Improve Your Advertising by Heading Down to the Pub

August 27, 2011 by  Filed under: Marketing 

When a business owner puts an ad in the paper, they’ll usually rely on the advertising executives to come up with the copy for the ad, since there’s a general idea that the people who sell the ad space know what they’re doing when it comes to writing them as well.

And when a business owner writes a flyer, or perhaps a piece of direct mail, and they don’t have anyone to take advice from, they usually do it themselves, sweating over each word, trying to decide exactly what they should put down to create a good response.

But, in both cases, there’ll be a time in the process when Mister Business Owner has to make a decision. Either he’s looking at an ad written by a newspaper executive, or he’s looking at a piece written by himself. And he’s trying to figure out whether the piece of marketing material has all the right elements. And he stares at it for a while, and then goes away and comes back and stares some more, until eventually he realizes that he doesn’t have a clue what’s missing and what isn’t, or whether the ad or sales letter has the slightest chance of success.

Well, if you’re a small business owner, or a marketing manager, and you’ve ever struggled with analysing an ad or sales letter, here’s a quick tip that will make the process easier. It’s not a perfect strategy, but at least it’ll put you on the right track, and just by following it your advertising can become many times more effective.

It’s a trick used in the newspaper business, and it’s one used to determine whether or not a story is likely to get the attention of the readers, and then persuade those readers to go through the whole story. Because it’s a fact that if someone reads the first three or four paragraphs of a story, the chances are they’ll read through to the end. But if a reader isn’t attracted by the headline, he won’t read the first paragraph, and if he doesn’t read the first paragraph, he won’t read anything.

So the copy editor will spend a lot of time getting the headline and the first few paragraphs as perfect as he can. And one way he can do this is to use something called “The Pub Test”. You could also call this “The Bar Test”, but essentially the technique is that you imagine walking into a pub or bar to meet some friends, and saying: “Have you heard the latest news?”

Then you read the headline and first paragraph of your news story. If you can really imagine your friends saying: “What? You’re joking? Tell me more about it!”… your story is probably a winner. But if you can honestly see your friends yawning and going back to their drinks… your story is probably an abject failure.

Now, an advertisement or sales letter is not exactly the same as a news story, but it does need to grab attention in exactly the same way. (The fact that most advertising doesn’t grab attention is the main reason that very few ads actually get read, though the ad salesman would never admit that.) And you can use the same techniques that a well-written newspaper story uses to make you ad stand out.

First, it’s a really good idea to have a headline on your ad. This isn’t the same as putting a slogan on your ad, which doesn’t persuade anyone to read anything. You need a headline that promises useful (or at least interesting) information so that the prospect begins to read.

Next, make sure your ad is filled with interesting information, stuff which makes the prospect glad they read it. Use this information to tell the prospect everything about you, and why you’re a good firm to do business with. The same goes when writing a sales letter.

Now, a piece of marketing material is different to a newspaper article in a major way, in that marketing material asks the reader to do something. Phone the store. Send of for more information. Visit the website. (At least it should ask the reader to do something, and if it doesn’t it’s failed completely as a piece of marketing material.)

So instead of the “The Pub Test”, you can use something I call “The Party Test”. This is looking at your marketing material as though it’s an invite to a party, and being honest as to whether it really does do a good job of persuading people to turn up.

Imagine all the things you can put in a party invite. The type of food on offer, described in sumptuous detail, cooked by a celebrity chef. The drinks on offer, the fine wines and champagne. The beautiful surroundings of the five star hotel. The music, the other guests to provide spellbinding conversation, and then the free ride home in a taxi at the end of it all.

Now look at your advertising and be honest. Does it attract attention? Does it make the reader feel what it would be like to take you up on the offer? If it doesn’t, the chances are your ad isn’t likely to be read.

So go back and write a great headline, and add in all the details to make your prospect excited at the thought of taking action. Give them the best offer you can. Tell them all about your great guarantee, and in detail. Tell them all about your customer service, and back it up with as many testimonials as you can. It takes work, but do that and your advertising will stand head and shoulders above the rest, and you’ll almost certainly benefit with more customers, and more profits. And that’s what advertising is all about.

Steve Prescott is a direct response copywriter and marketing consultant. For powerful information about how to market your business effectively, beat your competition, and build your business value, visit

Also grab a copy of his report Smart Business Power Marketing, a blueprint for creating a powerful lead-generation system using a mixture of traditional advertising and internet technology. Visit to claim your copy now.

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