11 Secrets of a Successful Ad


Thursday, October 1, 2004


Are you fully prepared to markedly increase your margin of success?

A big key to dramatically increasing your income is simply learning how to prepare a powerful advertisement.

But, why should you listen to me? There are many self-appointed experts who say they can help you.

Also, there are numerous books on writing ads. Why not just read these?

The problem is very few of the book authors ever invested their own hard-earned money in trying to make an ad work. So, please be ultra careful in selecting an expert you can trust.

It’s a matter of record that I’ve written and run more successful space ads in magazines and newspapers than anyone else in the world during the last 50 years.

Yet, nearly everyone I talk with thinks the real secret to my track record is compelling copy.

But, while important, it takes far more than powerful copy to make an ad highly profitable.

Today I’m going to discuss the behind the scenes of a successful ad.

I study advertising–my own and others–on a daily basis, as I’m always looking to improve my success margin. Based on what I observe in the marketplace, most direct marketers, ad agencies and copywriters do not have a clue about what I’m about to reveal.

Treat this information like solid gold nuggets. Because if you do, you will be depositing large sums of gold in your very own bank account!

Secret #1Create a powerful headline. A good headline is the most important part of any ad. At least five times as many people read the headline as the body copy. You don’t have even the slimmest chance to create a profitable ad without a super headline.

I write as many as 200 headlines for any product before I choose 3-6 to test.

Tip: Many copywriters spend 95% of their time and effort purely on the body copy. Don’t do it! Spend 80% of your effort on the headline writing. The body copy to support the headline is the easy part.

Tip: Search for the biggest consumer benefit you can find for your product or service and incorporate this in the headline.

Secret #2 Put your headline in quotation marks. Why? Studies show a headline attracts 28% more attention in quotes.

Secret #3 Use a drop first letter. The first word in your ad should begin with a letter that is oversized and bolded. Drop the letter two to three lines.


Selling is a sequential process.

When the reader’s eye is drawn to the left and to the first sentence after the headline, then the second sentence, etc., you increase the chances the prospect will read your copy in the sequence you prefer.

Secret #4 Begin the copy with a powerful opening sentence. This can accomplish several goals: 1. You amplify and reinforce the promise of the headline. 2. You set the tone for the offer. 3. The reader is induced to read the second sentence.

Secret #5Talk about your prospect, not you or your company, in the copy 99% of the time.

The reader is not nearly as interested in you or your company as they are in themselves.

Focus almost exclusively on the benefits to the prospect in your copy.

Secret #6Use easy-to-read typefaces. In your headlines, I recommend using Times Roman or Ariel.

In the body copy, I suggest a serif typeface such as Times Roman.

Tip: Do not use all capital letters. Use upper and lower case letters in your headlines. This means you start each headline word with a capital letter with each subsequent letter being lower case letters.

Tip: Use at least a 9-point typeface in your body copy.

Tip: Use black copy on a white background. Do not use white copy on a black background, which is harder to read.

Tip: Use justified left and ragged right layout.

Secret #7Set your copy in three columns. The maximum width should not exceed 45 characters.

Secret #8Break up the body copy with powerful sub- headlines. A good ad averages 3-4 sub- headlines per column. These subheadlines should be strong enough so that readers with short attention spans can read the headlines, the subheadlines, and the coupon and have sufficient benefits to make a buying decision.

Secret #9Use photographs or illustrations advantageously. Do not devote more than 1/3 of the available space to a photo or illustration. The copy is much more important. Remember, copy is king.

Tip: Use photo first on the page. Follow it with the headline, which ideally acts as the photo caption.

Tip: Caption every photograph. Do not assume the reader knows what or who the photo is about. They don’t. Such assumptions are invariably wrong.

Tip: When using a large photo, make sure photo ties in to the benefit of the headline.

Secret #10 Use a coupon with a thin dotted line around the copy. Many graphic artists feel almost compelled to surround the coupon copy with a thick dotted line. This tends to draw the reader’s eye to the coupon too soon in the selling process. Remember, selling is a sequential process.

Secret #11Add copyright information to your ad. As and when you have a successful ad, some people will inevitably try to rip off your ideas.

While I’m not giving you legal advice, by adding the following you are in better position to stop infringers: © Copyright 2004 (you or your company name)

Tip: Often a cease and desist letter will get plagiarizers to stop illegally using your intellectual property and a big part of your livelihood.

I know the above information works. To say it can be worth a fortune to you is not an exaggeration. How can I be so certain?

Because I’ve tested every variation I could think of. I’ve flopped with so many ads, I finally learned what works. And perhaps more importantly, what not to do.

Additionally, many of my seminar attendees and readers, including some of the biggest names in marketing circles, credit my teachings for their successful ad campaigns.

If you want to save a lot of heartache, as well as money, do not listen to the advice of those self- appointed experts, especially on the Web, most of whom have never run a single successful ad in their lives.

Tip: I’m sad to say most advice from marketers, especially on the Internet, is wrong and without a basis in reality. Before you buy products such as books or tapes, or hire a copywriter, or take advice from anyone about marketing or copy, ask for at least a dozen examples of successful ads they’ve actually prepared and run. Plus three business references. If they are legitimate, they will be happy to provide this as the least they can do.

If these cannot be supplied, do not walk away– run from such false prophets. Do not encourage them by buying their books and tapes either. They don’t deserve your support until they first earn it in the marketplace.

Increase your margin of success in all your ads, mailings, brochures and catalogs with these tips.

As always, you have my very best wishes for increasing the success margin in all your advertising campaigns.

Your correspondent,

Ted Nicholas

Ted Nicholas