that big brands spend so much each year on this strategy is testament to its efficacy.

And to underscore the obvious: people like stories.

Nevertheless, for businesses that don’t spend multiple millions of dollars year after year to continually burnish their image, Nike’s example is still instructive. Can you present your products or services in a way that presents positive feelings among your potential buyers? Sometimes, any added cost can be negligible. For instance, when pertinent, viewer impact can be lifted by the simplicity of adding a little humor or even some quirky relation to the viewer.

More to the point: your business can benefit from the integration of storytelling.

Facebook showed this ad to 95% women. Is that a problem?

This video describes some aspects of Facebook’s targeting and artificial intelligence features that advertisers leverage when initiating ad campaigns. Which, by the way, could also be pertinent to other AI-based targeting on other platforms, such as Google and Amazon.

Although it’s clear that when an advertiser is indicating targeting preferences for his or her ads, the intent is to present those ads to viewers who are deemed to be the most likely to be interested. However, according to research from Northeastern University, Facebook sometimes displays ads to highly skewed audiences based on the content of the ad. What we don’t know and what this video doesn’t explore, is if the biases are in fact rationally or economically correct or incorrect?

In other words, even if the targeting selected by an advertiser is not designating racial or gender bias (for example), but the Facebook algorithms and data science determine that a specific gender or race is more likely to find the ad relevant, is that good or bad?

As an advertiser, I like the idea of generating the greatest results with the lowest cost.