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Twin Picks

Dare your audience to compare, and your product is sure to get a lot of attention. Here's how to pull off a great side-by-side comparison ad.

Challenge us to tell two things apart that look alike, and we're hooked. For example, in a jewelry ad, ask which is the 3-carat diamond pendant and which is the cubic zirconia, and you'll suck us right into scrutinizing them. In an ad for contact lenses, ask which eyes are true-blue and which have colored contacts, and we won't budge until we find out. What better kind of reaction could a marketer dream of, especially in a world of short attention spans?

In the spirit of side-by-side comparisons, the creators of InstaFiber, a soluble, natural supplement, came up with this ad. It shows two glasses of water, one of which we're told in the headline has 9 grams of fiber. Although the ad does not identify which one it is, the point is made in the visual. Whichever it is, it's invisible, not the unappetizing orange goop one typically associates with a glass of drinkable fiber. And the side-by-side comparison rivets our attention. Look down a bit further in the ad, and the first two bullet points declare: "Dissolves invisibly . . . No taste or texture." That pretty much cinches it for people who grin and bear the typical fiber supplement drink. You almost needn't read the rest of the ad to decide to leap onto the company's website or call the toll-free number to order.

Of course, there are many variations of such look-alike comparisons. A classic example displays two pieces of identical-looking apparel, one costing thousands of dollars, the other a fraction thereof. The headline might ask "Which suit is the $1,200 Armani, and which is the $300 Suitable?" No doubt about it: If your company is undercutting a competitor on the same product or service, such a comparison of "equals" can be quite powerful.

You can even do an exaggerated sendup of the approach. For example, picture an ad for a radio station showing two disparate commuters in their cars listening to drive-time radio. One has a blissfully content smile on her face, while the other looks exaggeratedly concerned and stressed. The headline might say "One of these commuters is relaxing to Soft Rock 810. Can you guess which one?"

On that note, this column will sign off after two years of showcasing "A+ Ads" and be replaced next month with "Ad Wisdom." The new column will provide you with priceless tips, techniques and strategies from some of the most respected and revered names in the advertising field.


Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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This article was originally published in the December 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Twin Picks.

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