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This story appears in the October 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

What kind of advertising impact can you possibly have when all your budget will allow is an ad the size of a bar of soap? The answer is, plenty-as evidenced by the small-space ad shown here.

Developed for Robert Kotler, MD, a Beverly Hills, California, facial cosmetic surgeon, it relies on two elements: 1) a picture of a patient whose looks belie how old she really is, and 2) a headline that asks you to try guessing her age. Who can resist?

When you find out the answer in the subheadline ("It's 60."), you've got the measure of this doctor's surgery skills within two seconds. The body copy is a testimonial in which the pictured patient talks about doing her homework to find the right specialist, and about how glad she is that "I put my trust, and my face" in Dr. Kotler's hands. "Needless to say," she concludes, "I'm delighted with the result."

This is a very strong ad in a small space. However, coercing squeamish people into a cosmetic surgeon's office is not that easy. Kotler's solution is offering people a free preview of the likely outcome without leaving home. The prospect sends a digital photo, Kotler doctors the image, then sends it back via e-mail. Clever.

What can you take away from this ad's magic to help you develop your own powerful small-space ad? Consider what short, provocative question you can ask browsing readers that will draw them into the ad. If you can combine it with a photo, all the better. Advertising aficionados may remember a vintage campaign of similar approach that literally put its company on the map. It was for a sunglasses company, and it showed a series of famous people wearing the firm's product, combined with the long-running headline: "Who's that behind those Foster Grants?" It demanded that you get the answer, even if you recognized the face, and it etched the brand name into the collective consciousness. For a time, it even found its way into everyday conversation. So what curiosity-arousing question will spark your next ad?

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

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