Imagine you have to write a Facebook ad for the Christian organization, Focus on the Family. What kind of ad would you make?

Now, if you’re any good at writing ads, you’re probably already asking me: who am I writing this ad to?  Who’s the customer?  Especially if it’s a Facebook Ad.

But chances are you’d settle for a far less effective answer than you deserve, even when writing for an advertising platform universally known for its ability to hyper-target prospects.

And that would inevitably hurt your ad.

It would hurt you ad because all great ads have to be written for someone specific.  Not a demographic, or even a psychographic, but a specific prospect.  This is so important that some writers go to the point of creating a fictional character, or persona, in order to better write to the specific prospect of any given customer segment.

Want to see what kind of difference that makes? Take a look at an actual ad for Focus on the Family that I found on my wife’s Facebook page:

Needless to say, this is not an ad aimed at men. Or married couples without children. Or even mom’s of teenagers, really.

Now, I don’t actually know how Focus on the Family is targeting their ads, but I would imagine that this one is targeted to married women with kids and possibly with some Christian affiliation.

But notice what they did here: they didn’t have a generic ad for Focus on the Family.  Instead they appealed to a mother’s instinct to make the holiday’s special for her kids, compounding:

  1. age,
  2. sex & marital status
  3. interest, and
  4. holiday appeals

all combined and compounded into creating one tightly focused ad.

I might argue for a more visually striking image and stronger headline, but the point is that a copywriter’s ability to best optimize the image and headline starts with an understanding of the prospect.

It all sounds kind of obvious when you see it in black and white, but a lot of Facebook advertisers goof this stuff up quite regularly.  And like most things advertising, there are both basic and advanced applications of these things.  So if you’re interested in getting the basics right and then moving onto advanced applications, the best book available for learning this stuff is Killer Facebook Ads by Marty Weintraub.

I got to meet Marty last fall at SES San Francisco, while also managing to talk myself into a free copy of his book. And as Marty handed the book to me, he said that he was particularly proud of Chapters 5 and 6, especially Chapter 6 on “Mastering Compound Targeting.”

As you might imagine, I couldn’t wait to tear into that Chapter, but I was also a bit  curious, since the book was on creating “Killer” facebook ads, and yet the author’s favorite chapter was not the one expressly titled “Creating Killer Facebook Ads”; it was the previous chapter on Compound Targeting. Hmmm…

Of course, as soon as I finished the chapters on “Guerilla User Targeting Checklists” and “Compound Targeting,” I understood exactly why this was the case — it’s the same reason the actual Focus on the Family ad probably kicked your imaginary ad’s butt:

Every great ad has to be written for a specific someone.

And I would even add to that, “In a specific situation.”  As importantly, this has to be determined BEFORE you can start maximizing your image, headline, body copy, etc.

So how are your ads being written for?

If you can only tell me demographic info when answering this question, might I suggest you get yourself a copy of Killer Facebook Ads and start learning:

  • Guerilla Targeting Methods for squeezing out targeting info that’s not a simple check box away on Facebook’s ad targeting interface
  • Compound Targeting Techniques such as using age, interest, and gender mashups to create more powerfully specific ads?
  • AND specific image, headline, and copywriting techniques for creating those “Killer Facebook Ads” themselves

It’s a great book and comes with my highest recommendations.  Thank you, Marty, for sharing your knowledge and expertise.