Copywriting

Write ads that kill by understanding narrative device

Leave behind the writing style of the masses

17 August 2021

Advertising used to be ruthless and beautiful.

Ruthless, because basic processes like audience targeting, writing copy, and analysing results were slow, delicate affairs. And beautiful, because the rigamarole constrained the game to a few pros who served their audiences with delightful ads.

Today’s internet advertising arena is the opposite. Because anyone with $5 and a keyboard can participate, we face:

  • An overload of poorly executed ads
  • A public with a chronic case of ad fatigue

Luckily, nearly all mediocre ads share a common trait. You’re about to learn all about it, so you can do things differently.

How to stand apart in a sea of low-quality ads

It begins with understanding the arena.

Most advertisers are savvy enough to know they need some understanding of sales psychology to succeed. And that leads them to invest in either a few copywriting courses or a low-cost digital marketing service.

Together, these create a common theme:

Most ad-writers are operating on a few copywriting basics. They can be likened to beginner photographers who’ve grasped the Rule of Thirds and treat it as an iron law for every photo.

One of these copywriting fundamentals is usually helpful. But its overuse has turned it into a red flag that internet browsers use to spot and dodge ads:

Speak to the reader as if you are engaging with them in a one-on-one conversation.

It’s possible to create this feeling with both basic and advanced techniques. And here’s the crux of this article:

Just about every advertiser is using the basic technique.

It revolves around an element called narrative device - the point of view you use to speak to your reader.

Speaking directly to the reader with narrative device means using “you” language. Phrases like “Imagine you’re…”, “You know what it’s like when…”, or “Does this happen to you, too?”

With that in mind, take a second to think about this…

Social media platforms are blending ads with organic posts more and more. At the same time, most ads are of low quality. This means readers can rely on recognising “you” language amongst posts to spot ads and move on.

The solution? Learn the advanced ways of speaking directly to your audience

We don’t need to use narrative device to give our readers the feeling of being spoken to directly.

Instead, we can tell stories that involve elements specific to their lives. For example

If I was advertising a composition course to new photographers, I’d open a Facebook ad like this:

John showed the classic sign of an amateur: All his questions were about my camera gear and exposure settings.

When I reviewed his photos, it was obvious what was holding him back:

He’d taken the “Rule of thirds” to heart and was using it wherever he could. His focus on it was preventing him from creating photos that left viewers feeling something.

I often meet photographers like John who are hung up about camera settings. Here’s the secret - those settings are just the accounting of photography. They’re admin.

Real photographic skill comes from the willingness to get into interesting situations to capture a moment.

Do you get me? It’s not about setup. It’s about daring to live.

I’ve distilled all my knowledge into a four-hour course that will change the way you see photography. Use the link below to learn all about it (and see some of my award-winning photos).

-Steve

If I was advertising a distraction-free writing program to copywriters, I could begin an ad with:

I am an undisciplined copywriter.

Within minutes of opening a new Google Doc, I’ll open a new tab on autopilot.

Ten minutes later, I’ll wake up to the fact that that I’m somehow browsing the Bitcoin subreddit…

When I was confronted by my CMO about my productivity, it wasn’t easy to tell her the truth - I was sure she would judge me as lazy. But, all she did was laugh and tell me to open a blank text document instead of my browser.

I gave it a go.

A few days of writing copy in Notepad later… I was a new writer.

It turns out that all I needed was an environment that made it easy to do the right thing.

With that said, Notepad left much to be desired.

I was forever copying, pasting, and reformatting.

And that’s what led me to chat with our developer about building a copywriter’s dream text editor…

Get the gist?

Go on and try this approach with your ads. One beautiful consequence of our cheap advertising arena is that you can test bold approaches with few repercussions.

Dare to:

  • Tell stories about interesting events and people, then tie them back to your offer
  • Speak in terms of “we” and “they”, rather than “you”.

And if this article is showing you that you need new ads now… email Pieter and we’ll take care of it.

Written by Sandy

In summary:

  • The low barrier to entry has flooded every platform with low-quality ads

  • Audiences avoid ads by recognising a common writing style

  • You can avoid being immediately flagged as an ad by using narrative device creatively