Home » Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 9 Samples (Part 2 of 3)

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 9 Samples (Part 2 of 3)

Chapter 9 – Samples (continued)

(Note: These are actual businesses that gave me permission to create ads for them using the principles from the first eight chapters. This is purely an exercise in showing you how to be more creative with your own advertising. You will find links at the bottom of this post to the first eight chapters of the book.)

Business: Ausoma (Sue Canfield)
(715) 296-0347

Ausoma provides social media marketing for authors.

Message: To foster word of mouth with our existing clients and partners to make it easier for them to spread our message.

Values: Responsive, organized, creative, thorough

Words: Coffee, mountain, bike

My Notes: Ausoma is in the business of selling Time. Boil it down and the Time they are selling is really Hope. Hope for creating a platform through social media. Hope for growing a following. Hope for getting more sales without having to do all the selling. The challenge for this company is the name. It looks and sounds funny – for now. With powerful ad messages, it can become a household name. Just ask Etsy or eBay. Although the words they gave me aren’t that interesting or thought-provoking, they do help paint strong mental images.

The Theys
They tell you, you need a platform. You won’t sell any books without one. Get on social media, they say. Build a following, they say. They, they, they. You sip your coffee. “They” aren’t staring out your window at the mountain views wondering if you’ll get your bike ride in today. You’re already one step ahead of the “theys”. You called Ausoma – Author Social Marketing. Ausoma handles it all, better than you ever could. All your social media marketing and most of your online platform building, too. Next time you’re telling the “theys” about Ausoma.

(This ad is for the organized author, the one who plans ahead, and recognizes the choice of time versus money. You could either do your social media work yourself or go for a bike ride. Every author knows they need social media to grow their platform, but some would rather go ride a bike. The organized author already gets this and just needs to be shown making that decision. The organized author likes being “one step ahead”.)

Meeting for Coffee
You meet your fellow writers for coffee. Your favorite spot facing the mountain. Your friends arrive. You talk as much about platform building as you do sentence structure. Such is the life of today’s writer. Your friends head off to update Facebook and tweet something witty to their followers. You climb on your bike and chuckle. You hired Ausoma – Author Social Marketing to handle all your social media and online marketing. Your platform is growing while you’re out riding. Maybe tomorrow you’ll tell your friends about Ausoma.

(Like the ad before it, this paints the time versus money picture. The story of writers gathering in a coffee house is a timeless image for authors. Talking about platform-building, however, brings it to the present day. The other image in this ad is the final line, the I-know-a-secret, “Maybe tomorrow you’ll tell your friends,” line. Writers are generous, but they always hold back on their best ideas when talking with friends. Most authors will recognize this line as pointing out that Ausoma is one of their best ideas.)

Your Platform is Growing
You’re no Tony Robbins with millions of followers on Twitter. Heck, you couldn’t even hold his coal shovel. But your platform is growing. When you hired Ausoma – Author Social Marketing, they promised to handle your social media and online marketing. Their tweeting, posting, and promotion has grown your online reach 324% in just 6 months. Your platform is growing while you’re out mountain biking. Your platform is growing while you meet your muse over coffee. Your platform is growing because you hired Ausoma to do what they do best so that you could do what you do best – write.

(Many non-fiction writers use their books to help them get speaking engagements. Dropping a famous name like Tony Robbins panders to this crowd. Using celebrity names, however, can be dangerous. If you make any claim in any way that makes it seem they are endorsing what you do, you open yourself up to a likely lawsuit. Same goes with using their image. In fact, using their image without permission in print or digital is a no-no. Even if you use a benign statement like the one above, an image is equal to an endorsement. This ad also uses a statistic. Statistics are tricky. The more exact the number, the more believable it is, but also the less smoothly it rolls off the tongue. I got the 324% from Ausoma from a real case study. If you use a number like that in a print or broadcast ad, you need something on your website to back it up. If you use it online, hyperlink it back to a case study. Specifics show the “responsiveness” and “thoroughness” in their core values.)


Business: Off the Wagon (Michelle Sahr)
152 E. Main St.
Kent OH 44240
(330) 474-1330

Our tagline is “Toys for the Young at Heart”. We are in a college town so we appeal to both the young and old and everything in between. Lots of humorous gag gifts, games for all ages, gift items, comics, and, of course, toys.

Message: Stop in for a gift if you have a friend or a relative that doesn’t need anything/ has everything including a great sense of humor. We have fun and funny gifts for all ages

Values: Busy, Community-Minded, Smart

Words: Unicorns, Star Wars, Bacon

My Notes: I have been to Off the Wagon. I also know a thing or two about toys, having owned a toy store myself for several decades. Off the Wagon is a stone’s throw from Kent State University and is a great little store that sells more to the college crowd than to young children. Since most people expect toy stores to sell toys for young ones – and I knew using the word unicorn would appeal to all ages – I used these ads to focus on selling to older clientele, the ones who might not think about Off the Wagon. You will also see that I added the “Toys” to the end of their name to help clarify exactly what they do. Finally, the words they gave me – Unicorn, Star Wars, and Bacon – presented a unique challenge of trying to make only one point, but they certainly help paint a vivid image or two.

Unicorn Flavored Bacon
Your friend sees unicorns. You’re okay with that. As long as he doesn’t take out his Star Wars light saber and make unicorn-flavored bacon. You know you won’t find the perfect gift for him at any of the chain stores with the mass-produced-not-to-offend offerings. You’re going local. You’ve seen unicorns yourself at Off the Wagon on Main Street. Heck, they probably have bacon-flavored Star Wars stuff, too. You’re going local. Off the Wagon Toys for your friends who are… well… a little off their wagon.

(This ad is an appeal to the people who think of shopping local in the first place anyway. The true message of this ad is that shopping local helps you find more unique gifts. Shopping at Off the Wagon helps you find stuff that your crazy unicorn-seeing friend would like. The Shop Local message can either be about supporting the community, but that is selling guilt, or about the advantages of finding unique, more thoughtful gifts. Don’t play the guilt card. It rarely works at all and never works long-term.)

Bad Joke
A man walks into a bar and screams, “I am a Sith Lord. Give me bacon or die.” The bartender quickly serves up a side of bacon. Two unicorns start laughing at the end of the bar. One says, “Hee hee hee, he thinks Star Wars is real!” The other unicorn said, “It isn’t?” This bad joke is brought to you by Off the Wagon. Whether you believe in unicorns, Star Wars or just everything bacon, you can believe you’ll find something fun at Off the Wagon Toys. Off the Wagon Toys for people who are… well… a little off their wagon.

(This could become a whole series of ads using a new joke each time as the opening. It would get people listening just to hear the next joke. Just remember that jokes don’t have to make sense, they just can’t be predictable. Have a competition amongst your staff to write clever jokes and you would have a campaign people would talk about for years.)

Big Boy Gifts
You walk into the party with a gift. Not just any gift, one wrapped in bacon paper. They know you went to Off the Wagon. You could have mailed it in and bought something safe and boring. But now everyone wants to know what is in the package. It has a point. Could it be a unicorn? Could it be Luke Skywalker with a light saber? You know everyone is staring. The birthday boy grabs your gift first. Like everyone else he’s dying to know. He knows he only turns thirty once. Off the Wagon Toys for people who are… well… a little off their wagon.

(This gift uses humor – the unexpected punchline of the “boy” turning thirty – as the emotional connection. The story has an element of curiosity and the value of thoughtfulness [another word for ‘smart’]. Notice how the ad never reveals what the toy actually was. When you leave something out like that, you allow the listener/reader to fill in the blanks with their own imagination. This helps make the ad more personal and meaningful to them because they created part of it.)


Business: Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop (Fay Parker, director)
Lower Bay Street
Bridgetown BB 11156
(246) 426-1866

Our tagline is PLAY-LEARN-CREATE-FUN! Your year-round, family owned, children’s shop packed with your child’s birthday, fun & educational playthings

Message/Goal: Get to top of customers minds as their first place to go to & to draw traffic

Values: Dedicated, Focus, Eager

Words: Resource, Willing Enthusiastic, Happy Blissful

My Notes: This is another toy store, but unlike Off the Wagon that focuses more on novelty and gag gifts, Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop sells play value and growth and education and imagination and joy. I have to admit, however, that I changed a couple of the words they gave me. I changed “Willing” to “Enthusiastic” and “Happy” to “Blissful”. Willing and Happy were too common. If you want your writing to be more interesting, I highly recommend you use your thesaurus to find less common words. Rare and different words get people to perk up and pay more attention.

Play Value
Your daughter has a certain enthusiasm she reserves only for special toys. Being the parent you are, you dig a little deeper. What causes some toys to bring her bliss while she ignores the others? You start to see the pattern. Her favorite toys don’t do a whole lot. She uses her imagination to bring them to life, just like the sales lady at Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop said she would. You think to yourself, maybe there is something to this thing called Play Value. For now you’re just happy to have found this new resource. Deanna Dash’s Toy shop, when the right toy is what you need.

(Toy stores have it easy when playing the emotion card. Speak to the heart? Speak about a child. Gets to the heart of every parent everywhere. This ad relates the discovery of a focused parent with the teachings of the typical specialty toy store. Any parent who studies their children at play knows this about toys. Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop is set up to be the expert for parents who study.)

That One Face
Your child has that one face he makes when you know you did it right. You describe it to your friends as pure bliss mixed with a healthy dose of “Mom, Dad, come look!” enthusiasm. He shows it more often now that you’re buying toys from Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop. They help you choose toys carefully, matching play type to your child’s curiosities and interests. You know the difference the right toys make. You’ve seen the look on your child’s face. Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop, when the right toy is what you need.

(Most people don’t give as much thought to toys as they should. This ad shows in one sentence what Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop will do to help the dedicated, focused, eager customers find the right toys and how to recognize when their child has those kinds of toys. You will notice that the description of the “one face” is somewhat open-ended to allow the customer to paint his or her own picture. Those that instinctively know that face will be coming to Deanna’s soon.)

Dear Parents
Dear Parents, we’re sorry your child didn’t show as much enthusiasm for the other birthday presents as he did for the ones you gave him wrapped in Deanna Dash’s paper. You saw him go after those gifts first and start playing with them before he even opened the rest. His blissful heart knows the difference between the fun toys that engage and the toys that merely entertain, even if his brain doesn’t yet understand. You might want to remind your friends that the best resource for toys the kids really want is Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop. Then their gifts will get opened, too.

(‘Dear Audience’ ads are an interesting technique. In reality this ad isn’t talking to the parents who DID buy toys from Deanna Dash’s, but all the parents who didn’t. This ad also makes a point that other stores only sell crap. You may get a complaint or two, but as Roy H. Williams says, “The risk of insult is the price of clarity.” When you truly believe your product is superior to someone else’s product, you can make that claim – as in “toys that engage versus toys that merely entertain” – and understand that not everyone will agree. Those that agree, however, will be moved to act.)


Business: Printer Source Plus (Joe Smith)
2903 W Michigan Ave
Jackson, MI 49202
(517) 817-0680

We service and sell printers, copiers and ink cartridges. We refill used cartridges to manufacturer specs and also sell new equipment. We offer on-site repairs and ink delivery and stand behind our product 100%.

Message/Goal: To drive more walk-in traffic and help us pick up more of the consumer market.

Values: Reliability, Responsible, Caring

My Notes: Barb Smith had originally responded to my request for submissions for this book. Ultimately, in between the time she sent in her submission and the time I started writing this book she hired me to help her create a campaign (and since then has also retired and let her son take over). We sat down a couple times to go through an uncovery process to help me understand her business and her industry and what she wanted to accomplish. I did a little research on the side about her industry and together we came to the conclusion that there were likely two reasons why people didn’t buy her ink.

The first would be people who didn’t even think about ink. Those people only acted when their cartridge ran out and bought their ink from the most convenient place they could think of. She needed to be more in the top of their mind if she wanted to get their business.

The second group would be people who just didn’t trust recycled ink cartridges.

I devised two campaigns specifically for each group. She started the Awareness Campaign in January 2017 and saw an immediate increase in walk-in traffic. More importantly, she also saw a jump in business from her business clients, too. Some of them had forgotten to think about their ink.

Awareness Campaign
Can I get you to think about ink for your printer? Just for a few seconds? You usually don’t think, until the warning message pops up and you get a new cartridge on your way home. That cartridge wants you to think about it. You could get a new one and pay for the container and the ink, or you could get a recycled one and just pay for the ink. Recycled cartridges from Printer Source Plus have more ink and cost you less. That’s a good thought. Printer Source Plus, the smart choice when you think about your ink.

Do you ever think about ink? No you don’t. Only when your cartridge runs out on your printer. And then only enough to add it to your grocery list. Give your ink a little more thought. New cartridges at the chain stores cost you the ink and the cartridge. At Printer Source Plus, we fill recycled cartridges right here at the store and only charge you for the ink. More ink that costs you less. That’s a good thought. Printer Source Plus, the smart choice when you think about your ink.

If you really stopped to think about the ink for your printer, your first thought would be, “Why can’t they make a bigger cartridge that doesn’t run out so fast?” Your second thought is, “Why are they so expensive?” They could put more ink in the cartridges if they wanted. But they don’t. We do. We fill recycled cartridges as full as they go and only charge you for the ink, not all the packaging. Yeah, that’s the answer to the second question. Printer Source Plus, the smart choice when you think about your ink.

(Notice how I only use the name of the company a couple times in the ad. If I paint a good enough story about you, you’ll remember me. I also don’t mention the address. People can only remember one point. Would you rather they remember where you are or why they need you? Only one of those drives new traffic to your door.)

Trust Campaign
You’ve been burned before. You thought buying recycled ink for your printer was smart so you ordered online and got screwed. They didn’t work as well or last as long. That’s not the case with recycled ink from Printer Source Plus. First, our technicians fill all our cartridges right here in Jackson so we control the quality. Second we guarantee your ink will work as well or better than the original or we will replace them for FREE. Printer Source Plus, your safe bet when you think about your ink.

Everyone has a story about the guy who sold them half-filled recycled ink for their printer and screwed them out of a bundle. You chuckle and tell yourself you won’t make that mistake. You go to Printer Source Plus where the cartridges are made right on site to control the quality. If they aren’t filled and working to your satisfaction, You get replacement ink for FREE. When everyone else is telling their horror stories, you tell them they all should have gone to Printer Source Plus. Printer Source Plus, your safe bet when you think about your ink.

Some things sound too good to be true – like recycled ink cartridges that save the planet and save you money. Yeah, right. Snake oil. We agree. Not all recycled cartridges are made the same. That’s why Printer Source Plus makes all our cartridges on site – so we control the quality. That’s why our recycled ink comes with a 100% Money-Back Guarantee. 100% recycled, 100% guaranteed. 100% exactly what you need. Printer Source Plus, your safe bet when you think about your ink.

(Trust is hard to earn. These ads use Printer Source Plus’ money-back guarantee and the fact they fill the cartridges on site to help build that trust. You will also notice that this campaign also relies on the “think about your ink” phrase. This helps reinforce the earlier campaign and ties all of their ads back to a single narrative.)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS We will wrap this up tomorrow with the final samples including the ads that truly moved the needle for my own business.

Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck
Chapter 2 – It’s the Message, Not the Media
Chapter 3 – Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad
Chapter 4 – Make Only One Point
Chapter 5 – Tell a Story
Chapter 6 – Speak to the Heart
Chapter 7 – Speak to Your Tribe
Chapter 8 – Make Your Customer the Star
Chapter 9 – Samples (Part 1 of 3)

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.