Copy Critique #1 - Space Ad

Each week, I dissect a real-life advertisement piece to illustrate copy and design aspects that work and that don't work in the real world. My goal with these weekly posts are to help you learn from others mistakes so that you don't make them yourself and also to benefit from great copy and design elements that are well done.

The Specs

Advertising type: Space advertisement
Industry: Skin care product
Medium: Quarterly association print journal sent out to members. Printed 2 color only.

The Advertisement Sample

Critique Overview

I found this horizontal space ad in the back of an association journal of which I'm a member of. While I'm a fan of simplicity, I think that this piece could be drastically improved to increase it's effectiveness as I'll describe below.

The Good

  • Color ad. The advertiser chose to have their ad printed in color, or two colors to be specific. Since most of the other ads in the journal are black and white, adding color will increase its ability to stand out on the page and draw attention.
  • Potentially good headline. This ad has the beginnings of a good headline. Unlike most of the headlines in this journal, this particular ad starts off with a question which can be an effective headline strategy. Unfortunately, the headline needs a bit more before it can be effective.
  • Good contrast between text and background. It's important to make sure that your copy is visible against the background. This is especially important when you're advertising in a publication that only does one or two colors. Also, the type of paper and coating used in the printing of the publication is important because paper can come in a variety of different shades. Glossy or matte finishes can also improve or decrease the visibility of your text. That's why it's always best to have a recent copy of the publication that you'll advertise in prior to placing your ad so that you can judge these elements for yourself. There were numerous other ads in this particular journal that had very difficult-to-read copy because it didn't contrast well with the background, but the space ad being critiqued here was very easy to read.

What can be Improved

  • Lack of enough copy. Simply put - there just isn't enough copy in this ad to make it very effective. Given the small space in this ad, I would have kept it to a headline, a sub-head, a call to action and a freemium incentive for taking action, such as a free report.
  • No call to action. As I stated before, this ad had the potential of having a great headline, however, it falls short of actually being great because it doesn't continue on with directing people to take an action, namely visiting their website. A more effective approach would be to have some copy underneath the headline that directed people to find out the answer by visiting the website. I'd also mention that they can get a free tips booklet by visiting the site as well.
  • No landing page. Whenever you direct people to a URL from a printed space ad, it's magnitudes more effective to send them to  a dedicated landing page built especially for the audience that will see that space ad. This provides a level of congruency between the space ad and the website. In this example, the advertiser makes the common mistake of directing the reader to their homepage. The problem with that is that homepages are too unfocused to really be an effective 2nd step in your advertising campaign. A laser-targeted squeeze page that captures lead information is better.
  • Too creative with the contact info. I would highly recommend never getting too creative with text or design when it comes to your contact information. In this example, there is a logo embedded in the URL. This is confusing however because I don't know what that logo is supposed to represent with respect to the URL. Does that mean I need to put a hyphen in between both words? Is it an "@" symbol? Any confusion or ambiguity when it comes to your URL will inevitably decrease the response you get from it, so keep your contact info clean and to the point.
  • Lack of visuals. With a small space ad like this, I usually say that graphics are optional because they take up a lot of space; however, in this particular example, since there is minimal copy involved, the advertiser could easily have placed a graphic in this ad to draw more attention and convey more information in the ad.

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Use of all copyrighted material in this blog post is protected under 17 U.S.C. § 107 (fair use doctrine) of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. The factors which allow for fair use on this website are: (1) This blog post is provided as a free educational resource for the advancement of skills related to copywriting and advertisement design; (2) The copyrighted works are being critiqued as part of an editorial write up to demonstrate copywriting/advertising techniques and are necessary as part of the editorial; (3) The copyrighted works are not being provided in a format that allows for exact replication of the original document by one or more of the following: size, quality and/or entirety; (4) The current and potential market of the copyrighted work is unaffected by the publishing of this blog post post due to the non-competing nature of this blog post, which is focused on the technical aspects of the copyrighted work itself, rather than the commercial interests inherent within the copyrighted work.

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