The Truth About Advertising #3: Snake Oil Ads And Infomercials

By Angelika Ilina

Lately, it’s gotten much more interesting to look at ads in newspapers and on TV. Just some time ago, infomercials were reserved for late night TV only. Direct response ads hardly showed up in newspapers. That’s because newspapers and magazines tend to consider these ads “junky.” The reason we’re now seeing infomercials on prime time TV and direct response ads taking up full pages in newspapers is, quite simply, they sell.

That’s right. As advertisers are pulling back, networks and newspapers are willing to accept “junky” ads and show infomercials at 7 o’clock in the evening. No, these are not highly artistic ads. There’s nothing “sexy” about them. They don’t have “clever” copy or meaningless headlines. No blocks of useless white space. Yet they consistently continue to sell more than typical ads you’re used to seeing. Why? Because they use tested elements that work.

Recently, I noticed the above direct response ad take up the entire back page of a local newspaper. These guys are pros. They got so many elements right, starting, of course, with the headline. They know that the most successful headlines are the “self-interest” ones. They’re based on benefits to the reader — something readers want and can get from the advertiser. In this case, joint pain relief. And the headline is written in big, bold type to stand out.

This ad uses long copy which is absolutely fine because it has a good headline. It’s been proven that long copy works better than short copy, granted that you have a powerful headline, followed by a compelling subhead, followed by a telling first paragraph, then the second, and so on. As long as each piece of information contains effective sales points, the reader will make time to read the copy, even if it’s long. And the font is easy to read which is also important.

What about the visuals? If you’re going to use any visuals, use pictures that not only get attention, but that sell. For example, pictures of animals have been proven to get attention, but you can’t use a picture of a puppy to sell refrigerators. This ad uses people’s heads — a potent tactic because this type of picture brings more sales than other types, especially for a testimonial advertisement. It uses a professional Quarterback’s testimonial about his mother to add confidence in the message and increase reader’s interest. Translation — more sales.

Lastly, check out the “How to Get This New Pill” section. It features three important elements:

1. Sense of urgency — The hotline closes 72 hours from the ad’s publication day;

2. Credibility — Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart will carry this new pill;

3. And, most importantly, a priority code — the advertiser can track the results of this ad!

Now, there are other elements that make this ad a good one. I just pointed out the most significant ones. Use these tested methods the next time you write a print advertisement, a direct mail piece, a sales letter, etc. If you write a powerful headline, the job is half done. The copy will be read. Add a good picture to support the sales copy (if you have space for it), a sense of urgency, and a way to track responses to the ad, and watch it produce sales results!


3 Responses to The Truth About Advertising #3: Snake Oil Ads And Infomercials

  1. Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. Joel says:

    If more people would think of Advertising for what it is – salesmanship in print – more people would actually sell with it rather than “look pretty” with it.

    Many of your readers will say things like, “Well, I never read those long-copy ads,” and thereby prove they don’t know a thing about marketing. Hint to those readers: Marketing is a process, and your opinion doesn’t count–only the dollars that hit your bank account get a vote!

  3. I agree – only the check writers get to vote! Thank you for commenting.

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