Introduction To Writing Space Ads That Boost Your Business

““We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears.”” – La Rouchefoucault, MaximsSpace ads are the advertisements you see in newspapers and magazines. For professional copywriters, space ads are great because they are limited in scope and still demand high fees (and sometimes royalties). For the entrepreneur or marketer, space ads are attractive because they provide a way to quickly sell a lot of product.Today, I’ll give you the fundamentals. In a future message, I’ll tell you some of the secrets the space-ad grand masters use.Imagine a full-page space ad in your favorite magazine. Its outside dimensions are about 8 1/4 by 10 3/4 (the dimensions of a trimmed magazine). Inside this rectangle, imagine three blocks of vertical space. Inside these spaces, you are going to accomplish three separate missions.


In the first space, comprising the upper third of your page, you are going to catch your prospect’s eye and say something to convince him to read your offer. This work is typically done with a headline, which includes any supporting copy above or below it.

Great space-ad gurus claim that you should spend as much time on the headline as you do on anything else, and I agree with them. The difference between one headline and another can be big. Very big. Recently, I personally witnessed a test in which the differential was 700%! I have seen dozens and dozens of tests in which the stronger head outperformed its rival by 200% or 300%. So with space ads (perhaps more than any other form of advertising), devoting time and care to the head definitely pays off.

6 Steps To Writing A Great Headline That Will Hook Your Prospect

1. Figure out all the ways your prospect can benefit from your product/service.

2. Pick one or two of the most important benefits – the ones you think will sell your product/service best.

3. Write at least two dozen heads for each of the benefits you have chosen.

4. Make sure at least some of your benefits begin with “How to…”

5. Select (by showing the heads to prototypical prospects) your three strongest heads.

6. Test them all.


The middle third of the page is where you make your case. The classic way to do this is to present your prospect with a problem in the first paragraph. If you are selling a “roach motel,” for example, you talk about how horrible roaches can be. If you are selling a course in negotiating, you talk about how much money (and self-respect) you can lose when someone outtalks you. Make the presentation as vivid as possible. You want your prospect to visualize the problem so all his anxieties, his fears, and his doubts will come to the surface.

In the next paragraph, you introduce the solution, which happens to be your product.

And in the paragraphs that follow, you prove that your product is, in fact, the solution, by making claims and offering evidence of them. You include statistical data, anecdotal evidence, personal testimonials, expert endorsements – everything you possibly can. Your job in this middle section is to convince your prospect that what you have is what he needs.


The final third of the page is devoted to closing the sale. This includes your closing copy and your order device, each taking up about half of this section (which means that a properly sized order box should take up about a sixth of your page space).

Closing the sale is not easy, but if you have proven your claims, you can do it. You need to establish a perceived value (for your product/service) that is higher than the price you are commissioned to charge. If you do a good job of that, asking your prospect to pull out his checkbook should be relatively effortless.

And Now For An Example

Let me give you a way to remember this easily. I call it the Rule of Threes.

A space ad has three parts. Each part has a different job. In the first part, you MAKE YOUR PROMISE. In the second part, you MAKE YOUR CLAIMS (relative to the promise) and you PROVE THEM. In the third part, you PUSH THE SALE until it’s closed.

Promise. Prove. Push. Do these three things, and your space ad will work.

Now Let’s Look At How This Is Done.

I have an ad in front of me right now. It was placed in one of the airline magazines. The headline reads, “How to Build the Sharpest Sales Team You’ve Ever Had!” Above the head are four photos with captions – presumably the experts behind this message. Underneath the main head in smaller type are these words: “Try your first two issues of Master Salesmanship Absolutely FREE – and see for yourself.”

Okay. Not bad. It makes a promise. That’s for sure.

The first paragraph begins with the subhead “Selling Is a Tough, Competitive Profession.” What salesman, sales manager, or business owner would disagree with that? Certainly not any who are going to get hooked by the headline.

The body of the copy claims that great salespeople know secrets that can be taught – and provides some evidence to support those claims with facts and figures and by listing major corporations that have used the product.

The last paragraph begins, “No Risk Offer – Send No Money” and goes on to persuade the prospect that by acting now he will ensure himself a risk-free good price with no hassles or obligations if he decides the product isn’t for him.

The coupon reads, “Yes! Please send my first two biweekly issues of Master Salesmanship.”

Summing Up . . .

This is not the greatest ad ever written. But it has been in the mags for over a year, which means it must be paying for itself. It works not because the product is great but because the offer is pretty easy (get two issues free and pay later) and because the copywriter didn’t do anything terribly wrong. Although uninspired, he was smart enough to follow a proven formula.

You can use this 3-part formula to help you analyze a space ad someone writes for you – and you can use it to write solid (though perhaps uninspired) copy for yourself or anyone else.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]