In this column I’ve been a consistent proponent of clarity, image-laden, and benefit-centered copy in text-based PPC Ads. I still am.


But sometimes, the tests go the other way. Why?


It usually happens when vivid language is a just bit too “graphic” for comfort. When the reader actually wants some emotional distance from the subject.  For example, check out this recent win:

Now, looking at the losing ad, it’s easy to see that “We Will Pick up Your Child & Teach Martial Arts to Them” is a lot more clear about exactly what kind of service the company is offering.



This company has basically made the (freaking brilliant) move to increase enrollment of your students by filling the “after care” gap between when kids get out of school and when parents get out of work. Just let the martial arts studio pick your kid up, take ‘em to class, and they’ll have gotten a few hours of martial arts training by the time you’re off work and able to bring ‘em home.


But a parent looking for an after-care program just might read that language as “give us your kid and we’ll teach ‘em to fight!”


So the winning ad lets the “Daycare” part take care of the main message and then assuages the “fighting” concerns with language around “Give Your Children Confidence & Self-Discipline Skills Today!” And this works great because it also helps working parents feel better about the fact that they can’t spend more time with their kids — this way it’s an advantage as their children will be learning discipline and confidence.


It all adds up to an increased CTR of 69% for the winning ad.


Here’s another example of the “too vivid for its own good” ad losing out to the friendlier language:


As my marketing mentor is fond of saying: “The risk of insult is the price of clarity.” So while “Plus Size Costumes” might be clearer, that stark clarity is not nearly as inviting as “Costumes for real people.”




And while there’s no arguing with the impressive fact of “15,000 Costumes” the far more subjective “Gorgeous plus size costumes” comes off as more persuasive by addressing the primary concern of the shopper, which isn’t “will there be a big enough collection,” so much as “can I find a costume that both fits AND that’ll make me look good?”


Any wonder that the more inviting but less clear ad won by more than 70%?


So by all means, use vivid, clear language — but make sure that vivid picture you’re projecting into the mind of the reader is a desired and desirable image.