Skip to main content

M3 Blog

Behind the Idea of Persuasion

Can engaging ad copy truly be persuasive?

The copywriters at M3 Group would answer in the affirmative.

For example, how does this sound to you?

“With some degree of circumlocutory skill, I would like to couch the absinthian vehement of an earlier opine regarding the subject of such persuasive verbosity.”

That ad copy would not be considered persuasive. It would be better described as pompous nonsense.

How about this?

“Dang, them advertising words sure can persuade stuff, can’t they?  Heck yeah! Whoo hoo!”

OK, so far this is going poorly. Let’s reset.

Can engaging ad copy truly be persuasive? Yes! Absolutely. However, pinning down what exactly those words are can be elusive. There are tried-and-true phrases we’ve all heard or used ourselves:

  • Act now!
  • Don’t wait; call today!
  • Not valid in all 50 states.
  • See store for details.
  • Product may cause itching or swelling.
  • Don’t forget to bring your 25% off bonus coupon!
  • The author assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this site.
  • If you don’t stop bugging your sister this instant, I’m pulling the car over!

But those are not really persuasive. So, what is? Some quick Google research presents answers such as “The 10 Most Powerful Words in Advertising.”

  • New: Having something new and knowing something is new has incredible intrinsic value.
  • Guaranteed: Take away that risk by guaranteeing a sure thing.
  • Proven: Another no-risk word that assures your target audience that your product has already been tested by others.
  • Results: This is the bottom line, where you tell your prospective customers what they will get, what will happen and why they should care.
  • Safety: The idea of safety is very comforting — a core need.
  • Save: Even the wealthiest people shop for value.
  • You: You’re more likely to influence your target audience if you address them directly.
  • Now: This creates a sense of urgency for your future customer.
  • Easy: Most people want a quick and uncomplicated solution.
  • Free: Who can resist the granddaddy of them all?

Yes, those are very nice words, and they certainly are effective in some situations; however, for the most part, using those words can make a copywriter a bit sad and woozy.

Can you imagine watching a Super Bowl spot about something really meaningful and relevant like a children’s hospital and hearing some of those words? You’d be kicked out of the Ad Council before the catered lunch was even served.

For many writers, the most persuasive words in advertising are the ones about the idea. While we’re on the subject of Super Bowl ads, we’ll use one from the latest championship game as an example.

IDEA: We follow Christopher Walken. Everywhere he goes, people speak to him by imitating him. One after the other — every person from the parking valet to the fast-food window clerk — they all imitate his speech patterns. The announcer finally says something like “There’s only one Christopher Walken. And only one ultimate driving machine. The rest are just imitations.”

Those words — the idea — are the most persuasive words in that advertising, not words like “guaranteed” or “proven” or “easy.”

Words alone are just words; however, when they are used to power the idea forward, it allows persuasion to naturally follow and help a brand stand out in the crowd.