The Art of Persuasive Copy Writing

I was reading an article in Writer’s Digest on creating written ad content (yeah, I also write marketing content for businesses) and the author, Athena Schultz,  did a great job in breaking down an ad into its major formulaic parts. The author proposed that most ads consist of:

  • Attention –the ad grabs your attention and hooks you
  • Interest –the ad fulfills a promise
  • Desire –the ad appeals to your wants and needs
  • Action –the ad identifies a call to action

Now, not all ads are going to fit this formula but I’m going to show you one that does. Below is an ad for Garnier Hair color. What you are seeing is actually part of a two page spread, on the facing page is a photo of a very happy (orgasmically happy) woman with perhaps the world’s most beautiful hair. She’s smiling, wearing bright red lipstick, has perfect teeth, is probably going home to a clean house – basically, anyone would want to be her.

ad 1

Except that all she is, is really just a show pony. She’s there to simply get your attention (which is not a bad thing in the world of advertisements.)

ad 2

If you break the written content of this ad down, this is what you get. (If you click on the photo, it will enlarge enough for you to read the text.)

Attention – Not only does this amazingly happy woman get our attention but take a look at that headline on page 2. HAIRCOLOR WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.  Whether you agree or disagree, it’s got your attention because immediately you are asking yourself “why not?”

Interest – Well there it is. There’s the promise that the ad will fulfill. Garnier has a technological breakthrough where oil can do *more* than condition hair (we can clearly see from the woman that it does more.) Garnier’s oil propels color deep inside the hair.

Wow, right?

Desire – Now look at the list that follows the promise. If you use Garnier, you will get: Maximum Color Performance, Visibly Improves and Restores Hair, and, if you were still on the fence, Unique Sensorial Experience.  Those are all things that appeal to my wants and needs. I don’t want to just color my hair, I want performance *and* a sensorial experience. (Seriously, if I’m going to play with chemicals, I want to have a good time.)

Action – there are actually two actions here:

  • Take care. Garnier – a clever tagline which is a signoff, as well as a command
  • “Try it and share your hair story with 1, 000s of others at /Olia”

Take care, try and share. That’s the call to action in a nut shell.

Now not all ads will follow this format as clearly as this one does, but many do.

So why am I teaching you about ad copy? Because it’s also a way to effectively organize a persuasive essay, a white paper, or an email to a boss requesting something. It’s also a nice way to organize an article pitch, a book query, or an article on why your book rocks. Basically, it’s one of those skills that should always reside in your back pocket.

You want to get attention, present your case, support your case, and then ask for action.

Go ahead and try using a formula like this in your persuasive writing, but don’t forget to use your head. I’ve had students in writing classes, who, when given a template like this, don’t know enough to make any personal deviations. Their writing ends up being stale and anything but persuasive.  However, if you are a skilled writer, there’s nothing wrong with putting this kind of a formula down first as the skeleton of your work and then going back to add the flesh making it the breathing creature that your writer’s soul needs to create.


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (

And yes, this formula (with a few liberties) also works when trying to teach your kids how to write an essay for the SATs

18 thoughts on “The Art of Persuasive Copy Writing

    • Granted, copy writing isn’t my most favorite type of writing (personal essay is), but if you see it as a challenge “hmmm, how can I best get my point across?” then believe it or not, it really does become fun.

      It becomes a puzzle to solve.

      • WOW – that was rude of me. That comment sounded like I was – well – anyways. you are right. and essays are what I do to lol . You are correct though it does become a puzzle to solve and I didn’t think of it that way. Thanks for the Reply Wendy. I like the topics and writing on your blog and will keep coming back to read what you have. Thanks again.
        Paige Roberts

      • Didn’t see your response as rude at all. It’s a legitimate question. I spent years being a technical writer and one of the most frequent questions I got asked about was how I could stand to write such boring material (user guides, systems documentation)

        So you see, it all comes down to how you view it. I saw it as a challenge.

        When it did (finally) become boring, it was then that I knew I had to move on.

        Being a writer is always a work in progress.

  1. Thank You Wendy for that “special” post, I am studying CopyWriting and this is exactly what I wish I can master! selling copies! The analysis you just did, gave me more confidence that am doing well and I just need to push harder, am sure you can tell us more about that too 🙂 what about a series of posts analysis and discussing CopyWriting issues for real life practice? Generally; what do you advice for a new-in the field copywriter? books, readings, activities etc..?

    • Ah, you’ve tapped into the teacher in me. I’ve put your subject requests on my bulletin board and if I can think of anything worthwhile to say about them, I’ll include it in future posts.

      For now, keep reading and keep analyzing. Today take 5 ads and see if they fit this formula. If they don’t figure out the deviation and then make a decision on whether it works or not.

      Keep at it and write on.


  2. Thanks for showing me how to “read” ads and for suggestion how to use attention, interest, desire and a call to action to get what I want from a query and/or essay. Great post.

  3. Fantastic writing. I threw this in my “favorites” to read to my husband. It can be applied to so many different scenarios in the workplace. Great post! I enjoy reading what you write.

  4. Pingback: The Art of Persuasive Copy Writing | bluemtnrentals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s