How to Write an Advertisement

We see them every day, especially on TV.  After eight minutes of show, two dramatic lines, and four witty one-liners, you have four minutes of commercials.  Each one wants to sell you something you didn’t know about, and you probably won’t get up and buy anything because of the advertisement anyway.  Regardless of their effectiveness, knowing how to write commercials is as valuable as a giant squid in a bakery.  To write a commercial, you need to know their form.  After that, it’s easy.


Hahahahahaha!  …What?

The easiest and most entertaining commercials to write and watch, of course, are jokes.  They are structured exactly the same, so there’s not much to tell; you have your set-up, taking up the majority of the commercial, followed by the punch line and the final display of the producer’s name and where everyone can find you.  Such commercials are good for making impressions– they’re funny, and statistics show that people like funny things.

So I wondered, why don’t I have an automated bee-swatter?

This style of commercial is all about telling a story.  At the beginning, you set up a problem– either a hypothesis about the patheticness of your audience, or a character with a problem.  Through the commercial, you show them trying to deal with their problem without your product, but nothing will work.  At the halfway point of the commercial (15 seconds for 30-second commercials, or 7.5 seconds for 15-second commercials), they find your product.  Suddenly, everything is better!  You have presented a problem and then solved it.  Again, the last few moments of the commercial will be dedicated to your name and your phone number.

Also in this classification is the questioning commercial, which always begins with questions.  At the halfway point, as per the Hollywood Formula for stories, things go from asking questions to answering them– with your product!

So in conclusion, be stupid.

You know the form for a persuasive essay, right?  As with the story model, you can adapt that form to fit your commercial.  Simply introduce your product at the beginning, back it up with three clear, well-exemplified points, and then end with a fitting conclusion, which ends with your contact information.  It can’t fail, unless your points really aren’t that well thought out.

It can do this, this, this, this, this, this, this… Whoa, forgot about that.

Sometimes, all you can do is boast.  That’s where this form comes in handy.  All you do for the entire commercial is show what it can do– supposedly.  Sometimes you might exaggerate a little and show something it can’t do, but that’s marketing, isn’t it?  Lying attractively.

BOOM!  POW!  WALLOP!  SMOOCH!  In theaters tomorrow.

Movie trailers are their own breed of commercial.  You are selling a product, but you can’t talk through it.  If you use the story form, you’ll give away the ending.  Persuasive essays don’t work for stories.  Jokes don’t either– you run the risk of making fun of yourself.  (Though you can add jokes in there with the explosions.)  You can’t show what a movie can do.  So what do you do?  You highlight the most attractive parts.  (See Trailers and Pitches.)

That’s right, drool.

Food commercials are separate as well.  You don’t follow a rational train of thought.  (“Are you getting hungry?  Is your fridge sadly inadequate?  Hunger no more!  Come down to enjoy a FattyMeal today!”)  You just show food, food, and more food.  By the end, people will flock to your door.  By all means, show the great deals to be had, show the great food to buy, and show the “better” ingredients you claim to use– but show more food.  Statistics have shown that people need food to live.


No matter what the product, one of these formulas will fit your advertising scheme.  Never underestimate how much persuasive power fits into fifteen seconds.  But don’t think this is all there is to writing an advertisement– never miss an opportunity to add propaganda into the mix.  (Here’s a list of Propaganda techniques.)  Just remember, if people aren’t flooding through your door to hand you money, you’re doing it wrong.


98 thoughts on “How to Write an Advertisement

  1. What are you making out of squid, now?
    I challenge you to write a commercial for your new food made with squid. Note, I said new food. No squid bologna. Invent a new squid food (preferably a baked good, because knowing how to write commercials is as valuable as a giant squid in a bakery) and advertise it. If you accept said challenge and do it, I will take on a commercial writing challenge of your choosing.
    How about it?

      1. That isn’t as appealing as a trailer for Phil Phorce. And wasn’t I going to read that anyway? Did you have trouble thinking up ways to advertise food that wasn’t bat-free, or is it too silly to let me see it?

      2. I believe he was saying that the commercial required could be the bat food, Robyn.

        (Correct me if I’m wrong, as always, Liam)

      3. Actually, I don’t think that you would have a too hard a time convincing Quirk to act. Include words like “fame and glory” in your attempt to persuade, a BOOM! you’ve got him.

      4. Please disregard the previous attempts to persuade you into making a trailer for Phil Phorce. Just write the story.
        I heard that there was a preview for Episode 2. I don’t suppose you could give me a link to it?

    1. What prompted this? I timed several separate commercial breaks because I was bored. I found a trend between commercials, the most interesting being the story structure asking questions/answering questions formula.

      1. YAY! He’s back to saying “indeed”!

        …and there, I just went and used your word. Sorry. I pick up speech patterns very easily.

      2. A thoughtful, dangerous, “I can use this to my advantage” “Hm.” perhaps? Or maybe it was acknowledgement. Or perhaps just thoughtful sounding, but not something he was really going to ponder much.

      3. “Yay!” is what Liam says when he doesn’t know what to say. I think you said it in jubilation, Amanda. So, while you used his word, it did not have the same meaning. So, in that light, did you really use his word?

      4. Robyn, that was true for about three days. I’m over that now. More often, in fact, I use it in jubilation, so congratulations, Amanda.

        As for my grunt, I shall leave it to you to interpret. You’re like a literary analysis group– you always manage to find meanings I didn’t intend.

      5. Congratulations? Uh, okay.

        And sorry. That’s me. I always find meanings in stuff. It drives some people crazy.

  2. I agree with everything, especially the food part. A good tip is to use fake food, much higher in quality than the real product, to film advertisements. No one will know the difference.
    I think you left out the technique of convincing your audience that life is meaningless without your product, or, at least, too hard or painful or dangerous.
    The issue is touched on in WWZ. And I didn’t just say that to remind you that it’s an amazing book. I just though you should know.

      1. That is true. I probably would have known what was implied in Propaganda if I had clicked the link.
        One could argue that all advertisements are forms of propaganda.

      2. Oh, yes. Never once did I disagree with you (on this subject).

        I see you ignored my very discrete reference to World War Z.

      3. I didn’t say that you didn’t see it either. I said that you ignored it.

      4. I suppose not outwardly or obviously reacting to something could be called ignoring it, but I internally noted your statement, which to me indicates that I didn’t ignore it.

      5. Yes, but acting as though you hadn’t noticed it counts as ignoring it, in my book. I had no idea of what you were thinking.

      6. Not to be nit-picky, but I don’t see how ambiguous works there.
        Do you mean that I couldn’t ever know whether or not you are ignoring something?

      7. Alright.
        And it doesn’t help that we are conversing online, as opposed to in person, in which case I could read your expressions. Believe it or not, I am incapable of telepathic communication.

      8. I never said it wasn’t. Obviously you chose the “believe it” part of “believe it or not”.

      9. That expression implies that your statement is true, whether I choose to believe it or not; I can trust you, or I can deny your truthfulness in favor of misleading myself.

      10. *rolls eyes*
        I have no idea if you’re really doing what you claim to be doing. Your face could be as plain as a plain.

        I, however, did roll my eyes. Honesty.

  3. Haha, well said Liam! Also, here’s a fun fact: a lot of adverts over here in Britain are peculiar in that they will run a full-length one for several weeks, then drop back to a more abridged version. Then again, most of the ones that do this are so outrageously “WHAT IN THE NAME OF FURRY SLIPPERS!?” that you remember them anyway, even in the shorter form.

    Adverts are deeply annoying, but you can’t help but admire their effectiveness.

      1. True, true. Although we do get SOME longer ones, depending on how much money the company in question spends on their advertising.

  4. Interesting post. My family doesn’t watch regular TV, as we just don’t get a signal out here in the boondocks, so I don’t see that many advertisements, other than the ones for other movies when we watch DVDs. And a good portion of those get skipped through.

    I do, however, know of one ad that I don’t think fits in one of your catagories. Just let me find it….
    Okay, had to find where I pinned it on Pinterest, but you should be able to see it.

    1. I see it, and I wonder what category it is. Not food, not movie, not persuasive, not even story– it’s more of a joke format. No, it is a story, but not in the way that I talked about it. It’s very much so a story. Low point and denouement and everything.

      1. Well, everything is hunky-dory, the writer is there every day, as is the waiter, and then boom, the writer stops coming. That’s the low point– what happened? Then the denouement is the section after that.

      2. Also known as falling action, but rising and falling action happens within scenes as well as in the entire plot arc, so I like to use denouement instead.

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