Writing a classified ad is tricky because you have so few words available to you. Most publications severely restrict the space allowed for classified ads, or charge extra fees if your copy requires an additional line. So writing concisely is the rule.
You may wonder why classified ads even work. After all, they are usually buried at the back of a magazine or in the special section of a newspaper. Often there aren't even any interesting articles placed near them, as with larger display ads. So who reads the classifieds?
The answer is why classifieds can be so darn effective. The people who read them are either looking for something (which makes them great prospects) or love to shop (which also makes them great prospects!). Although not as many readers will see a particular classified compared to regular ads in the same publication, those who do are in buying mode.
Ready to Buy
Most people who read the classifieds are looking for something — a used car, computer network components, home business opportunities, copy-writing services! So your headline should make it easy for them to find you. That's why a classified ad headline isn't the place to be cryptic or clever. If the reader is looking for something specific, you want your headline to be like a person jumping up and down waving “Here I am!”
The proven headline writing formula for classifieds? State what you sell and one key benefit.
That's why simple headlines often work best in classifieds. If someone is looking for used filing cabinets, an ad that says “Used Filing Cabinets. Free Delivery” is going to get attention.
The Coffee Shop Technique
Perhaps the best way to write a winning classified ad is by using the coffee shop technique. Here's how it works: Imagine you're at a coffee shop, and you happen to overhear a conversion from the table next to you. Judging by what is being said, someone is looking for your particular type of product. You have just once chance to go up to that person and make your pitch — in twenty-five words or less. What would you say? Your answer could possibly make a great classified ad.
To keep the copy tight, copywriters often use words, sentence fragments, short forms, and acronyms to keep the word count down. For example: “Have a great nite's sleep w/porta-pillow. Fits into purse/ pocket. Grt for travel.” This is fine, so long as it can still be interpreted and make sense. You don't want your ad to seem nonsensical.