10 – Writing Advertising Copy

Advertising is information mixed with persuasion. The best advertising presents information to readers or viewers in a form that will persuade them to act, to change their opinions, or to maintain the opinions they already have. The link between advertising and news is information, and students should understand that point as they begin working in this chapter.

People buy a newspaper as much for the advertising as for the news. Consumers want, and need, the information that is presented to them in advertising. The best advertising persuades as well as informs.

Another point that students should understand is that some people (manufacturers, organizations, etc.) will pay other people (advertising copywriters) to write advertising. The first group wants to see a return on its investment. They expect advertising to work — to do what they expect it to do, whether that’s to sell more of a product, enhance the reputation of a company, increase the name recognition of an organization, etc. If the advertising does not work, the people who pay for it will not continue to do so. Consequently, students should understand that clients do not pay for creativity; they pay for results.

One final point for instructors: Advertising is a tremendously interesting and dynamic field to study. Since students are so widely exposed to advertising (as opposed to news, in many cases), it is often easy to get them to discuss advertising and articulate their opinions about it. As an instructor, you should encourage such discussion whenever the classroom situation permits, and you should try to introduce the points made in this chapter about advertising during those discussions. For instance, if a student says, “I didn’t like that ad,” try to explore that reaction: why did the ad not appeal to her? To whom did it appeal? What appeals are being made? What benefits are being offered?


Key terms and concepts

The following are some terms and concepts that students should understand as they study and work with the material in this chapter: 

Needs — People have certain basic needs (food, clothing and shelter); they also have needs that go beyond the basics. Advertising appeals are often based on these needs. The text lists a number of needs, and some useful time might be spent in discussing these needs with your students. You should get them to think beyond their own needs and desires and to try to project their thinking onto other people. What will appeal to them may not appeal to others, and they need to recognize this when formulating their ideas about advertising copy.

Demographics — Students should understand that most advertising is not directed at large masses of consumers but is rather “targeted” toward a group who share similar demographic characteristics. Demographics are the way that we define these groups.

Product characteristics — The physical characteristics of a product are part of product characteristics, but this term goes beyond physical appearance. It also includes the history and reputation of the product, the way the product works, the manufacturer, and even the competition.

The advertising situation — Students should understand the logic of identifying the key fact of an advertising situation and from that deducing the advertising problem and then the advertising objective. This linear thinking helps the student focus on what the advertising should do.

Product benefits — A benefit is something that will in some way enrich the consumer. Focusing on benefits is a very important part of the formulation of advertising.


Links and resources

Tips for writing effective copy. A quick read regarding writing effective advertising copy. Links are provided to other sites about marketing and advertising.



Advertising writingtell your business story. The site offers seven rules for writing advertising copy. Strong consideration is given to writing that is focused toward technically savvy audiences.



Chapter notes

American Advertising Federation. One of the major professional organizations for the field of advertising is the American Advertising Federation. Students who are interested in this field should visit this organization’s website. There is information on how to form a campus chapter in case you are interested.


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