When I first started online advertising, I thought ad copy was everything. In my mind, a slight change in wording such as “buy now” vs “shop now” could change the world. 

Then, I saw ad copy tests where the adjustments did nothing to improve performance.

I’m not saying ad copy is completely irrelevant now but seeing instances where ad copy adjustments did not change much definitely altered my perspective. 

I was so disgusted that I started to think that ad copy was just a filler; that it could matter but not nearly as much as I thought. But after some time, I saw other instances where the ad copy made a difference and not just a small one, but a big difference!

Even more confusing, what did not make a difference for one brand, made a difference for another brand. Through my journey in the vast and hectic land of ad copy, which is definitely not near its end, I have taken some time to digest the experiences I have had and try to understand what matters and why.

So far, here are three points that I would never disregard when writing ad copy for paid media.

1 – Who is the person I am talking to and what do they care about?

Depending on the product you sell or service you offer, your customers likely share similar traits. Every single one of those traits can potentially make a difference in your ad copy. A trait can be something as simple as gender or be something more nuanced like a job position. The idea here is to consider which concerns, struggles, habits or mindsets are hiding behind those traits. Once you figure out what is behind those traits, you can leverage it in correlation with the product you sell.

For example, a preponderant trait for one brand I work with is “business professional”. Since the product that the brand sells can be used to increase productivity, which is something most business professionals care about, we built ad copy around “increasing productivity” and “completing to-dos” during a day. For the same product, the ad focused on productivity had a 5.59% CTR. The ad that was more descriptive of the product features had a 2.39% CTR. 

data results of ad copy testing

That is more than double in terms of CTR performance. 

2 – At which stage of the funnel is a prospective customer reading my ad?

If someone does not know enough about your brand, it is going to be really hard to drive that first purchase with ad copy that is mainly calling the user to buy. If someone already knows about the product or is really looking at buying at the moment, pushing introductory ads will not help either.

For one brand, we tested two different types of language with prospecting audiences. We had 3 unique ads that were highlighting discounts customers get for their first purchase such as 20% off or free shipping, and a single ad telling a story about the product and our brand. The storytelling ad received a 97% higher click-through rate and a 120% better conversion rate in the first 9 days. That means people were twice as likely to click and once on the page, they were also twice as likely to convert because we were able to connect them emotionally to the brand instead of pushing the discount language. After the first 9 days, the optimization system in Facebook Ads pushed 80% of the spend and traffic to that ad. The graphs below show the performance for the storytelling ad (orange lines) and the discount ads (blue lines) which are labeled as “all others” in terms of spend, CTR, and conversion rate.

graphs depicting ad copy testing results for click through rate and conversion rate

It can clearly be seen on the spend graph that on day 9 Facebook concluded that the storytelling ad was delivering better results. At the end of the campaign, the cost per add to cart for the storytelling ad was $3.96 while the promo focused ads recorded a $5.75 cost per add to cart. 

Data after campaign completion:

data table results of ad copy testing different themes

3 – Context…

Ad copy built around economic, cultural, or temporal context tends to send strong signals to the reader as it increases the relevancy of the ad. A very simple example is an ad that mentions the year 2019 while we are actually in 2020 or an outdated promotional ad.

Promotions, holidays, events, and economic crises can all be considered as different types of context that ad copy can be adjusted to. The situation around COVID-19 is another strong example of such a context. Due to one brand’s industry, they were able to keep business running despite the stay-at-home orders. We, therefore, introduced some new ads in Google, obviously not specifically mentioning COVID-19, but at least signaling to the user that we are still open, and they can still sign up and benefit from our services. 

The new ads signaling that the brand is still open for business had a 39% lower CTR and an 82% higher conversion rate. What happened is that the people who were not trying to get our services at the moment ended up not clicking but the ones who clicked were more likely to convert. The table below shows the comparison between the old and newly introduced ads:

data table results of ad copy testing before and after COVID

Even though conversion data can seem low, CPCs in this account can average $50 and one conversion means a great deal.


It is very easy to get in the weeds with ad copy or think that flashy ads or beautiful language are what make a difference. Yes, they can, but in reality, the difference comes from

  1. Who your message is for and what are their concerns
  2. What stage of the funnel your prospective customer is in
  3. The contextual elements surrounding your product and society in general