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Extreme Makeover—Can You Even Tell What This Ad Is For?

If Your Prospects Have To Guess What You Sell, Then Your Advertisement FAILS.

Guessing Games Are Fun For Children And Game Shows, But Terrible For Advertising. You’ve Got To Take A More Direct Approach!

Written by Rich Harshaw.

Note: This article is part of Monopolize Your Marketplace’s ongoing “Extreme Makeover” series, where Rich Harshaw takes an existing contractor marketing piece that’s not that great… and works his MYM magic on it..

A remodeler recently submitted the following ad to me for feedback and suggestions:


As my brain attempted to process what I was seeing, here were the thoughts/reactions, in order:

  • That green font looks like it’s off the front of a can of Monster Energy Drink.
  • Whatever this is stops bugs, pollen, rain, and wind—it must be some kind of fabric.
  • What’s up with the secret service man? Why is he so angry?
  • Huh?

When I asked the caller for clarification, he explained that this was an ad for a patio enclosure system. The guy that is supposed to be a “bouncer” represents the enclosure’s ability to “keep stuff out.” You know, like bugs, rain, and wind.


This is definitely a case of the Curse of Knowledge—where you know so much about something that it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to NOT know what you know. To help explain better, he had me look at this webpage:

Turns out this thing is actually pretty cool.

It’s a less expensive and more flexible way to enclose a patio compared to glass sunrooms. The panels aren’t actually made from glass; they’re made from a transparent vinyl that looks like glass but is a lot cheaper. Plus, since the vinyl is thinner than glass, the panels can be installed in separate “tracks“ that allows them to be raised or lowered to let in whatever amount of fresh air (and bugs and dust and wind and rain) you want. It costs about the same as a generic screen room, but looks tons better and has a lot more flexibility in use.

Could you get ANY of that from the original ad? If so, are you a mind reader?

To fix this, let’s start with the basics. Whenever you’re writing an ad, you should always ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What do you want people to know?
  2. What do you want people to do?

As far as “what do you want the reader to know?” I kind of prefer the direct approach, especially in situations where a new, unfamiliar product is involved. I want them to know that they can get a beautiful sunroom for the same cost as a sunroom. To accomplish that, I need to show a picture so the reader instantly THINKS he/she is looking at a sunroom, but then tease them with the fact that it IS NOT.

I created the ad below in less than 7 minutes in Microsoft Publisher.

  • I grabbed the photo directly from the contractor’s website.
  • I faded the white section so I could put the headlines and text right on top of the photo, but without the background being super distracting.
  • The headline generates curiosity; I love to start ads with “Believe It Or Not” because it instantly puts the reader in “discovery” mode and opens their mind to something new and different.
  • I put 4 easy-to-read-and-digest bullet points under the header that give the most important information…
  • Because the ad is so small, there’s no room to explain everything, so I let the mystery of “okay, so what exactly IS this” be answered in my offer (i.e., “what do you want them to do?”)
  • They are given the promise that if they visit the listed URL they’ll be able to compare WHATEVER THIS THING IS against Screenrooms and sunrooms. Notice how this reinforces, one more time, that this is DIFFERENT and BETTER than Screenrooms and sunrooms without specifically addressing those differences yet.
  • I put the distributor’s logo in the bottom right, and the manufacturer’s in the bottom left.

This is a great ad: it’s attractive, to the point, and interesting. It only took a few minutes to write, and design is very simple. This is an ad that will work.

Moral of the story: Don’t make your readers guess what you want them to know… TELL THEM what you want them to know!

© 2014 – 2016, Rich Harshaw. All rights reserved.

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