How A Literature Major Failed At Writing 15-Word Ads

Rachel Tng

When I first started writing ads, I thought it would be easy. After all, I love writing. I write all the time – and that’s not an exaggeration. As an English Literature major in university, I wrote 2000-3000 word academic essays for my classes. Don’t even get me started on that 13,000-word monstrosity that was my honour’s year thesis. Outside of school, I maintained a personal beauty and lifestyle blog for 3 years and wrote my own creative fiction. My friends knew I was a good writer, and I knew my skills were the perfect fit for a writing job.

After I graduated from university, I was looking for a job and realised I had tried many types of writing except copywriting for advertising and marketing. I came across clickTRUE, a digital marketing agency, and saw a vacancy for a consultant job that had copywriting as a large part of its job scope. Perfect, I thought. I applied for the job and was shortly accepted.

Fast forward to my first day at clickTRUE. My colleagues introduced me to Google Adwords, which they said would become my best friend. When I saw the Google Adwords ad writing interface I almost laughed in relief.

Adwords Interface

1 headline, 2 description lines. 15 words for the body text. It seemed ridiculous that I had graduated from writing thousands of words to 15-word ads. I thought that it was going to be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, the joke was on me.

I soon discovered that to write a grammatical and eye-catching ad of less than 100 characters — less than a tweet’s 140 characters — is a feat in itself. I wondered how in the world one could fit so much relevant information into so few words. I spent hours of frustration writing and re-writing my ads, silently cursing the character limit. When my campaigns launched, many of my ads had low Click-Through Rates (CTR) and I had no idea what to do to improve. My colleagues tried to help, but each had different suggestions and I got even more confused.

I turned to the Internet for a solution. Even though there were tons of copywriting advice floating around online, most of them were either too vague or too detail-oriented. I felt very lost. There had to be a way to systemise ad copywriting… There had to be a flexible system that could apply to the ad writing process at every step of the way…

And then it just came to me. When I thought about my successes and failures, something clicked. A system began to take shape in my mind. I call it the 2Cs and 6Ws.


The 2Cs stand for connection and clarity – how well you connect with your target audience and how clear your Unique Selling Point (USP) and Call-To-Action (CTA) are. The 6Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How) are there to help you to write your ads. Equipped with these tools, I managed to write my ads in 3 simple steps as detailed in the infographic below:

How To Write Great Ads Guide



When I’m thinking about my target audience, I consider who they are and where they’re from to figure out how best to adapt my copy to their demographic.

For example, if my product is a fashion product geared towards Singaporean females aged 20-40, I would write my copy with their interests in mind. Based on my market research, I find that this particular demographic is mainly fashion-forward and interested in quality products. I would therefore write copy that emphasises my product’s trendy aspects with reassurances of quality.


When I’m thinking of the benefits and USP of my client’s product/service, I consider what they’re selling and why their target audience would be interested in it.

Before writing down a product’s benefits and USP, it is important to distinguish between a feature and a benefit. A feature is an aspect of the product, for example, a tuition service that allows parents to track their child’s progress online. A benefit is the way in which a feature can achieve a positive outcome for your target audience. For example, a benefit of the above mentioned tuition service is the convenience gained for parents who travel often, as they will be able to keep track of their child’s progress in school. In your copy, focus on the benefits that your target audience will gain from the product/service.


To create a good CTA, I have to figure out when I’m asking my target audience to take an action, and how they can do so. For example, a CTA like “Sign Up Now” is specific as it urges the viewer to take an action now by clicking on the ad. You can attract your target audience’s attention with a lucrative promotion or a call to download some information so that they will at least visit your landing page.

These 3 steps helped me crawl out of copywriting hell, and I’m now a much more experienced (and happier) writer at work.


Now you’ve learnt how to become better at ad copywriting, but you’re still probably wondering how that would affect your marketing campaign. Why is mastering the art of ad copywriting so important, you ask? That’s because copywriting is the most essential yet neglected part of a marketing campaign. Impressive graphics and a large budget do not guarantee success. Neither does your top-notch product or service, if no one wants to find out about it by clicking on your ad. Good copywriting can be the deciding factor between a successful campaign and a flop.

A case in point is this Google AdWords PPC campaign I ran for a client who provides a news distribution service. The objective of the campaign was to drive traffic (clicks) to the client’s promotional landing page that advertised a free trial of their services.

Here’s one of the initial ad copies I came up with:

5000 Brands Use MyClient. Connect
With The Right Audience Now!

I let the campaign run for 3 weeks, and realised that the CTR (Click-Through Rate) of the ads hovered at around 0.3%. That means practically no one was clicking on my ads. That’s like making a speech to a 1000-strong crowd and have 997 people fall asleep on you. It was beyond embarrassing and I felt like a failure (well, this was before I developed The 2Cs and 6Ws system).

We checked the campaign settings and decided that while everything else seemed fine, the ad copies needed some serious tweaking. After putting our heads together, we came up with a revised ad copy:

The Ultimate Press Release Platform
To Manage Your PR. Get Free Trial!

I let this ad run, and the campaign’s performance immediately improved. My ads were getting more than 30 times the number of clicks, and within a week, the CTR increased to 2.3%. That’s almost 8 times the original CTR. The vast improvement in CTR resulted in an upward spiral of higher ad quality scores, lower Cost-per-click (CPC) and thus more clicks for the same budget.

Since the ads in the campaign were text-only and did not include images, the copywriting made all the difference. Had I left the ad copy as it was, the campaign would have flopped very badly.

To help you visualise why the change was so powerful, here’s a comparison table of the two ad copies with an evaluation based the 2Cs and 6Ws:

Criteria Ad Copy 1:
5000 Brands Use MyClient.
With The Right Audience Now!
Ad Copy 2:
The Ultimate Press Release Platform
To Manage Your PR. Get Free Trial!

Connection with
Target Audience

There’s no direct address or connection to
the target audience here. The ad sounds
impersonal, as if it’s simply listing a product
or service in a directory.
Direct address to target audience
(“Manage Your PR”). The personal tone
of address establishes a connection
between the ad and the audience, and
emphasises the benefit statement.
Clear Benefits
It’s not clear what MyClient offers –
whether it is a product or service, and how it
can benefit the target audience. There’s no
in mentioning that 5000 brands use it if it’s
not clear what “it” is.
Right from the start, it is clear that this is
an ad for the “ultimate” press release
platform to manage PR. This is also the
USP – that it is the best such platform.
The target audience thus understands
what is being offered and how it benefits
Clear & Compelling
There is no clear CTA. “Connect With The
Right Audience Now” is not clear on how to
connect, and is not compelling enough for
people to be interested.
There is a clear CTA which is also
compelling. Getting a free trial to manage
your PR with the best PR platform sounds
like a great deal, and people will be
interested in checking it out.


The second ad copy I wrote was a clear winner compared to the first as it met the criteria I set out. The significant impact it had on the campaign’s success shows us how important good copywriting is.


I learnt the hard way that copywriting fails — and marketing campaign fails — can be avoided if you make sure your copy connects with the right audience, has a clear benefits statement and a compelling CTA. In my experience, these factors are essential to writing consistently good copy for ads.

Could this be the key to writing good landing pages as well? What other factors are there when writing longer copy for landing pages, or is shorter copy more effective at getting conversions? I’ll be discussing these topics in the next post about my encounter with copywriting for landing pages (it’s another ball game altogether).

In the meantime, start re-evaluating your ads and writing good ones – or simply get in touch and find out how we can help you achieve better results with great copywriting!