Why Your Ad Copy Failed to Convert

In my goals to help people improve their careers, I’d like to teach you what not to do with writing ad copy, including content, format, and delivery. Learning what not to do helps keep you from making mistakes, so you can focus on succeeding.

I spent 2007-2012 writing ad copy for my employer, as half my duties were graphic design.

It Only Focused on the Product

Ads that focus only on the product are junk mail. Just open your mailbox and look at the weekly grocery store ad to see prime examples.

I had the unfortunate experience of being directed to create ads focused on the product. Usually, they would be formatted like this:


Problems with this ad’s copy:

  • Headline reads like a dead cliche, so the customer is bored already.
  • Lists three things of what the product is, which the customer can clearly see.
  • Primarily white text on colored background, which is a big NO! in copywriting.

You Ignored Emotional Results

Customers buy on the emotional result they perceive the product will give them.

Our customers were professionals. Our ads should have been designed to convince them how our products help them reach the usual emotional goals of professionals providing services.

  • Increased revenue.
  • Improved customer/client satisfaction.
  • Increased value with our improved products.

Instead, we focused on the features of the product, such as:

  • Creamy and smooth.
  • Easy to use.
  • Natural ingredients.

While people will appreciate, or some will want to know, the features of a product, it won’t be what makes them curious.

Example: You find someone an attractive because of the emotional experiences (results) you perceive you can have with them.

It Had Overwhelming Beauty

Every ad looked like a work of art. This is ideal for movie posters, but we weren’t in the business of selling art: We were in the business of manufacturing for professionals.

Too much imagery makes it difficult for a person to focus on the message of the ad. When people can’t focus, they won’t know what to do or what you’re trying to tell them.


  • Put copy on top of photos.
    • It doesn’t stand out, making it difficult to read.
  • Use gradients, shadows, and fades, as the background for your ad.
    • Use black text on a white background.
  • Use giant product photos and small text.

You’ll also save time on creating ads by not creating movie posters. Leave that to Hollywood.

You Relied on a 1990’s Jingle

The time for catchy phrases and jingles to sell products is going away. The time for businesses that actually understand the customer’s needs is here.

When writing your ad copy, don’t rely on some catchy phrase to convince people to buy your product. Today’s consumers are more discerning, and have been burned too often to believe something as simple as, “I’m Lovin’ It” is enough to get them to buy.

Your ad copy should tell consumers about how the product will give them what they want. Relying on something that sounds and flows cool will just make it sound like you’re hiding something, perhaps a product that doesn’t actually give me what I want.

You Wrote Too Much

Ever have someone you didn’t know that just wouldn’t shut up? Yeah, too much copy in your ad feels the same way.

Large blocks of text are the same thing, and at a glance they let the reader know to steer clear of you. They won’t even read your ad.

Using too much copy has the same psychological effect as too much imagery. It overwhelms the reader, then they look for a way out. If it’s an email, it’s usually the delete or spam button.

Important Details Were Hard to Find

I couldn’t get across the marketing department’s judgement to make clear when sales ended, and when conditions applied to a promotion.

It’s equivalent to the car salesman who “forgets” to tell you about the details of the fine print. They just hope you’ll buy it without thinking about it, because they fear those details will detract you from just buying.

In reality, knowing those details can help people decide if your product / promotion is for you. A sale date can produce a sense of urgency and scarcity; not having a sale date, the customer may think they can put it off until later – usually forgetting about it entirely.

Be honest with your ad copy, headlines, and pricing. It saves you time so you don’t have to find ways to convince people to buy, or deal with complaints about how they feel they were deceived.