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  • Marina Catherine Editing Services

ADVERTISING - You've got the WHO, but what about the WHAT, and how about the HOW?

A simple guide to advertising techniques.

So, you’ve drafted an advertisement you think is pretty good because you know who you are appealing to. The next step is to work out WHAT you are appealing to.

Basic advertising is based on the premise that we tap into a potential customer’s needs, fears or desires and then provide the solution to their problems in the form of our product or service.

For example:


A pest control business taps into a client’s fear of creepy crawlies.

A gym taps into a client’s fear of getting fat.

An accountancy business can tap into the fear of getting into trouble with the taxation department.


A travel company taps into a client’s desire for relaxing holiday

A weight loss program can tap into a client’s desire for a beautiful body.

A jeweller can tap into a consumer's desire for love.


A shop selling baby and toddler products can tap into a parent’s need for sleep.

A restaurant taps into a need for food.

A bank can tap into our need for shelter.

Remember, while you may be selling a product or service, you are trading in emotions.

Tell people how your product or service can make their life easier, make them more successful, bring them love, allay their fears, provide more money, make them smarter and prettier, keep them popular, give them their health back, reduce their worries, help them keep up with the neighbours.

Take their want, need or fear and give them the solution.


Once you’ve decided on WHAT you are appealing to, it’s time to look at HOW to put it together so it works for you. Here are some suggestions.

Expert opinion

Some people are more likely to buy a product if it has been endorsed by a celebrity or an expert in the field. If you don’t have access to a celebrity, consider using testimonials or use statistics to create a sense of endorsement by the masses.

Ask a question

It can be used to intrigue.

For example:

Do you want to know the secret to getting your baby to sleep?

Identify with your audience. Let them know you were once just like them until you discovered or created this product or service.

Humour goes a long way, so if you think you are a bit of comic genius, use it. It's a good way to get your ad shared.

Be annoying

It’s not an approach I often recommend but sometimes it works, particularly in advertising where sound can be used to great effect.

Create a sense of obligation

Most people feel certain obligations and guilt if they don't fulfill those obligations. It could be an obligation to give back to the community, an obligation to dress a certain way for work, an obligation to prove their love for someone (by buying a present), an obligation to provide the best in life for their child, an obligation to care for their elderly parents.

Use a clever slogan that incorporates your brand

This works equally well for static and dynamic advertising. As an example, look at the simple LG slogan.

LG – life’s good.

The subtle message here is their products make your life better.

Clever colour

Do a bit of research on colours. Would your product or service benefit from using a clean, white background suggesting cleanliness and hygiene? How about green to imply health and freshness? Red can be dynamic or wild. Black can be seductive or dangerous. Where does your product or service sit in the colour spectrum?

Create scarcity

If people think there are only a limited number of products, they may be inclined to do more than window shop. Use short, sharp sentences.

Only three left! Limited stock! 5 available!

Tell a story

This works well with video advertising if done well.

Create a call to action

This can be as simple as putting a clicky link in your ad saying Buy Now! or as complicated as telling them to sign up for a program or newsletter.

Make your brand prominent

But not at the expense of the ad. You’ve only got a few seconds before people decide to click or flick. Consumers don’t want to wade through words before they find out what the product or service can do for them.

This list of tips is by no means exhaustive. There are numerous ways you can tighten up your advertising. The best tip I can give you is to stop being a passive watcher of advertisements. Don’t duck into the kitchen to make a cup of tea when the ads come on television. Stay, watch, analyse and ask:

Are they appealing to a want, need or fear?

How are they doing this?

Are they successful?

And then use your newly gained insight to hone your ad writing skills. Good Luck!


Marina Catherine
Editing and copywriting

Phone: 0414 746 696
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