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The Psychology of Persuasive Ads (and How to Make One)

Feb 4, 2019

The average person sees 5,000 ads every day. That’s more ads than we can hope to remember in a year.

And yet, some ads rise above the noise. Some ads are so well-crafted that they become cultural icons.

What’s the difference between a blip on the radar and a truly outstanding (and effective) ad? Persuasive advertising techniques. Here, we’re going to break down everything you need to know to create persuasive ads that will set your company apart.

A Short History of Advertising

First, in order to understand how advertising works today, let’s take a closer look at how we got here.

The first known advertisement printed in English appeared in the Imperial Intelligencer in March 1648, but advertising that we know today (spread through every print and digital avenue) didn’t come into being until the first ever magazine ad in 1864 in Harper’s Magazine.

Where We Are Today

We’ve come a long way since that first ad in the Imperial Intelligencer.

Ads today have more platforms than those original salesmen ever dreamed--billboards, TV, radio, and a whole bevy of Internet advertising.

Because of this, the psychology of an effective ad has shifted.

In the days of the Imperial Intelligencer, the seller and the buyer interacted on a one-on-one basis. The seller had something the buyer wanted or needed, and they could entice them with the real product and human interaction.

Most advertisers today don’t directly interact with their buyers. That means they have to replicate that original sensory experience--with a positive psychological spin.

The Psychology of Advertising

Let’s say someone has never tasted curry. This person who has never tasted curry can never truly imagine what curry tastes like--not correctly, anyway.

However, if you told them that curry tastes like a combination of certain spices they have tasted, they can create a composite picture of curry, albeit an inaccurate one.

All humans have this ability to visualise, in their own way. Well-crafted ads use this sensory information to their advantage.

The most important sense of all is visual. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it’s actually worth about 60,000, since the brain processes images about 60,000 times faster than text. That makes sense, considering that 93% of human communication is visual.

But words are necessary to provide context for a great image. That’s where persuasive advertising techniques come into play--you need to choose the right words.


What Makes an Ad Persuasive?

So, what makes an ad persuasive?

The key to persuasive ads is to combine sensory input with effective persuasion techniques.

Think of an ad like convincing a friend of your side of an argument. The goal is to convince your friend to internalise your persuasive argument as:

  1. Valid

  2. Applicable to their situation

  3. Worthwhile to utilise for their own needs

If you do this right, your friend will adopt your line of thinking.

Advertising works the same way--the difference is that you’re convincing a stranger.

Persuasion Techniques in Advertising

Because of this, you can translate many of the persuasion techniques you would use on people into your advertising.

This includes things like:

  • Creating a need

  • Appealing to the other person’s sensibilities

  • Limit availability

  • Foot-in-the-door technique

  • Go big and then go small

Many of these techniques connect to each other.

Creating a need is one of the most popular methods in advertising. It’s easy to convince a consumer to buy something if they think they need it.  

However, in order to create a need, you need to appeal to the sensibilities of the target audience. If they don’t think that an ad is designed for them, they aren’t going to pay attention.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to appeal to middle-class mothers. First, consider what middle-class mothers need most. Then think of how your product meets those needs.

Your ad, therefore, should convince these mothers what they need and why that product is the perfect solution to that need.

Tips to Create Persuasive Ads

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at techniques you can use to create persuasive ads.

A Powerful Headline

It all starts with a powerful headline.

Here’s the thing: 81% of people skim content they read online. Yes, that includes your ads.

That means you don’t have long to get their attention, and not much time to keep it if it doesn’t work. Your headline has to work and it has to work fast.

Ask yourself:

  • Who am I trying to attract?

  • What would grab their attention?

  • How do I convey that information succinctly?

Some headlines are newsworthy, referencing current events and famous figures. Some have a strong value statement.

But all successful headlines are specific and direct.


Solve a Problem

What comes after your headline?

The body text of your ad (or the meat of the ad). How do you write good body text?

For starters, you should go beyond plugging in keywords. If all a user sees is keywords, they’ll assume (correctly) that you’re wasting their time. Offer them something valuable.

A popular approach is to solve a problem.

People don’t click ads because they think it looks cool, or because it checks a box. They click an ad because it will solve a problem for them.

Think about this post. You clicked it because you thought it would teach you how to write persuasive ads, thus helping you write better advertising copy.

Your ad should work the same way. It should provide readily-apparent value to your viewer, something that encourages them to follow through.

Focus on Benefits, Not Features

To do this, it’s important that you focus on the benefits you provide rather than the features.

Yes, consumers do need to know about the features your product offers. But if they’re interested, they’ll find out that information anyway.

When you’re trying to draw them in, focus on features--what does the consumer get out of this product over any other similar product? After all, this is what customers are most interested in.

If you’re not sure how to do this, list every feature of your product or service. Then, list out the result of each feature--the benefit the customer gets out of each individual feature.

From there, you can boil down these benefits into a few key elements. This will help focus your ad on the most important factors.

Take Away Fear

You can wheedle all day long, but the fact remains that people are nervous about parting with their hard-earned money. If they’re going to spend money, it has to be worth the loss of income.

Your ad, therefore, should work to remove their anxieties. You should prove to them, as much as possible, why they won’t regret giving your their money.

One way to do this is a risk-free guarantee. This is effective because it displaces some of the pressure from the buyer to the seller. This way, customers can rest easier knowing they can get their money back if the product isn’t what they’re looking for.


Make It Urgent

Generally, you don’t want your would-be buyers to purchase a year from now or two years from now.

You want them to buy now.

To do that, it’s a good idea to instil a sense of urgency--the time to buy is right now, while they have the ad in front of them.

There are a few ways to create urgency.

For example, you might run a time-sensitive deal. If consumers think they’ll get the same deal if they come back in a month, they aren’t going to be in a hurry. But if they think they only have a few days or a few hours to get a deal, they have to make a choice faster, which means you can make a sale faster.

Make sure to avoid the used car salesman effect--when you’re trying to sell a deal so hard that the consumer is convinced you’re going to cheat them somehow. Pitching your deal should feel natural and unforced. The consumer should feel like they made the decision in their own time, even if you subtly pushed them to make the decision you wanted.

A Strong CTA

Finally, don’t forget to pack a punch.

When a customer reads your ad, they should know what you’re offering them--and what you want them to do. This is where a call-to-action (CTA) comes in.

Your CTA is how you tell your customers what action you want them to take. It could be buying your product, but it could also be signing up for your email list, or follow a link to learn more about your available services.

There’s an art to writing a good CTA. It should be clear, direct, and not overly sales-y (the used car salesman effect also applies here). Include exciting, persuasive language that gives your customers the extra nudge to take your ad to the desired conclusion.

Where Jumbla Fits In

So, do you think you’re ready to write persuasive ads?

If you still need a bit of guidance, we can help.

We offer comprehensive animation and motion graphics services, whether you’re a production company, a creative agency, or something totally different. We know advertising, and we know how to make it work for your company.

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