Some of the best advertisements are built around a story.
This is an advanced copywriting technique and takes a deft hand to pull off, so I don’t recommend it to novice copywriters. But when you can do it convincingly, it’s a thing of beauty.
Here’s an ad I ran across while rifling through some folders this morning. This is probably too small to read, but you can click on it to download a PDF image of the entire ad.
Let’s take a look at a few things that make this ad work.
First, the headline is newsy and intriguing. It introduces the idea of losing a lot of weight, but it teases you with the promise of an interesting story. A headline is supposed to draw you in and make you read the body copy, so this sort of headline does its job well.
Notice the specificity of the headline. It’s not just a housewife, but an Atlanta housewife. She didn’t merely lose weight; she lost 73 pounds.
Second, note the simple layout of the text. It’s intended to look like an article in the magazine where the ad appeared. While most ads should stand out, this sort of ad is intended to blend in. Why? Because it’s aimed at people who are reading the magazine and looking for interesting stories.
This type of ad is usually called an “advertorial.” It calls for a newsy tone, long copy, and minimal design.
Third, (assuming you’ve read the entire ad above) note how the explanation about why the Atlanta housewife was almost arrested is only revealed after you read about two-thirds of the text. The writer didn’t want to satisfy curiosity about this too soon. This helps to keep readers reading.
Fourth, the call to action is saved for the end. This is no surprise to those experienced at story ads, but it’s something many copywriters would screw up. The trend today is to spit out the call to action immediately, and that works in many circumstances. However, it would kill a story ad like this. You have to hook the reader, tell the story, and only then ask for the order. It takes faith in the format.
Fifth, the copy is written in the first person. Normally, you avoid this in typical copywriting since you want to put the focus on the reader. In a story ad, though, the copy is personal and works like a testimonial. It’s like a friend talking to you.
Story ads are not appropriate for every product or publication. But if you have the chance to write one, keep these ideas in mind. This type of ad can be fun and highly satisfying.