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How to Write Better Ad Copy: 100-Year-Old Lessons

Last time, we dove into AI and how technical advancements in ad platforms can create data-driven ways to get the most out of your ad spend.

Now, let’s take a step back, a 100+ year step back, and look at the essence of marketing—ad copy.

These 3 ad copy themes are tried and true, proving to perform for the world’s biggest brands for over the last 100 years.

Below are some of my favorite historical ads and core ad copy themes.

Note, while we’re appreciating historical ads, these same ad copy themes are still used to build some of the world’s fastest growing companies across many popular ad platforms including Tik Tok, Instagram and YouTube.

Articulating Emotional & Physical Benefits:

As Seth Godin explains in his book This is Marketing, many consumers make purchases based on how it will make them feel, not directly because of its features or attributes.

Many times, it can be helpful to speak to your audience in as clear of language as possible and really spell out precisely how your product can make them feel. Coke does an amazing job at this in the ad above as they not only explain how a “refreshing” Coca-Cola will make them feel, but they also plant a physical queue in when they should seek out their product.

Just this year, while performing ad copy testing for an outdoor apparel company, we launched over 47 different ad variations in a span of 3 months. Among the ad variations, we had two main messaging for the ads; leading with the features versus leading with the benefits.

What we found was that by leading with the benefits, we could not only increase our click-through rate, but also improve our purchase conversion rate once the users landed on their website.

For all of you performance marketers out there, I should note that this campaign was running to a top-of-funnel audience, however it was being optimized for purchase conversion events as the product was in-season so we were able to be more direct and pass the education/priming stage (read further for a priming example).

Educating Users on How to Best Use Your Product:

One of my favorite challenges as a marketer is to take on a new product, I mean a truly novel product that requires audience education as part of the marketing funnel.

When a product requires an educational component in its sales cycle it can open up a lot of room for experimentation and testing. In the Sunkist ad above, we can see a different approach to product education - clear examples of how a product, in this case lemons, could be useful.

The goal here isn’t to hard sell a potential customer, but to spark ideas subconsciously for them and guide them into selling themself on your product.

Providing Social Proof for Reassurance:

This may be one of the oldest forms of persuasion that humans have ever known. We mimic each other for survival and look to successful outcomes for replication.

There’s no wonder why pretty much any successful company, whether SaaS or eCommerce, will showcase either how many other companies are using their product, awards of recognition or testimonials/case studies. It’s a necessary part of the growth process.

I hope this blast from the past was a fun read for all of you. Thanks for all of your feedback and support since I started sharing my thoughts on marketing more regularly, I truly appreciate it.

Stay tuned for the next one.

Happy testing,

Rory Beaupré


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