Designing Visual Advertising for Travel Agents – Great Copy

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Yesterday, we described how the graphical design and layout of a visual advertisement should grab the busy viewer’s attention. The chore of attracting attention also falls to the most prominent line of the ad’s copy: the headline. Begin your ad development by writing down several possible headlines. The headline sets the theme and the tone for your ad and works with the graphical elements to bring the viewer’s attention to bear on the ad for a few seconds. The headline should be positioned to boldly state the ad’s proposition – typically this is at the top of the ad but a good designer may position it at either the middle or the bottom effectively.

The thematic headline is followed by the “lead”. This is the first text sentence of the ad and typically not only reinforces the headline but explains it. The lead insists that the viewer, having committed to the graphics and the headline, now read further into the “story” of the ad. The story explains the benefits of the brand. Importantly, the story should not explain the features of the brand except insofar as the features outline benefits to the reader. For that reason, much ad copy is written in the second person “you” tense. In the story, the copy must compel the reader to make note of the brand, to remember the brand for what it can do for the reader.
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The story then leads to a call to action. So often ads leave out this critical phase. Tell the reader what to do next: “call us”, “click here”, “visit our store”, “email us”. Without a call to action you risk losing the client that wants immediate information. Finally, make sure the reader knows how to call, click, visit or email by including the critical contact information.

How many words should be in an ad? Tough call, but in general enough to do the job and no more. An advertisement should not be a company history. Grab the attention of the viewer, explain benefits, call to action. Too many words and the busy reader moves quickly on.

Copy should be written, re-written, edited and then left to sit. Come back to it next day and make sure you are still happy with the result. The extra time spend on the editing process will be a plus. Many ideas that seem great in development fall flat in execution. A short “cooling off” period will assist with uncovering the duds.

Ad copy is all about explaining why the consumer should do business with you in a few words as possible. Study a few ads over the next week or two and see if the most effective ones follow the copy rules we have just discussed.

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