It’s believed that the first ad was made in Ancient Egypt on a sheet of papyrus in the city of Thebes.
Fast forward a few thousand years, and we see ads everywhere we look. In all formats. Except for papyrus, maybe.
Successful ads usually have a thing in common: excellent copy that lives in our heads rent-free.
How can copywriters thrive in the “survival of the smartest” industry (as John Hegarty named it in his book Hegarty on Advertising)?
Through constant research, practice and inspiration.
I put together a series of ads with a catchy and influential ad copy that will surely invigorate your mind and make you feel inspired to create ads that will captivate your audience.
More importantly, in this article, you’ll find ad examples and best practices from experts in the advertising industry that know how to spot and write good ad copy.
Without further ado, let’s see what copywriters and university professors have picked for us. Then, I’ll walk you through the ad copy examples I found absolutely delightful.
A. Powerful Tips and Ad Copy Examples From Industry Experts
We shall start with tips and best practices from industry experts on how to write killer ad copy. The kind that sticks with us.
We asked five copywriters to answer three ad copy related questions:
- What is the secret to writing persuasive, authentic, and high-converting copy?
- How can you engage and connect with your audience through well-written copy?
- Are there any psychological triggers that need to be included for a better response from the audience?
And we received some excellent examples and advice we want to share with you.
Stephanie V. Murray, Copywriter
1. Knowing your audience’s interests, needs, and what motivates them to click on a link or stay on the page. Great copy is more than a headline. Taking the time to research your audience gives you a better understanding of how their mind works, so you can craft a copy that will engage them. Writing from your audience’s perspective versus writing to your audience helps when writing authentic copy.
2. Writing as though you’re speaking to a friend who is part of your target audience demographic can help your copy resonate with the audience and avoid coming across as an outsider.
Harry Dry, Founder of Copywriting Examples
1. The first line of your ad is crucial. If I don’t read it, I’m not going to read your second line either. How can you make it so compelling that it sucks me in?
Keep it short.
2. “Talk to your customers in their language. Not the queens.” — Chris O’Shea
Meher Uddaraju, Conversion Copywriter and Brand Strategist
1. Research, research, and more research.
Copywriting doesn’t have to be a guessing game. And you shouldn’t have to run through your annual marketing budget testing “shot-in-the-dark” copy. No matter how many character personas you create, you will never be able to replicate the many complex nuances of a real-life prospect. Instead, invest time and effort in deep, strategic research to set your copy up for long-lasting success. Spend time review/reddit mining, interviewing customers, and setting up on-site surveys. The rich, qualitative data you get from this kind of research will literally write your copy for you. (And it’ll be as authentic, persuasive, and high-converting as it gets!)
2. Get real to connect with your audience, and get specific to keep them engaged (this will also differentiate you from the 56871 other brands that are trying to sell them the same thing). To keep it real, go beyond the surface-level problems and benefits. Dig deeper into the underlying emotions and desires they harbor and use that in your copy. Then get specific and focus your copy on your prospect’s one-big-pain, your one-big USP, and one-defining transformation they’ll experience… You’ll have them hooked!
3. Nothing beats good ol’ scarcity (a.k.a every marketer’s favorite trigger). But overusing it will numb your audience, and soon they’ll stop trusting you. So use it frugally. Instead, mix it up by using curiosity and the “likability” factor for long-term results. Curiosity works like a charm to draw audiences in for lead magnets. And don’t be afraid to create raw, human-sounding copy in all your copy. Being a trusted mentor or supportive friend to your prospects will skyrocket your “likability” factor, and lead to higher conversions down the line. If you find this hard to believe, just look at Oatly’s success! I don’t have a specific campaign in mind. But it’s more along the lines of individual pieces of copy that have added up to create a lovable and recognizable personality. For reference, here are a couple of my favorite “typical Oatly” kinds ads.
Dana Herra, Copywriter
1. The secret to writing persuasive, authentic, and high-converting copy is knowing your audience. This goes so far beyond the standard personas; I don’t buy a product because I’m a working mom in my 40s. I buy a product because I can imagine it fitting into my life, solving a problem I have, and moving me closer to the life I want.
2. Persuasion and conversion come from really understanding who your audience is and who they want to be. Speak to the things they struggle with and show how your product can ease that struggle. Authenticity comes from knowing what resonates with an audience, then adjusting your vocabulary to match without sacrificing your unique tone.
Anna K. Bradshaw, Writer and CPG Content Strategist
1. The secret to writing persuasive, authentic, and high-converting copy is making it about your reader. Too often, brands talk about themselves in copy. It has to be about the customer! This is tricky because some platforms have rules about using the word “you” in ads. But there are still ways to focus your copy on your customer’s needs, pain points, and desires… instead of you and your brand.
Eddie Shleyner, Copywriter and Founder of VeryGoodCopy
3. “Many articles are sold under guarantee,” wrote marketing great Claude Hopkins, “so commonly sold that guarantees have ceased to be impressive.”
And that happens because people get so used to everything surrounding them, including their own thoughts.
This is called habituation, and you have to overcome it in the advertising world if you want your ad to stand out. For example, words like “Free,” “Sale,” and “Guarantee” are used so often that they can pass unnoticed.
For this reason, you should think about bringing novelty to your ads.
As MEAD Cycle Co. did in their ad from the 1940s, successfully beating habituation.
They didn’t use the “Money-Back” guarantee method as other bicycle manufacturers did but went for something new: “Try Before You Buy For Keeps,” which meant customers would pay for the bike after trying and liking it.
The offer was not necessarily better, but it was something new. And novelty killed habituation.
2. Professors & Creative Directors
Started to save some ideas already?
Here are more great examples and powerful advice from professors, lecturers, or creative directors this time.
They took their time to answer a few questions we sent them:
- Can you give us an ad example in English (past or present, video, print, or display) that uses a copy you find extremely powerful and worthy of study?
- What makes its copy persuasive, authentic, and high-converting?
- What kind of psychological trigger was strategically used so people would react to it?
- What were the ad’s impact and legacy in the advertising world?
- What’s your main advice for writing killer ad copy?
Let’s see their answers.
Mariano German-Coley, International Freelance Creative Director and Lecturer in Advertising at the University of Florida
1. I think one of the brands that have used copy in a very smart way is The Economist. Through their copy, you can understand the brand, how it is positioned and which target they want to reach. Throughout the years, their messages have been like the magazine. Smart, bold, competitive… They are perfect.
2. Copy is great when you get the complexity of simplicity. It needs to have an insight, needs to grab your guts first, and after that your brain. You need to want to keep reading. Needs to make you think and needs to provoke a reaction like: “Oh, it’s true. Wow!” Another brilliant copy many years ago was a billboard for Nike for the Olympics. “You didn’t win the silver. You lost the gold” As a competitive brand sport, you can’t say more in less.
3. The trigger depends on the emotion that you want to touch based on your audience. Knowing what emotions move your target is a must. Only feeling what they feel allows you to send them the right copy message. The Economist is for people who are smart, and they want to be recognized as that. The Nike one is for competitive people, for winners.
4. The Economist campaign taught us that you only need good lines to make great ads. Just a few smart lines can make you desire a financial magazine, a magazine that you wanted to show under your arm because it was giving you the image of a successful, visionary, and smart guy.
5. If you want to write a killer copy, write thousands of not that good copies every day. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” (Picasso). It’s a cliche, but it’s real.
Matt McCutchin, Assistant Professor Of Practice at The University of Texas at Austin and Former Creative Director
1. Even though DDB’s Volkswagen campaign from the 1960s is a true classic, and almost everyone has seen the “Lemon” ad, my favorite is a lesser-known ad from 1966: “Do You Earn Too Much To Afford One?” I have used this example in copywriting classes for years, and have a copy of the original framed on my wall.
2. First of all, the headline poses a logical question that begs an answer—and invites the reader to stop and examine their own motivations. Secondly, the copy is a master class in building a strong, logical argument while using friendly, energetic, approachable language that feels like a trusted friend is talking. And at the end is a classic VW-ad conclusion, something the DDB team called the “klitchik”: a bit of logic for a wrap-up that really leaves you thinking.
3. This ad is a perfect example of Reverse Psychology. The headline opens up an appeal to the reader’s rational side, making a strong connection to someone sensible who is looking for more frugality than flash. (Precisely the type of person who might’ve bought a VW Beetle in the 1960s instead of a chrome-laden Big Three land yacht.)
4. This entire campaign changed both the way advertising was created and the American auto industry by opening the door for imports.
5. Don’t set out to write killer ad copy. Tell a compelling story to a real person.
Edward W. Russell, Associate Professor of Advertising at Syracuse University and Former CEO of Leo Burnett Poland
1. Nike ad: If You Let Me Play (1995)
2. Aimed at parents desperate to keep their sons and daughters safe in a very unsafe world. Not selling any specific product; selling the brand.
3. Your own daughter potentially in danger.
4. A favorite of people in the industry. It didn’t run nearly enough. Parents I know LOVED it.
5. Brutal honesty.
David Regan, Professor of Practice and NSAC/AAF Advisor at Michigan State University and Former Creative Director
1. I’ve appreciated the Red Bull ads. “Red Bull Gives You Wiiings” is a memorable slogan and plays off of the product’s key attributes. The simple but charming style of the animated TV spots has lasted for years. It “has a lot of legs,” to coin an old phrase, meaning it wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. They’ve been able to use it throughout the calendar year, touching upon many holiday themes, topics, etc.
2. The slogan is smart because they actually use the product/brand name in the slogan while it also defines that their drink isn’t supposed to be a high-level rocket fuel type of energy drink. It just gives you a pleasant lift (i.e., wiiings).
3. I believe that the trigger is to show that in almost any scenario, one can benefit from Red Bull because it gives you that lift you need to carry on or superbly finish your task at hand. Red Bull conveys this with a light humor approach to copywriting. Clever and fun.
4. This campaign has run for years, and I’m willing to bet that if you showed the first 3-4 seconds of the ad, then paused it, most folks could tell you what the brand/product was. I feel you could test this with the slogan, too, and while only revealing a part of it, again, I think most folks could tell you it was for Red Bull.
5. In a campaign scenario, some things should remain consistent. Slogans are just one of those things. The style or look of the campaign, the color theme, etc., all play into it. But the copy should remain true to the brand voice standards, just like the art director or graphic designer must stay true to that brand’s style, corporate ID, and brand standards guide.
Gerard J. Tellis, Neely Chaired Professor of American Enterprise at the University of Southern California and author of The Handbook of Advertising
5. For mature products, ads work best if they use more emotion than information, keep brand names inconspicuous rather than prominent, have humor and surprise rather than facts, use babies and animals rather than celebrities, and strive for brevity.
B. 17 Examples of Thought-Provoking Ad Copy From Big Brands
“Creativity in advertising is all about the power of reduction. Write less, say more.” (John Hegarty in Hegarty on Advertising)
An ad aims to get the audience close to the buying decision, using captivating wording.
So, from great hooks to catch your audience’s attention to FOMO and the old idea of Us vs. them, let’s see a few great ad copy examples that will surely help you get closer to writing better copy.
As the 70s turned into the 80s, people gradually stopped wearing jeans, so the company saw a decrease in sales.
In ’82, Levi’s started to work with John Hegarty and his agency, BBH, which created the “When the world zigs, zag” ad, as black denim needed to be introduced to the world. This ad copy pointed at the free-spirited, rebellious even, who choose to wear black denim.
But the tagline referred to a break in the norm at many other levels, such as business.
That’s why this tagline also became the ad agency’s motto.
The company already began to feel the improvement, and then with the Levi’s Laundrette ad, the sales went up by 800%.
The ad copy in both examples is short, to the point, a style the agency kept throughout the years. But the thing is, with the copy they use, they sell so much more than just jeans. They sell a feeling, a desire to be part of the group. Or against it.
To get an idea of the ads’ massive impact on the company, Levi’s production plants could not keep pace with unprecedented demand, so they had to take them off the air.
Ad Agency: BBH
Take a spoonful of excellent copy mixed with a few nostalgic feelings, and you get a powerful marketing campaign that makes people smile with a tiny tear in the corner of their eye.
These outdoor ads for the UK have captions with musical references that contrast the present in very relatable situations. They remind people that are now probably in their 40s about their lifestyle and music preferences from the past.
All with the help of funny and punchy copywriting.
My personal favorite among these ads that appeal to our feelings is the one with “24 hour party people” that changes drastically with just one hyphen into “2-4 hour party people.”
Ad Agency: Who Wot Why
Aren’t you annoyed when there are lots of inside jokes that you don’t understand but wish to be a part of?
That’s called FOMO (fear of missing out), and Gymbox knows precisely how to use it.
Their ad campaign has a series of ads that are just snippets of conversations piquing everyone’s curiosity so much that they are surely wondering if they should join the gym only to find out what people are talking about.
In fact, those highlighted words such as Drill Sergeant, Strong Man, or Beastmode are classes offered by this unorthodox gym, but we still don’t know what those classes imply.
Ad Agency: BMB
No matter how organized you are as a person, you still can’t predict the future.
And if we have to name something we’ve predicted wrong, it’s the year 2020.
That’s why you need insurance.
Insurance marketplace Policygenius aimed at people’s necessity of feeling safe and turned a few mispredictions into a series of clever copy with a final CTA: “We’ll always get the future wrong. Better get insurance right.”
Creative Director: John Downing
Heinz is a brand that deserves to be mentioned because it always had excellent ads. It also knows how to shift any situation to its advantage, like the Pass the Heinz commercial, inspired by the Mad Men TV series (where the brand actually rejected the ad).
The campaign I chose as an example introduces their new pasta sauces. Although they made ketchup for years, they didn’t have pasta sauce until now. So, in a campaign created for the UK, they publicly admitted they’re very late to the game. One hundred fifty years late, to be more precise.
But the funny yet confident ad copy they used absolves them of any guilt. It took them 150 years to master seven different sauces to be this ridiculously good.
Can’t stay mad at them.
Ad Agency: Wunderman Thompson-Spain
6. Street Easy
In this marketing campaign, StreetEasy is mixing the idea of classic board games with an excellent copy in these witty ads to help New Yorkers Win The Game Of Real Estate (the campaign’s tagline).
Based on facts such as the dishwasher is the number three amenity New Yorkers need, they created taglines like Rent an apartment with a dishwasher that isn’t you. You will also see other punchy catchphrases like “Stop Having to Call Your Parents’ Home ‘Home’ for 3 Weeks”, addressing people’s pain points regarding life and real estate.
I think it’s safe to say that this is a successful and highly engaging ad campaign, like other ads from StreetEasy, a beloved NYC brand.
Ad Agency: Preacher
7. Oxford University
There’s been so much analysis around Prince Hamlet’s soliloquy, yet no one thought that it starts with two questions, not one.
Well, Oxford University corrects the grand Shakespeare and creates a unique ad copy that raises eyebrows and interest, of course.
Yes, the ad copy is bold, punchy, and maybe a bit imperious, but their playful attack directed at one of their great national writers shows nothing but confidence.
Ad Agency: Ferrier Pearce Creative Group Bletchingley
In this advertisement copy example from McDonald’s, there are multiple ideas intertwined, and they probably don’t make much sense, but that’s the whole point.
The ad targets Italian high school seniors who are about to take their final exams. While they’re studying, they may get hungry, and all the characters they read about may confuse them to the point where nothing seems right anymore.
Ad Agency: Leo Burnett
9. Farm to Spoon; Cold Crush; Kingston Fruit Bar
These three go together as they’re newly introduced brands under the Wells umbrella.
They are illustrated with creative and clever print ad copywriting that emphasizes just how delicious and different they are from other sweet delights.
Farm to Spoon is made with cauliflower which is quite shocking, Cold Crush is so good that you will break up with all the toppings and go toppingless (lovely!), and Kingston Fruit Bars need only half the sugar other products are using to taste so good, which is smartly put in half of a billboard.
I surely want to taste some just to see if they’re as good as their ad copy.
Ad Agency: Walrus
The Us vs. them tactic works when your brand is well-established, and you’re taking advantage of an actual situation that could benefit your business.
And since Prince made that song about the Little Red Corvette, why not act on it and turn it into a simple yet effective and very intriguing ad copy?
That’s what this ad for Corvette did.
Volvo, the Swedish car brand, mainly relied on safety and comfort, which are fundamental aspects to consider when buying a car.
But Chevrolet wants to point out that people don’t write songs about those feelings. They write about burning passion, hence the ad copy.
Ad Agency: Campbell-Ewald
11. Harley Davidson
The copy from this Harley Davidson ad is not selling a motorcycle but a different lifestyle and the idea of freedom and life that has to be enjoyed to the fullest.
Yes, traveling by plane is fast and convenient, but you don’t have the same view and control over where you wish to stop, how fast you want to go, and so on.
So, this is why it works and why the copy is brilliant. They don’t sell the product directly. They sell the experience. You’ll buy the product that helps you achieve it.
Ad Agency: Carmichael Lynch
12. Harvey Probber
There are many ways to sell your high-quality products, and Harvey Probber chose to take it all on your uneven floor—that’s how good their chairs are.
And since the chairs are tested before selling, there can’t be any other reason.
Then, to make it clearer, they explain how each chair is made “by a unique machine that has 5 fingers and is called the human hand.” They could have just said that it’s handmade, but the story they created around the creation of the chair attracts the reader and makes them much more intrigued.
Ad Agency: Papert, Koenig, Lois, Inc.
13. Campaign Monitor
Sometimes you can say so much with just a little wordplay, as this ad did here. They actually changed just one letter, and the entire meaning was modified.
We know how many emails we ignore per day. We don’t even open them. Or if we open them and they’re not engaging enough, we instinctively hit the delete button.
That’s why we should focus on sending well-crafted emails to change that No into an Oh.
Ad Agency: BarrettSF
This video ad from Properchips called Done Properly has a cowboy as the main character, who takes us on a hero’s journey showing us the entire production of these lentil chips.
The psychedelic animation is juicy, but the ad copy is juicier. I watched it so many times, and the storytelling is simply delicious.
Their shape is done by an architect, a “master of structure.” They searched “for a plant-based, protein-packed powerhouse,” and they found it in the “monumental lentil.”
“We dreamed in sriracha”? Come on. This is sooo good.
Ad Agency: Above+Beyond
15. Kraft Mac & Cheese
Some ads and their ad copy like to break the rules a bit, and they go for a different approach in the words they use.
Kraft Mac & Cheese and Netflix created this ad to promote both the boxed dinner and the new sci-fi Netflix film, The Adam Project.
This is the kind of food young people would eat, but this ad wants to point out that anyone can enjoy the meal, no matter the age.
Since Ryan Reynolds plays the older version of Adam, his younger version has the same humor, which made this ad’s copy catchy with a bit of bawdiness.
Hit play, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Ad Agency: Maximum Effort
Here’s a tongue-twister for you that features Sally, a saleswoman who sells seashells by the seashore.
And she does it successfully after using Squarespace.
The full copy is a beautiful alliteration that reimagines the classic schoolyard chant “Sally Sells Seashells.”
As you have probably guessed, the use of the letter “s” so many times is because the brand’s name starts with this letter. The repetition is connected with the branding, and it makes people remember Squarespace, as the tongue-twister gets stuck in their heads.
And it’s titled “Everything to Shell Anything” to match the company’s latest “Everything to Sell Anything” brand campaign.
Director: Edgar Wright
In 2020 Oakley brought out a new eyewear collection, Origins, led by one sports performance piece called Sutro Eyeshade, which is actually inspired by the iconic Eyeshade initially introduced in 1984.
The brand’s love for sport and eyewear is seen in this campaign launched with a series of love letters written from the perspective of Oakley products for Team Oakley athletes, who sustained the brand for 45 years.
This campaign’s style resembles those old ads that used long-copy ads to help people immerse themselves in the product’s story.
An even better way to get them hooked is using a well-known song of the 80s that matches their branding. Of course, we’re talking about Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got To Do With It.
Needless to say, their ad copy is infused with nostalgia, which is probably why they created a new pair of sunglasses that resemble the old ones. This and their success, of course.
Ad Agency: AKQA Paris
So, there you have it—a selection of ads and, more importantly, some fantastic advice from people who know advertising and how to put it into words.
What are your thoughts on these examples?
Do you have an ad copy that you find absolutely genius? Share it with us in the comments section below.
Also, you can always design your own ads with Creatopy. Start a free trial and see what the platform offers you.
Awesome article … thanks
I loved taking a trip down memory lane with these ads! And talk about insightful advice, such a great job putting this all together, Ami! 👏