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The Psychology Behind Successful Ad Copy

Published: February 14, 2014

Author: Molly Shotwell

In the world of advertising, it’s all about the art of persuasion. One way to do this is through ad copy, a style of writing meant to convince or influence a person into buying a product or service.
For us involved in running PPC campaigns, that’s one of the main things we focus on, writing those crucial 105 characters that separate our ad from every other competitor.
For tips and best practices towards writing great ad copy, there are plenty of guides out there on the Internet (one of my favourite resources is 3Q’s great big glossary of ad copy wisdom). But what I’ve always wondered, is why?
Why do certain ads succeed? What is the psychology behind them that makes them so persuasive?
You have to appeal to the customer
Bottom line, ad copy is meant to persuade. Think about when you’re trying to convince your friends to try out a new restaurant. What do you do to make them want to go try it out? You appeal to them.
Now, there are a bunch of different types of appeals but the two main ones used in advertising are emotional and rational.
Emotional appeals are designed to generate or push an emotional response to motivate the customer into buying the product. Some common themes are vanity, fear, or love. An example would be the famous SPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan.
SPCA A rational appeal, on the other hand, caters towards the audience’s logical side. The persuasion comes from buying the product because of the “practicality”. Common examples are listing benefits, price deals, testimonials, etc. An example of this would be the Shamwow infomercial.
Examples of Appeals in AdWords

As a case study, let’s take a look at some real ad copy examples in the most competitive keyword niches (the ad copies here will be the ones that have gone through the most testing and are the best examples of successful ads) and see what strategies they use.
Example #1
Keyword: homeowner loan
Keyword Homeowner Loan
This is ad is all about rational appeal. Need a loan? This is why you should get a loan with us. Reason #1 same day, reason #2 up to $25 000, reason #3 no credit check, reason #4 no job requirement.
Clear, concise and very effectively differentiating itself from competitors.
Example #2
Keyword: weight loss
Keyword weight loss This ad is an example of an ad focusing on emotional appeal. It makes no promises on weight loss numbers or prices, but instead chooses to focus the audience towards their goals. It’s the time for New Year’s resolutions, and the ad knows it. It’s centering that around its pitch, and using the motivational emotions surrounding that to push customers into clicking it.
Example #3
Keyword: Car Insurance Quote
Keyword Car Insurance Quote Here’s a great example of a mixture of both emotional and rational appeal. The headline starts with a promise of affordable car insurance. And then there’s also the free quote provided. Already it gives a sense of value to whoever is reading the ad copy.
Next, it focuses towards generating that emotional response. Get rewarded, you deserve this product. Subconsciously, you’re already agreeing with what the company is saying and forming that empathetic bond.
Which one to choose?
As you can see with the examples above, most ads could work with either types or in combination. Naturally, some products will find more success using more one type than the other.  As long as you keep in mind your brand and product, and with some good split testing, you’ll find quite quickly what seems to work better for you.
I hope this post has been helpful in demystifying some of psychological concepts used in advertising. If you guys have any comments about the topic or want to share firsthand experience, I’d love to hear about them!

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