How to Evaluate an Ad: A Quick Case History
I came across an attractive full-page ad recently for Tempur-Pedic beds. The ad features a large color photo of the bed and a big, bold two-word headline:
The ad goes on to explain that "The miracle is on the inside" and that "Our bed utilizes natural principles of physics. Nothing mechanical or electrical. No motors, switches, valves, air pumps or water heaters. It can't break, leak, short-circuit or stop working." And so forth.
So, how do we judge this ad? Aside from checking response rates post facto and seeing how it performed, how do we decide if this ad, or any ad, is going to be a winner?
Here's how I make this judgment:
First, I look at what the ad is attempting to accomplish. I try to understand the marketing thinking behind the ad. In the case of the Tempur-Pedic ad we have an example of a purely "educative sell." In other words, the folks at Tempur-Pedic are betting that the prospect is interested in mattress technology so they devote virtually the entire ad to explaining how the product works. Here's a typical passage: "Inside our bed, billions of microscopic memory cells work in perfect harmony to contour precisely to your every curve."
The ad is fabulous when it comes to explaining why the mattress is unique and how it is constructed. However, the ad is just awful when it comes to providing the reader with benefits.
This seems to me a serious mistake. You see, in my view the first job of any ad is to solve the reader's problem. To state a benefit. In the case of the Tempur-Pedic ad, benefits are almost totally absent. Supportive, educative
information that should be secondary has become the entire ad.
What benefits should have been highlighted?
Well, this isn't rocket science. The copywriter should have said that with the Tempur-Pedic bed, you sleep better than ever before and wake up every day feeling rested, energetic and raring to go. What's important is the promise of a good night's sleep, not a lesson in mattress making.
Thus, if I had to substitute a two-word headline for the two words, "Inner strength," I would suggest the obvious: "Sleep better."
Of course, no one said we're restricted to two words! Just for fun, here are some headlines I just cranked out that I think work much better than the headline that ran. Compare each of these to the headline "Inner strength":
* How this miracle bed from Sweden can help you get a great night's sleep.
* How to get a great night's sleep, every single night.
* Sleep tight every night on the Tempur-Pedic mattress.
* Sweet dreams start on a Tempur-Pedic mattress.
Next time you have to write or evaluate some copy for an ad, direct mail piece or whatever, don't start writing headlines right away. First, think about the problem your reader has, and how your product or service can solve it. Then start writing benefit-oriented lines that are clear, not clever. Believe me, you won't be far off!
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for companies like Bank of America, Fireman's Fund, Intel, Microsoft and many others. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mail letters and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for marketers, visit his Web site at http://www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.