Write the Ad First

draperTaking a shot at writing an advertisement for a product before the first line of code is written has tremendous value.  Ad writing requires the team to become crystal clear about the message they are trying to portray, and the action they are trying to cause.  To help you get started, here’s a structure we used extensively at one of my day jobs.  What you want to do is capture who you are writing the ad for, what their problems are and how the unique solutions the product provides to the user.  Finally it closes with why you are the best company to deliver this product.

We typically think of the advertisement as the tool we use to communicate a product’s value to the market once the product is built and ready to ship. And most ads are written after the product is ready to launch, as its important to keep products in front of target customers, and you need to iterate the advertisements to ride market trends, and also keep end customer interest.  Imagine how boring it would be if we were all still watching Michael Jackson’s Pepsi commercial 30 years later…  But writing an ad for you product idea is a great way to solidify your thoughts.

Let’s imagine we were the initial team charged with shaping the initial Roomba, the autonomous home vacuum cleaner from iRobot.  What would that ad look like?

Step 1 – Index product features / benefits

  • Vacuums on a regular schedule
  • You don’t have to push it
  • Doesn’t drag a cord around the house
  • Won’t fall down stairs

Step 2 – Index limitations

  • Runs for less than two hours
  • Can’t reach every part of the house
  • Can’t climb stairs
  • Needs to be emptied at frequently

Step 3 – Describe problems that can be solved within these constraints

  • Freshening the house before I get home from work
  • Keeping on top of pet fur / human hairballs
  • Cleaning in parallel while you dust / do other home maintenance

Step 4 – Who has problems like this?

  • Single people who work
  • Couples who both work
  • People with pets
  • Really hairy people who shed a lot

Alright that was some good prep.  Now let’s try to fit it in the structure.  First lets use less than 3 sentences to describe the target customer and problem.

Problem:
Whether you are a single person working to advance you career, or a dual-income couple clawing your way up the corporate ladder, it’s tough to find time to keep your home in top shape.  Of your home maintenance tasks, vacuuming always gets the shaft… So instead of coming home to a nice clean home every evening after your hard day’s work, you spend the evening recovering from your day in the company of hair balls and pet fur.

Solution 1: Automated Vacuum
Introducing the Roomba autonomous home vacuum cleaner.  Roomba takes care of the daily vacuuming maintenance that you don’t have time for. Simply setup the Roomba in your living room, set the daily schedule, and relax.  Tomorrow, you’ll come home to a freshly vacuumed floor, complete with those “freshly vacuumed” tracks across your carpet.

Solution 2: On Demand Vacuum
Next time you have people over, cut your home prep time in half by letting Roomba do your vacuuming for you.  Just push the clean button, then focus on prepping your appetizers and drinks while Roomba does the heavy lifting refreshing your floor.

Why best from us: 
iRobot has over XX years designing and delivering autonomous robots and vehicles to military and governmental organizations, saving millions of dollars and thousands of lives.   If US government is willing to trust iRobot to protect our groups, you can trust our robots to keep your floors clean.

Ok, so I never said I was a professional ad writer.. Don Draper I am not.  But while this might not be the catchiest ad, it does provide some clear direction for the product team, or if you don’t have a team, you.  And it puts that direction into a story that is easy to remember.  I know I’m targeting busy professionals.  They have money, so this isn’t a bargain play.  I can tell that ease of scheduling and ease of use is really important.  Also the product sort of needs to take care of itself to live up to the promise… I should make a self charging station…

Also, that ad makes some assumptions I can go validate in the market place.  I can go test to see if busy professionals value the concept of coming home to a clean apartment. I can validate whether maintenance cleaning is of value as compared to in-depth floor cleaning that could be achieved with my own effort, or through a cleaning service.

Try it out.  Take a product idea you’re working on, and write an ad about it.  You’ll probably find that it’s hard to get really specific about the target customer… It feels bad to limit the target market but it’s a good thing to do because then you can talk about specific benefits that the focused target market clearly values.  Coming up with the solutions is typically easy… Settling on exactly one problem also feels tough, you know your product can solve so many problems. But problem focus will allow you to not solve a lot of low value problems  If there really are 2-3 high value problems, try writing an ad for each one, and then bake them off against each other.  You’ll often find that one just rings so strongly, and the others feel a little flat.  No you know where to focus.

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  1. Pingback: Episode 7: Qualify Your Ideas | Bootstrapped with Kids - Two Dads Working to Achieve Financial Freedom – Online

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