Do You Want a Clever Ad or One That Works?

Q: Dear Copy Bitch–I want you to create a print ad with a really clever headline. I don’t want a sub-headline, just the headline. I want it to tease the mind a bit so that it leaves the person to fill in the blanks. I think that’s what makes it memorable–because it engages the reader. Can you do this?

Answer: First off, clever doesn’t always mean “memorable.” Have you ever found yourself telling someone about a clever ad, only to realize that while you clearly remember the clever concept, you don’t remember the advertiser? I know I have. Second, you might want to reassess your expectations of “engaging” the reader with a print ad, at least in today’s white-noise-rich environment. Yeah, yeah, I know. YOUR ad will engage the reader. She’ll be paging through her favorite magazine and will not only pause, but also stop and gasp at your amazing ad and clever headline that teases her mind so that she can “fill in the blanks.”

Could that happen? Sure, I suppose. But don’t count your advertising dollars on it. Instead, think about the audience: what’s the pain point and how does your product/service/company diminish that pain?

Want a perfect example of ads that do this? Pick up a magazine like Family Circle, which caters to women, including working moms and stay-at-home-moms with busy schedules (I’m guessing the sweet spot for age, but I’m sure I’m not far off: 35-50). I can almost guarantee you’ll find an ad from a print advertiser that’s touting a food product and then a recipe for said food product. The pain point: cooking easy, nutritious meals for the family. The solution: easy recipe. (Okay: to prove my point, I just looked at the November issue of Family Circle, and on page 165, there’s a product from Knorr called “Sides Plus” and a recipe for “Cheeseburger Pasta ‘n Vegetables.” Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes.)

The goal with your advertising–even those ads that are branding ads–should be effectiveness, not cleverness. If you can come up with a concept that’s clever and effective, great. But work on the effectiveness part first.

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