I came across two Facebook ads last week, both of which used some solidly attention grabbing photos. Photos with a hint of story-appeal to them; they kind that beg you to ask for the background story to the moment captured on film. Or at least to ask “what’s the context behind this?”

And then the ads took two very different paths, one good, and one, in my opinion, not so good. Let’s take a look at them:


On the left you have an ad for the well-known Rosetta language courses.  As you can see, the picture of the upside down woman in the parka is intriguing.  Somewhat because she’s upside down, but mostly because she’s in what looks like a heavy winter parka while lying on a summer-y looking green field.  The incongruity is striking.

The familiar Rosetta Stone yellow logo also ads some visual prominence, while clearly indicating the product and advertiser.  Unfortunately, the headline kind of fizzles as it becomes redundant with the picture.  And things go downhill from there.

The body copy not only fails to make a clear credible copy, but it’s also potentially insulting. Maybe I’m just getting sensitive about my age, but what the heck do they mean by: “You’re never too old” and “It’s never too late”?  I’m only 38 years old for crying out loud – of course I’m not too old.

But worse than that, the copy makes a rather lame quasi-offer of “Up to $150 off select products.”  A phrase that most readers translate as, “Full price on all the products I want to buy.”  So there’s essentially no credibile offer made, a fault that’s only compounded by the lack of Call to Action. There’s no “buy now” or “shop our selection” or “visit our site.” In fact, I have no idea where this ad will take me if I click on it, though I assume it will be to RosettaStone.com

And then there’s this ad:


Even though the ad doesn’t feature a human face (which psychologists will tell you is a natural attention grabber), it still has a strong story element to it. When you see it, you want some context. And for Basketball fans, it would also be an emotionally charged image. Good stuff.

Better yet, the headline works with the picture non-redundantly. Neither the picture or the ad alone would make complete sense, but taken together they give readers a hint at what’s on offer.

And then there’s the body copy. What you get is a clear, concise, laser-targeted offer: sign up now for our online betting pool and we’ll match the money you put up on a 1-to-1 basis, for up to $250.  All finished off with the “Sign up now” call to action.

I’ve been told by both Facebook and by Facebook Ad Experts, that shorter ads tend to do better than longer ones, that there might be an advantage to NOT using all 135 characters of body copy.  And while I don’t for a second doubt the patterns that these people are seing with successful ads, I tend to believe that there is only a correlation between shorter ads and greater success, not a cause-and-effect relationship.

You see, I think ads with clear strong offers tend to have shorter copy because you can make a clear, strong offer in less characters. It’s when you have to start pulling the “Let us renew your love of language” bluff with fluff routine that the character count starts heading skyward. That and the fact that putting in weasel words and loopholes like “up to” and “on selected items” simply takes more characters.

At least that’s my theory. What’s yours?