Writing Descriptive Copy

The best way to obtain advertising copy that will make customers call or stop in is to hire a professional advertising agency. A small business often cannot afford professional assistance, however, so the owner or manager must either prepare the copy or provide the necessary infor­mation to the advertising staff of the newspaper or radio or television station. Therefore, a new business owner should have a basic under­standing of how to construct a good advertisement.

TABLE 22-2. Advertising Expense and Budget Record


Year to Date


Budget Actual

Budget Actual











Advertising expense










A lot of money is spent on nonproductive, even counterproductive, advertising. Humor that falls flat or wears thin after repeated exposure does not make good advertising. Advertisements that do not contain information about specific products or services are unlikely to result in increased sales. Omitting prices or allowing customers to suppose them higher than they really are is not productive. Advertisements that criti­cize a competitor or make unbelievable claims for a product or service may harm the reputation of the business.

To prepare honest and descriptive advertising copy that sells, remember the following points:

1. Study the buying patterns of the customers and advertise to appeal to them. For example, bronze mums are properly advertised in the fall but are not what customers are seeking during the Christmas season. Hardy bulbs for fall planting should be advertised then, not during the winter, when they are obvious leftovers.

2. Advertise representative products and services. For example, avoid featuring low-cost items if the business normally carries a better line of merchandise.

3. Give customers good value for their dollars. Promoting broad­leaved evergreens in an area that is too cold to ensure their survival will not create good will. It is better to feature plants of predictable hardiness.

4. Be definite about the price of what is advertised. Avoid giving price ranges that make it hard to determine what an item will cost. Featuring flowering shrubs for $5 to $30 is too vague. Pricing them at $5 and up is even worse. Tie the price to a size or quantity so that customers know what they will get for the money.

5. Describe the benefits to the customers of purchasing the product or service. The size or length of the advertisement will determine how many benefits can be described, but the most obvious bene­fit, as well as the one most likely to motivate the customer, should be mentioned. For example, a lawn service firm can advertise benefits such as “rich, green, weed-free turf” (an obvious benefit) and “more free time to spend enjoying the summer” (a strong motivator).

6. Suggest a need for the item. This can often be incorporated into the description of benefits.

7. Encourage the customer to act immediately. Close the advertise­ment with a statement that motivates customers to pick up the telephone or stop by the store while it is still fresh in their minds.

8. Keep the layout of printed advertisements simple. Use a heading in large type and an illustration to catch the reader’s eye; follow with the copy; close with the price and store name, address, and hours.

9. Develop a recognizable format for a series of advertisements. Although specific items may change, the look or sound of the advertisement should strike a familiar note. The use of standard­ized graphics can help to create the desired identification.

10. Keep broadcast advertisements conversational. Avoid an impres­sion of aloofness.

11. Devise a way to measure public response to the advertisement. Use of a code word in a printed advertisement allows a count of the number of persons responding. Radio and television advertise­ments can offer some special benefit to customers who use a key word when placing their orders. Figure 22-7 is an example of a good written advertisement for ornamental horticulture.