Simple Messages in Advertising--The Better to Understand You
With, My Dear.

By Kevin Nunley

It is better to advertise with simple messages and have everyone
understand you, than to advertise with complex messages and have
only 20% of viewers understand you.

Brilliantly clever advertising executives often come up with ad
campaigns that dazzle viewers. Viewers may be dazzled, but
whether they can discern what is actually being communicated in
the ad remains to be seen.

When considering how you want to phrase your advertising copy,
don't tailor the message to what would impress you. Tailor the
message to what would sell to everyone.

The fact is, most people only read, listen, and watch advertising
with a tiny percentage of their brain. When I'm watching TV and
it comes time for the advertisements, I usually head to the
kitchen for a handful of M&Ms. But I can still hear the TV.

The human brain takes in everything that goes on--sights, sounds,
feelings--so whether your viewer is consciously paying attention
to your message or not, some level of their psyche is taking it
in. But whether your message is stored away in the long-term
memory depends on the clarity of your ad.

I don't remember things I don't understand. No one does. So your
advertising will only make a long-term impact if the message is
clear. Otherwise, it will be forgotten within minutes.

That is why it is important to keep your advertising copy as
simple as possible. One of the top two reasons marketing fails is
because the ad isn't clear.

Here are some imperative tips to keep in mind when writing and
designing your ads:

1. No jargon. Many advertisers make the mistake of using their
own industry jargon and buzz words when writing their ads. As
much sense as they make to themselves, they may not be making a
bit of sense to the common consumer.

Remember, your advertising isn't just targeted at your fellow
lawyer or your computer engineer friend. You are talking to
administrative assistants, mechanics, artists, hair stylists and
teachers. If you want their attention, speak the same language
they do.

2. Smaller words, bigger impact. In an effort to look smart, we
sometimes try to flex our vocabulary muscles too hard in
advertising. But advertising speaks to people the same way you
speak to a friend. You want to be on the same level, so don't use
five syllable words in your copy. It will only come off as
condescending and confusing.

After you write something, try speaking it out loud. If you sound
like you are reading an excerpt from a literary essay, change it
to sound more natural, like your normal style of speech.
Remember, as Stephen King advises, "Never say emolument when you
mean tip."

3. Don't lose your message in overly complicated copy. Searching
for the message in some advertisements can be like separating
sand from sugar--you really have to work to find the good stuff.

Only say what you need to say. Keep your message concise. You
don't need to tout every magnificent quality of your product or
service. Pick one or two of the best features and focus on those.

3. Use phrases that sell. These are familiar phrases that don't
make people think hard about the implications. When they hear
them, they know exactly what is being said and how to respond.

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These are just a few of the simple, yet effective phrases that
spark a listener's interest in your message. Notice that they are
all under five words.

4. Simple ad campaigns, not just simple messages. Pick something
that works and stick with it. Each time an ad runs, it builds on
the time it ran before that. The secret to becoming a household
name is simple--repetition, repetition, repetition.

Kevin Nunley provides marketing advice and copy writing. Spice
up your marketing with sales letters, ads, and web copy that
sizzle and sell. See all Kevin's services and free tips at Reach him at or

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