Several correspondents to our newsletter, AdBriefing, say that they are having trouble writing body copy for ads. Their problem seems to be the age-old one of how to kick things off – how to make a start. Can I help? Of course, I can.
When you have been writing copy as long as I have, you will come to understand that there is an unwritten formula for writing copy. While I shudder at the thought of formulae in advertising (since advertising is still a matter of doing what your instincts tell you to be right, and not what some computer programme tells you), there is no doubt that copy should follow a logical sequence. A sequence that takes its lead from the message in the main headline.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, every headline should contain some kind of offer or promise. At risk of repeating myself, it should contain a benefit along the lines of: Buy this product and get this benefit. If it doesn’t do this, then to my mind there is no point in running the ad. As the great Doctor Sam Johnson said, back in the 1700s: Promise, large promise, is the soul of advertising.
Ok – assuming that you have written a benefit-ridden headline, it follows that the first line of body copy should reinforce that benefit. It should enlarge upon it. It should take the initial promise and make more of it – much more. In other words, it should be a more verbose rendering of the headline statement. An expansion of what is in it for the punter.
It should not, decidedly not, be talking about something entirely different from what is contained in the headline – as a lot of so-called copywriters tend to do. This merely diverts your prospect’s attention from your major proposition. Always remember that the reason he is bothering to read your body copy is because he has been intrigued by your headline. He wants to be sure he has understood the message.
All right, with the opening para written, the rest should write itself. Your second para should talk about the features of the product. How it works. What it does. How fast it operates – that kind of thing. And if it has a lot of features, expand your writing into a third and fourth paragraphs if necessary.
This done, your penultimate para should refer back to the headline – once again reiterating the benefit. After that, all you need is a call-to-action paragraph; one that describes where, how and when the product can be bought.
And that, in a nutshell, is how to construct body copy. The formula, however, is not set in stone. Just so long as your first paragraph is always a re-work of the headline message, you can do more or less as you wish with the rest of it.
Simple – isn’t it?