For copywriters, the pressure to write that perfect ad line is intense. Creating copy that is clickable, memorable and compelling means everything. Here’s a copywriting exercise that will help you write a killer line by starting with a simple one.
Content writers and copywriters feel pressure to write awesome copy from scratch. For the first words they put on the page to be great. In reality, this almost never happens.
We find greatness in the edit, after writing.
There are hundreds of copywriting exercises out there to help writers craft the perfect ad line. But in my experience, they tend to be abstract and not readily applicable to creating great stuff.
So here’s one exercise that will help you write one line. It relies on editing, not writing, as a replicable framework.
This copywriting prompt is a low pressure way to turn a boring line into an awesome line through several rounds of revisions.
It will function as an exercise, with the goal of helping you write one awesome ad line. We’ll start by explaining a concept in the simplest way possible, then modifying it until it’s compelling.
Throughout this blog, I’ll illustrate the concept by writing my own line.
For this exercise, pick something to write your lines about. Think about what makes it unique. It could be a product you need to sell, or a random object on your desk.
The example I chose is for an ad for a company that produces colorants. The goal is to highlight the strength of their colors under brutal conditions.
Step 1: Start with a Simple Ad Line
Start with a simple phrase that explains the ad concept in a straightforward way. It should be clear, transparent … and boring. You’re just saying what the product is.
Bright Colors That Can Handle Tough Situations
This line communicates the concept, but it isn’t visual or imaginative. It speaks to a value proposition, but it doesn’t make it beautiful or memorable. To fix this, we’ll need to make it more engaging.
Step 2: Get Descriptive
To create a more compelling ad line, we’ll need to add descriptive adjectives and a verb that engages the reader. Describe your subject so that the reader feels like they could reach out and touch it. Pick a verb that shows what the reader can do with it.
Maintain Brilliant and Vibrant Colors Under any Conditions.
Now we’re getting somewhere – though it’s still not the perfect ad line. This line is better because “brilliant” and “vibrant” are visual words. They help the reader visualize the concept.
“Maintain” is critical because it sets the scene in motion, using a command to involve the reader.
This tagline works, and you could use it in your copy. It’s serviceable. But it still reads like a description. We can do better.
Step 3: Add Chaos to Your Ad Line
Now that you have a clear and visual ad line to work with, it’s time to add some copywriting flair and personality. The goal here is to reframe or accentuate the benefits of the product until it’s original and interesting to read.
Add a second sentence that adds interest and chaos to the scene. Write a line that does something to the product. Flip it upside down. Drop it off a building. I’ll set mine on fire.
Maintain Brilliant and Vibrant Colors Under any Conditions. Yes, You Can Set Them on Fire.
While I didn’t change the first sentence, this line is much better. It’s interesting and has personality. Someone would actually want to read this.
It also gets the reader’s imagination going. When you read this, it’s impossible to not visualize it.
But, while this line works on many levels, it’s not the perfect ad line. Instead, it’s clunky and long-winded. We can do better.
Step 4: Edit for Perfection
While the third line is visual and impactful, it’s also long. At 15 words, or 91 characters, it’s too lengthy for a line. Copy of this length won’t fit on an ad, and there’s too many words to remember.
We’ll make this line better by merging the two sentences together. Make it concise and powerful. Chop off unnecessary words that dilute the impact of the line.
Here are the words I’ll cut and why I’m ditching them.
“Maintain” is the first to go. It worked in the second line, but merging the two sentences makes it redundant. We only need one verb. Plus, you shouldn’t lead with a boring word when you could lead with an awesome word, like “brilliant.”
We’ll also cut “and vibrant.” Sure, a color theorist will be able to explain the difference between brilliant and vibrant. But for our purposes, the second adjective doesn’t add anything that “brilliant” doesn’t already.
“Under any conditions” can also go. It’s redundant. If you can set something on fire, of course it can handle tough conditions.
We’ll also cut “yes” and “them.” If we merge these two sentences together, these words become unnecessary.
The end result:
Brilliant Colors You Can Set on Fire.
This final ad line explodes off the page. The reader can hear and feel the chaos it contains.
This copy works because it’s so short and impactful. It’s concise, at only seven words and 31 characters.
Because we reduced the number of characters by 66%, it’s easy to remember. It would get stuck in a reader’s head after they see it in an ad.
It’s also engaging. It shows the reader possibilities they could never have imagined. It forces them to ask a question:
How do you set a color on fire?