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

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 9 Samples (Part 3 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: The Fourth Wall
3007 Page Avenue
Jackson, MI 49202

The Fourth Wall is a performing arts venue offering low-cost, high-value entertainment and a small, cozy venue for those who wish to practice and experiment with their art. They host poetry slams, musical performances, open-mic nights, and drama.

Goal: To let people know they are welcome to come perform or just enjoy the performances without spending an arm and a leg

Values: Affordable, Welcoming, Encouraging

My Notes: If you want to write better ads, first learn to write poetry. The poet is the writer who is tasked with getting our attention, giving us a new perspective, and making us feel something through the words he or she chooses. If you want to know if the ads you are writing are reaching the level of poetry, take your ads to a poetry slam. I did. I took fourteen ads I had written for my own business plus the two I wrote specifically for The Fourth Wall and told the audience up front I was going to be reading ads and would stop at the first boo or hiss. I read for the full eight minutes with snapping fingers echoing in the background the whole time (at poetry slams they snap instead of clap).

Acoustic Roots
You grab your guitar, hoping the beat-up case makes it look like you’ve been around. You take a deep breath as you enter, looking for one person you might recognize. The guy on the stage is pretty good. You take another glance around. You aren’t the only nervous face with a second-hand guitar. Pretty soon it’s your turn on stage. The audience claps and cheers and encourages you to go on. You can finally smile. You’re in the right place. You’re at Acoustic Roots at The Fourth Wall. Every Thursday at 8pm.

(This is the story of every amateur performer. Even the professionals get butterflies. Nerves, calmness, then acceptance. It is that acceptance that The Fourth Wall is selling through their open-mic nights like this one.)

The Fourth Wall
Not everyone can perform. That’s what they told you when you were younger. Something about God-given talent that maybe God forgot about when he made you. Oh, you wanted to prove them wrong. You know you’re better than they said. You just need a stage to show that God never gave up on you. That’s what The Fourth Wall is all about. A stage for dreamers. A stage for schemers. A stage for singers and songwriters. A stage for actors and poets and comedians. A stage to show off your talents, God-given and otherwise. Welcome to The Fourth Wall.

(This ad speaks to those who aren’t necessarily looking for stardom, just a chance to perform.)


Business: Toy House (now closed)

My Notes: This was my store. We closed in December 2016 due to market conditions in our city and my desire to do more writing, speaking, and teaching. (Our market had shrunk 50% in 8 years. Our market share was four times the average for an independent toy store, but the market was no longer big enough to support a store our size.) These are some of my favorite ads going back to 2005 when I first met Roy H. Williams, who challenged me to write better material.

Horses, Cars, and Froggies
When you were three you galloped down the aisles on stick horses. At six, you brushed the mane of your My Little Pony. At nine you used your own allowance to start your Breyer Horse collection. And on your sixteenth birthday, you drove the family station wagon here just for a book on how to draw horses. Now on your way to college, your parents wanted a gift. I handed them Horse-opoly. They smiled and said, “How did you know?” Just a guess. Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

Your first car was a coupe that you drove Fred Flintstone style up and down the drive. As you got bigger your cars got smaller until they fit in the palm of your hand. Fast cars, fancy cars, fun cars – you owned hundreds. Now you’re a graduate. Your parents smiled when we showed them how to hide the real car keys inside the box of the model car. Don’t know which you liked more. The model was built and painted before the weekend was over. Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

She saw the model car on his desk. He was a man of detail. He saw her drawings of horses. She had talent and passion. On their wedding they compromised, he promised not to wear the NASCAR jacket if she didn’t wear the cowboy boots. But when they said it was a boy, we were ready with both horses and cars. Once again they found a compromise. They smiled when they saw it – Froggies. Toy House and Baby Too. No matter where you are in life, we’re here to make you smile.

(I ran this series of ads in September, October and November 2010. I use this to illustrate how you can have a story in each ad that also fits into a larger story arc. This ad was one from which we got a lot of feedback from people saying how the ads touched them. Oh, and the first two ads were mostly true. Here is the funny part. The third ad was also true, but it wasn’t the two people from the first ads!)

Sheila’s Baby Daughter
Squealing rubber, crunching metal, breaking glass. Sheila’s baby daughter, Livvy, was in the back seat. The next day she called to thank me for installing the car seat that saved Livvy’s life. This is Phil Wrzesinski from the Toy House. Since that day my staff and I have installed over two thousand car seats to keep kids like Livvy safe and give parents and grandparents peace of mind. It’s just something we believe in. I guess you can call that the Toy House Way.

(This was what I called my first “Wizard” ad because Roy helped me write this during the Secret Formulas class. He took a 60-second ad I had written and crossed off half the words until this was left. The day I read it to Sheila to get her approval happened to be her birthday. Shortly after this ad we went from installing a couple car seats a week to a couple car seats a day.)

God Bless You
He left Detroit 9am Christmas Eve. Someone somewhere had to have the one toy his sweet little six-year old wanted. Six cities…seven stores later, he stood, travel-weary, across the counter from me. “I suppose you don’t have any Simon games either.” As I handed over the last of our Simon games he smiled and said, “God Bless You!” Believe me, He already has. Merry Christmas from the Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

(I ran this ad as my whole campaign for Christmas 2005. We had our biggest Christmas season ever! Notice how the ad doesn’t talk about all of our services or selection. It doesn’t mention our hours or specific location. Heck, it talked about an event that happened back in 1980 and a product that we didn’t even sell at that time. But it spoke to the heart. Nostalgia is powerful. As a multi-generational business that catered to new babies, birthdays and Christmas, we owned Nostalgia.)

The Men’s Bathroom
I couldn’t believe it. They were taking customers into the men’s bathroom. Yes, my staff was taking men and women, young and old into our men’s bathroom. And the customers were coming out laughing and giggling, oh yeah, and buying, too. I guess when you find a product that cool, you just have to show it off however and wherever you can. (laugh) The men’s bathroom, gotta love it. Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

(This was the greatest single ad I ever ran. It took guts. Notice how I never mentioned the product being sold. I only ran this for one month – August 2008. The first day it ran the deejays started speculating on air what I was selling in the men’s bathroom. By the third day even the deejays on stations where the ad wasn’t playing were talking about it. Soon the local television talk show host was talking about it. People would ask me about it on the street. In March 2009 I had a customer ask me about it because as she said, “It was all we talked about at the adult table at Christmas Dinner.” 

The word-of-mouth we generated from that single ad was beyond belief. Best of all, no one spilled the beans. If my staff or family was asked what was going on in the men’s bathroom – and they were for years! – they simply said, “Come down to the store and we’ll show you.”)

Free Giftwrapping
Some like to rip theirs off quickly in the heat of the moment. Others run their fingers down the seam, taking it off slowly savoring every second. Pulses quicken, breathing deepens, the anticipation is almost agonizing. Usually it’s the teddies, occasionally polka dots. Always there is a smile. There’s nothing quite like Free Giftwrapping at the Toy House. What were you thinking about? Toy House in downtown Jackson. The giftwrapping’s free, the smiles priceless.

(I got some flak for this ad. I’m okay with that. But it does beg the question of whether sex sells – and especially whether sex should be used in a toy store ad. Sex does sell. But only when it relates back to the message of the ad. Gratuitous sex doesn’t sell. Gratuitous humor doesn’t sell. In fact, sex and humor can backfire on you if you don’t use them carefully. People might remember the sex or the humor, but not the company. By the way, if you thought this ad was about sex, you brought that thought to the table, not me. I was writing about people opening giftwrapped packages.)


Most ads suck. Yours won’t. You now have the principles to make your content more memorable and effective. Just be
prepared. People will stop you on the street to comment on your ads. Many will tell you how much they love them. Some will tell you how much they hate them. It is that latter crowd that tells you you’re making a difference. That means they are listening.

Most importantly, they will be coming in to use your business because you are who they will think of first when they need what you have to offer.


It was May of 2005 when I first met The Wizard. I had already read his trilogy of books. I convinced my parents (my bosses at our family business) that it was worth the money for me to finally attend one of his classes: Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads, taught by Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads. Much of my obsession with advertising began in that classroom and much of what I learned traces directly back to Roy. That is why each chapter here begins with a Roy H. Williams quote. I cannot thank him enough for releasing the beagle in my brain and giving that beagle a wonderful scent to follow.

I also have to thank a few of Roy’s partners and associates I have met along the way. Through their writings and advice, Tim Miles, Jeff Sexton, Chris Maddock, and Tom Wanek have helped keep me on course with my ideas and helped me
improve my own writing.

Seth Godin ranks up there with Roy as another huge influence on my thoughts about advertising and the making of this book. Although on the surface this book teaches you how to get your message to the masses, which seemingly goes against Seth’s permission-based philosophy, at its core, this book is about reaching your tribe. Seth’s book Tribes helped me understand the importance and power of reaching out to and collaborating with people with shared values. Through the now offline website www.triiibes.com Seth created, I met several people who have helped me along the way including Joel D Canfield who has been instrumental in helping all my books get to print, and Tom Bentley, whose writing style brings me joy every day. Without Tom’s mad editing skills, I wouldn’t have this wonderful book you’ve just read. A couple other fellow triiibesters are featured in Chapter 9—Samples including John W. Furst and Becky Blanton.

Finally, I would like to thank all the people who allowed me to use their businesses for samples. I asked you in my blog at www.PhilsForum.com for volunteers and several hearty people responded. Much to my delight, I got a beautiful cross-section of different types of companies from all around the world.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Next week I will be uploading the book in its entirety to the Phil’s Books section and Free Resources section of my website. Please use. Please share. Please, please, please, start creating better ads that get seen, heard, remembered, and acted upon.

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)
Chapter 9 – Samples (Part 2 of 3)

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