Making Your Advertising Message Stand Out

In a world over-saturated with words and images, how can you get your ads to rise above the din and capture an interested audience?

By Roy H. Williams

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I did not die today. I am, for the moment, alive and well as an ad writer. But I fear I'm being stalked by iPods, cell phones, instant messaging and increasingly fragmented media choices--and they're gunning for my life.

Over-communication is riding rampant across the mindscape of America, putting greater-than-ever pressure on ad writers to produce ads that seduce and jealously hug the attention of the customer.

Today I will teach you a little about how to write such ads.

The key to seduction is the opening line. So open big. I'm not talking about hype, like "Save up to 75 percent off this week only at blah, blah blah." I'm talking about a statement that is fundamentally more interesting than anything else that might be occupying the mind of your prospects. For example, I bet your attention was drawn to my opening line: "I did not die today." Magnetism is why I chose it, and I had utterly no idea how I was going to bridge from that line into the subject matter at hand, but that's irrelevant. The key is that it can be done. So be bold and have confidence; a bridge can be built from any concept to any other concept.

How should you get started? Don't think of your subject matter first and then decide how to introduce it. And don't open with a question directed at your prospect, such as "Are you interested in saving money?" That technique's been overused to the point that it now borders on becoming a cliché. (Rhetorical questions, such as "Whatever happened to Gerald Ford?" are OK, however.)

Instead, think about creating a magnetic opening statement, then figure out how to bridge from the opening line into your subject matter. Original openers surprise the Broca's area of your brain and gain you entrance to the central executive of working memory--conscious awareness, focused attention. The central executive will then decide whether your thought has salience, or relevance to the listener. This is what your bridge must supply.

Next, write a bridge that justifies your magnetic opening line. If you fall short here, your opening line will be perceived as hype. Game over. But if you do it right, you can then insert your subject matter from the angle created by your opening line and bridge. And finally, you have to figure out how to close in such way that you loop back to your opening line. (Having secured the involvement of your prospects, you're now free to use direct questions if you like.)

It's really not that hard.

Hey, there's another good opening line: "It's really not that hard." Now select a client at random and write a bridge to follow that opening line.

Here are some other opening lines for you to try:

"I've heard that your heart stops when you sneeze."
"The TV commercials with the Keebler elves have always been my favorites."
"Don Quixote just won't go away."
"Plutonium is the rarest of all substances."

Here's what I've done so far:

1. I opened this column with "I Did Not Die Today," having no idea how I would bridge from that line to the subject matter of the column.

2. I then created a bridge to justify my opening line and create salience for the central executive; "I am, for the moment, alive and well as an ad writer. But I fear I'm being stalked by iPods, cell phones, instant messaging, and increasingly fragmented media choices--and they're gunning for my life."

3. I then gave you enough details to satisfy the central executive's demand for salience.

4. Now it's time to loop back to the opening line. Let's see if I can do it:

The times are changing, and so must ad writers if we will live to see another day.

Will you change with the times? Or will you continue to wear the blindfold of yesterday's ad-writing style and walk voluntarily before the firing squad.

Roy H. Williams

Roy Williams is the founder and president of international ad agency Wizard of Ads. Roy is also the author of numerous books on improving your advertising efforts, including The Wizard of Ads and Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads.

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