THE DIGITAL ADVERTORIAL: How To Come Up With Hooks & Write Persuasively
by Justin Brooke
Do you want strangers on the Internet to buy from you?
If you’re wishing people who have never heard of you or your products will discover you, trust you, and buy from you, then this might be the most important article you read all year.
“A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.” — David Ogilvy, The Father of Advertising
“A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.” — David Ogilvy, The Father of Advertising
The advertorial was invented as a tool for converting strangers into customers.
When it’s done right, the visitor never feels like they’ve been advertised to. Instead they feel like they’ve discovered a new product.
And that’s the magic.
What makes advertorials work is the difference of feeling sold too versus feeling a moment of discovery.
Readers of advertorials feel like they discovered the product. They feel it was their idea to buy it. They don’t even notice they were just pitched.
It’s incredible that there aren’t more books written about advertorials. They’ve been used in every major advertising medium including radio and TV.
This is not an article about a new invention, it is a guide to using an old proven tool on a new digital platform.
“With banner blindness, ad blockers and ad fraud at all-time highs, advertorials have become increasingly important in the digital advertising space. Experts predict native ads (an iteration of advertorials) will dominate ad revenue in the coming years.” — Advertise.com
Let’s start with the core.
What an advertorial is and isn’t.
Some people think an advertorial is a sales page, that’s the biggest misconception. An advertorial should NOT sell the product.
The job of the advertorial is to attract readers without standing out. Then to make them believe your point of view and finally take action to learn more about the product mentioned.
Selling the product is the job of the sales person or sales page (your sales process).
The advertorial is a bridge between the ad and the sales process.
The ad drives the click, the advertorial creates desire for the product, and then the sales page/person motivates the reader to buy now.
Another important point is advertorials don’t always need to be in written form, they can be in many different media formats.
In fact various research firms predict 80% of the Internet will be video by the year 2021. We’re seeing that happen now with Youtube, FB Live, and IGTV.
Whether you are making a video, audio, or written advertorial the purpose and process is the same.
You start by writing it. With video and audio you still start with a written script and you still include all the same persuasive elements.
The only difference in a video or audio advertorial is adding a voice over and imagery that enhances the written script.
In every media format you always start an advertorial by researching what is currently top of mind for your prospects.
Then you brainstorm how you will connect those top of mind thoughts to your potential solution.
And what thoughts are those?
Their fears, frustrations, and wishes.
How To Come Up With Winning Advertorial Hooks
First let’s dissect the “hook” from a real life winning advertorial.
This is an advertorial I helped advertise during my employment at Legacy Research
I am not theorizing about this advertorial.
I have first hand knowledge from my employment with Legacy Research about how successful this advertorial was.
It made millions.
So successful that even major media outlets have tried copying the angle.
The angle “Man Who Predicted Trump Victory…” is a great example of attracting readers with a topic of extreme current interest.
It’s magnetic to the haters and the lovers.
At the time of publishing, Trump had just became the new president of the United States. It was a shocking win, and whether you are for him or against him, his name was on your mind in some way.
Their target customer is a 45+ white male who is trying to protect their money from a government they fear and seek alternative views from the mainstream media.
When Trump won, a lot of people were thinking about what does this mean for my job, my investments, my properties. If you were an investor at the time, anything about Trump and predictions was a strong attention draw.
That’s where you start with an advertorial…
Every Advertorial Starts With Conceptualizing What Will Draw The Attention of Your Target Customer
What is on the minds of EVERYONE in your market.
What topic, word, person, place, or thing would everyone in your space instantly recognize. Think about the reaction if you yell “FIRE” in a crowd.
That’s the kind of head snapping reaction you need to entice.
Forget about laws, network compliance, or writing techniques right now. Just focus on what would get attention.
Of course we are going to bring it back to being legal, compliant, and technique mastery.
First get attention.
Then after you have the attention grab, you start thinking about the sentence structure, legal responsibilities, and ad network compliance.
You start connecting the attention grabbing topic with the reason why they will want to buy your product.
For creating the reason why to buy, I like to start out with a simple little fill in the blanks exercise…
Before [solution] I struggled with __________________ and was frustrated because _______________.
Now that I have [solution] I can finally ____________________ and ____________________.
Those blanks aren’t one word blanks, you fill it in with whatever you need too. It’s an exercise to get inside the users head about their frustrations and wishes.
Before taking [a Youtube ads course] I struggled with not knowing how to create a video ad or target the right people who would like my channel. Which was frustrating because I really need more views and want to grow my channel.
Now that I have [a Youtube ads course] I can finally target my ideal customers, grow my channel, and get more sales of my merch than ever before.
Before meeting [my life insurance agent] I struggled with believing I needed life insurance because I thought it was a waste of money.
Now that I have [a great life insurance agent] I can finally invest in my families future and realize life insurance is a clever long term investment when done right.
After you do this exercise it’s time to blend in your attention grabber.
There isn’t a magical way to instantly come up with a headline that will win every time. There is however a process for drawing out potential winners.
I start by writing 10 possible titles that mix my attention grabber with my reason why to buy…
Attention grabber = Amazon
Reason why = Need to grow my YT channel and sell my merch
Here are some examples so you can see how it is done…
- 1 Crazy Way Amazon Sellers Are Getting More Merch Sales Without Using Facebook
- These Amazon Sellers Found a Way To Sell Their Merch Without FB Ads
- Why Are Amazon Sellers Dropping FB Ads For This New Marketing Method?
- He Said It’s His New Secret Weapon For More Merch Sales on Amazon
You get the idea.
Why 10 though? Isn’t the first one good enough?
It might be.
However, sometimes it takes the brain 3–4 versions before the juices start flowing and brilliance strikes.
You need to write 10 headlines in order to find one that really makes her toes curl. Know what I mean?
Not only that, but it’ll give you a couple headlines to split test.
The people behind BuzzFeed, are arguably today’s most successful digital advertorial writers. Buzzfeed tells their writers to write 25 headlines for each article.
Does it work?
Well, billions of visitors later I’d say they were right in doing so.
All of this just to come up with your big idea.
All of this just to come up with the headline. This doesn’t even cover how to then write the body and call to action for your advertorial.
How To Write a Persuasive Advertorial Without Making The Reader Feel “Pitched”
Do you want your advertorial to work?
What I just did there is a neuro-lingustic programming technique called a “yes set.” It’s the same type of tactics used by hypnotists and con men.
And actually, I did it to you at the very beginning of this article 🙂
The more obvious of a “yes” the question inspires, the better it works.
It’s a powerful technique for starting off any communication where you want the reader to believe your point of view.
By starting off the advertorial with a yes set, the reader is already in agreement with you. They are not wearing their skeptic hat, they are wearing their investigative hat now.
In their minds it forces them to think “Yes, this is what I want, let me read some more.”
That’s why it’s called “neuro-linguistic programming.” It programs a specific response from the mind.
Ok then what’s next?
Your headline gets them to click into your article or press play on your video/audio. Then your yes set gets them to keep reading or listening.
Two of the very most important jobs, done in the first two sentences.
The hard parts are done.
Now you just need to present your case.
Luckily, there are proven formulas for doing this. In fact, if you were to really study persuasive writing, there are dozens of proven formulas. Writers have been developing these formulas for thousands of years.
There are two that I like for their level of ease and effectiveness.
The first is P.A.S. which stands for problem, agitation, solution.
It’s taught in colleges all over the world for journalists, scientists, and doctors to present the results of their research.
You start it off by describing the problem you believe the reader has.
As a mentor of mine, Rich Schefren, once said…
The key to getting a customer to believe you actually have a solution to their problem is explaining their problem to them better than they even can.
Only when the reader believes you truly understand their problem, can their brain trigger their hope response.
For example, if you had bad hearing and I said…
“Isn’t it annoying to always have to say what, or make people repeat themselves. Don’t you feel like you are a bother for having to always listen to the TV louder than your guests would appreciate. And isn’t it the worst when you miss important parts of the monologue in movies because your ears just can’t decipher the words.”
I actually have bad hearing, so I know the problem very well.
You may have to do a fair bit of research on your topic to know the problem this well. It’ll be worth it.
A good advertorial can produce upwards of a million dollars.
Don’t skimp on the research.
Pro’s even go so far as to setup 10–20 phone interviews with customers to understand their problems and the vocabulary they use to describe the problem.
Do the work!
After you have explained the problem your reader is going to be hooked for reading everything else.
They now see how relevant this information is to them.
They know they have this same problem and they are hoping you will show them a solution different from anything they’ve tried before.
But first you have to increase their desire.
You have to take them from interested to obsessive.
You do this by telling them all the parts of the problem they have that create agitation. I call it scratching their mosquito bite.
You see a mosquito bite once forgotten about tends to lose it’s itch.
But if you just ever so gently rub it or scratch it, the itch flares up and is nearly impossible to ignore.
To kick off the agitation step you need to list out all the other problems that the original problem creates. It’s like a domino effect of problems and frustration.
If we revisit the bad hearing problem we can list out things like…
- Missing important or quiet parts of movies
- Misunderstanding important parts of a conversation
- Never finding a pair of headphones that is loud enough
- Less intimacy with a lover because asking to repeat soft spoken words
- A daughter who feels ignored because her dad doesn’t hear her
- The embarrassment of wearing a hearing device
- The frustration of people yelling at you now that they see your hearing device even though you can now hear them perfectly fine
Obviously, you can now see how we’ve got the reader in a bit of a frenzy over their problem.
(using the word obviously helps too, it’s an authoritative thing, but use it sparingly or they’ll catch on)
At this point in your advertorial the reader is screaming inside their head “just show me the solution.”
We have increased the pressure in the bot to a boil.
The conflict and tension are ripe for an explosion.
It is important that you don’t ease this tension. You need to use all the tension you have built up until this point to drive the reader to take an action.
A mistake would be to simply explain the solution.
The reader would say “Thanks, I’m all set now bye.”
Instead, you want to tease the solution. You can do this by telling a story of all the things you’ve tried but failed (more agitation), and then explaining that you did find one thing that worked finally.
Don’t pull the curtain back and reveal the prize just yet though.
Let them pull the curtain back.
This is key to making the sale.
I know you’ll want to be the magician who reveals the trick, but you must have some professional discipline.
You must let them reveal the solution for themselves so they feel like they have made a discovery instead of been pitched.
Instead of fully revealing the solution you tell them how they can find out more about the solution. You give them a command to call now, download now, click here, or press play, whatever the action you want them to take is.
For one last example, using the bad hearing, I could say…
“I threw out my hearing aid after I used this new device. And ironically I hear so well now that my wife asks me what they said in quiet parts of the movie now. If you want to find out more, make sure you click here to see how it works.”
It’s like judo instead of boxing.
We aren’t trying to end the advertorial with a knockout uppercut. Instead we want to leverage the energy built up inside our reader to drive them to action.
That’s what makes advertorials such a powerful force in advertising.
People tune out a sales pitch.
But a story full of tension and conflict is irresistible. Hollywood producers know this, it’s why their is always an enemy and a set back.
An advertorial does the critical job of grabbing attention and then also doubles as a driver of action at the end. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of advertising.
Maybe you’ve heard of Tai Lopez.
Think about his famous “here in my garage” video.
He didn’t try to pitch you, he just talked about fancy cars, reading books, and mentors. All things that you are likely interested in and the fancy car was the attention grabber. Who can resists a quick peek at a Lamborghini, honestly?
Love him or hate him, he’s got a massive following now.
Now it’s your turn.
Your turn to get the massive following and rush of sales you’ve always hoped for, but first you need your own advertorial.
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