How to generate sizzlin’-hot ad ideas
I can’t shut my brain off.
Ever since I became a freelance copywriter, the mental spigot is constantly “on”.
I hear people talk about writer’s block, but I have the opposite problem.
My mind is racing 16-18 hours a day.
I’m constantly coming up with new ideas as I read online articles, newspaper articles, or blog posts. I can’t watch a TV commercial or infomercial without it triggering a new angle for a client’s product. Even driving down the highway and looking at billboards sparks my creative genius.
While many people complain about the fact that we’re bombarded with something like 3,000 marketing messages a day, I revel in it! I love taking it all in, analyzing it, and quickly tweaking it in my head to repurpose it.
The world is one, giant swipe file. And all my brilliant ideas are a subtle, or not-so-subtle, take-off on someone else’s idea.
Apply your ideas to powerhouse copywriting
Whether you’re currently advertising or not, this system should help you generate ideas anytime, keep them organized for easy future access, and help you apply them directly to ad campaigns when you do have them. (And after reading this post, if you realize you don’t have time to implement what I’m saying, give me a call and I’ll write some serious sales-generating copy for you!)
Step 1: Gather ad ideas all the time
Some of my favorite sources:
Reading a lot. You don’t have to necessarily generate new ideas, but rather adapt ideas to new uses. My favorite reading spot is my local library. I can buzz through the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today in about 30 minutes. They also have a ton of magazines, so no matter what niche you work in, you can keep up in your area.
Watching late-night infomercials. Seriously. Most of these scripts are brilliant examples of direct-response selling.
The product itself, of course, when you’re working on a project. Legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz was a huge advocate of really studying the product, inside and out.
The customers (again, when you’re working on an ad campaign.) Internet forums and review sites are great for finding out what your customers are really saying. Amazon.com is my favorite source, for much more than just books.
Competitors’ websites and YouTube videos.
Books and articles in your niche. Many top copywriters routinely read 100-150 articles and a few books for big projects.
My secret weapon: eavesdropping on conversations! It’s amazing what you can learn about people by listening in. The key is to go where typical customers of your clients hang out. If I want to know what 70-year old men are talking about these days, I go to my local McDonald’s at 7:30 AM on Tuesdays. Middle-aged women? My independent coffee shop. High school students? Easy – the mall.
Step 2: Organize the chaos.
Write your ideas down immediately. If you wait until you’re back at your computer, you’ll lose them. I carry a small, black 3″ x 5″ Moleskine notebook with me everywhere I go. Much easier than dragging an iPad or laptop along.
Keep a journal by your bed. You’ve probably heard this one before, but it really does work. Some of your best ideas may happen at 3 A.M., or right when you wake up.
Keep a “swipe” journal in your office. This can be a physical book or computer files. It’s a place where you transfer your best ideas from your notebooks into a permanent location. You want to keep a swipe file, too, of actual ads, but this is a journal of your notes – observations and ideas that you might be able to use in the future.
Step 3: Channel all these ideas into your copy.
Research and dig for “golden nuggets”. Go back through your swipe journal to brainstorm ideas. Don’t rush this part.
Realize that your best ideas will come out of a big pile of average stuff. You might have to write 10-20 pages and then cut stuff away. The key is to dive into the project and immerse yourself in it.
Since you’ll be cutting away half of what you write, a good cure for writer’s block is to just start writing, without worrying about getting it right on the first draft.
Even when you’re not working on a project, get in the habit daily of writing copy ideas down in your journal, and organizing them into your swipe journal. Practice adapting ideas to new uses.
Seek out ideas. Become a voracious reader.
Become an astute listener – of videos, commercials and conversations. Hang out where your audience hangs out, online and in person.
Develop an “idea journalist” mentality. Write it all down somewhere permanent, and label it so you can apply it to your future copy.
Take your time in the research phase of projects. The deeper you dig, the more likely you are to uncover your Big Idea and golden nuggets of copy.
Is your brain bombarded daily with advertising overload? Harness it into creative ideas, then pull it out on command and turn it into the sizzlin’-hot ad copy you’re capable of writing for your business.
Don’t have the time? Well, I’m often booked in advance a ways, but I’d love to talk. Give me a call.