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One of the perks of being a copywriter is it means you can pick up virtually any magazine or tune into any broadcast and be thoroughly entertained, regardless of content.

 

Trust me, I’ve garnered more than a few raised eyebrows and awkward stares in various waiting rooms for making a bee-line for the Mademoiselle or Good Housekeeping. To me, it’s no different than watching the Super Bowl. It’s all about the ads.

 

Don’t get me wrong, even as a copywriter, I’m with you in recognizing just how pervasive really bad ads are. You’d think that as expensive as it is to advertise in these magazines, online, or over the airwaves, the advertisers would go through extraordinary lengths to ensure their ads resonated with their audience.  But you’d be wrong.

 

As a copywriter, though, the bad ads provide almost as much enjoyment as the decent ones. Particularly when you challenge yourself to come up with something better. The first thing you realize—it’s not easy.

 

Coming up with something truly original that’ll stop time-strapped viewers on the page, click a banner, or keep them glued to their seats rather than making a run to the kitchen during a break is one of the toughest challenges you can face. But any client that would settle for anything less is throwing good money to the wind.

 

Truth is, we’d all be rich if we could simply snatch up all the wasted ad dollars with butterfly nets. But since we can’t, what can advertisers do to ensure people actually want to engage their ads?

 

From my perspective, the most common error I see advertisers make is in assuming people are actually going to give their ads the time of day. Admit it, when was the last time you willingly read an ad? Particularly when you consider, at any given moment, the ads are the only thing coming between you and content you picked up a magazine to read or tuned in to a broadcast to see. If you’re like most, you tolerate the ads because they help lower the price of the medium they’re in.

 

If you’ve read my blog for long, you know my favorite magazine is the Communication Arts Advertising Annual. It’s filled from front to back with nothing but ads. Sure, it’s got a smidgeon of editorial content, but CA is one of those magazines that you read just for the pictures. It showcases the best ads on the planet: Radio, TV, Integrated, Interactive, Outdoor and Print.

 

I bring up CA, because it perfectly illustrates my point.

 

Because, like most magazines, in addition to its incredibly rich content—the stuff I bought the magazine for—CA also contains the ads that pay its bills and makes it possible to print.

 

Yet, what’s the first thing ad junkies like me do when we pick up a CA? Just like consumers everywhere, we rifle through the pages and pages of bland ads to get to the really good stuff.

 

Make no mistake, landing ads in CA (other than paying for them) is one of the toughest achievements a creative can accomplish. It’s a goal many advertisers could set and never achieve. Yet, the far less ambitious goal of simply getting somebody to interact with your advertising IS something advertisers should be able to achieve (but far too often don’t).

 

First and foremost, to achieve this is to approach your assignment with the understanding that most consumers are as finicky as you are. They want to jump ahead to the good stuff just as eagerly as you do.  So the secret is to give them the good stuff. Whether it’s through irresistible design, a message so clever and compelling your audience can’t help but stop and take it in—ultimately, you have to leave the audience feeling good about taking the time out of their schedule to interact with your ad.

 

And if you do it consistently, your audience will eagerly look forward to what other neat tricks you have up your sleeve.