AdWords â itâs direct response copywriting Jim, but not as we know it | DMA

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AdWords â itâs direct response copywriting Jim, but not as we know it


Copywriting - as the discipline evolves, it opens new opportunities, such as using AdWords. Bob Maddens from The ATO Co. Explains.

Copywriting always works

Copywriters have made a significant difference in every advertising medium they have written for. Can you think of a single example where that hasn’t been the case? So why should Paid Search be any different?

Media agencies shouldn’t have to write copy

The way it works at the moment is if you’re a recognised brand then your media agency will write your AdWords copy. But wait a minute - Google AdWords is a pure direct response copywriting medium. Surely, that on its own is enough of a reason to make sure AdWords ads are written by direct response copywriters.

Why Google AdWords is a copywriter’s medium

And if that wasn’t enough of a reason there are plenty more. AdWords places competitors in direct competition with each other on a search page. And because they’re small ads, most people think of Google AdWords as a piffling little medium. It isn’t – it’s massive. Google AdWords is worth around £4 billion this year in the UK. In ad spend that’s bigger than ITV and Channels 4 and 5 combined. Many mainstream brands spend millions each year on AdWords.

Through its Quality Score mechanism, Google AdWords is the only advertising medium that rewards more effective ads with lower costs. Just think about that for a moment. Now imagine if TV worked like this, and every month someone from a TV sales house pops round to the client and says here’s a big fat rebate cheque because so many of our viewers liked your commercial. Sounds crazy – but that’s exactly how Google AdWords works. If TV companies did behave this way, one thing’s for sure, every CMO in the country would be straight round to their Creative Agency demanding that the best creative team in the shop be permanently assigned to their account.

Let’s give media buyers a break

So who do you think is the best person to be writing AdWords ads? A busy media buyer who has to devote most of their time to managing the entire AdWords account and sees writing copy as the thing they have to do at the end. Or a direct response copywriter who does nothing else but write direct response copy? Almost brings a whole new level of meaning to the expression “no brainer” doesn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be this way

How has this state of affairs come to pass? The answer lies in the way Google AdWords has evolved. At first, brands didn’t pay it much attention, but as its effectiveness grew it attracted significant and growing budgets from brand advertisers. This brought agency groups into the mix. The creative agencies didn’t want to touch AdWords copywriting for two reasons. First, it was beneath them creatively. And secondly, the rate at which agency managements charge out creative time would have made it ridiculously expensive. So that left the media agency with the responsibility of writing AdWords copy. After all, they thought, with all those Google tools, bidding systems, analytics reporting and the like, it made commercial sense for media agencies to lump in AdWords “creative” or “copywriting” as well so that they could sell their service as a stand-alone media product.

The ATO copywriter alternative

The other problem was that clients had nowhere else to go for AdWords copywriting. But now things are a little different. There’s a new breed of copywriter out there called the ATO copywriter. ATO stands for Ad Text Optimization, and ATO copywriters are experienced direct response copywriters who have been trained specifically in the technical aspects of copywriting for Google AdWords. “Bingo!” problem solved then I hear you say. Well, not quite.

So why are only a handful of brands doing it? First, ATO copywriting is relatively new and only a handful of specialists are doing it. And secondly, copywriting is being undervalued in the new emerging digital platforms as the DMA’s Great British Copywriting campaign highlights.

Everyone wins

Everybody can benefit from ATO copywriting. The benefits to the clients are obvious, as discussed above. Media agencies can benefit from working with ATO copywriters because it will allow them to concentrate on what they’re good at, which isn’t writing copy, and their results will improve. Google will benefit because users will have better, more relevant search experiences. And finally copywriters will benefit because ATO copywriting opens up a whole new area of expertise for them to exploit, which only they can do.

We know that copywriting has made a significant impact in each and every new advertising medium its been applied to. Surely, what has always worked in “old media” will work just as well, if not better, in “new media”. The one constant is that people, call them consumers or users, haven’t changed one jot when it comes to responding to good copywriting.

And at no time before have we seen such a widespread surge in the number of new media platforms coming on stream as we’ve witnessed recently with the rise of digital and web based marketing. The biggest financial slice of this pie is paid search which is dominated by Google AdWords. Yet in AdWords copywriting by media buyers is still the default setting. Imagine the difference specialist ATO copywriters can make.

To boldly go…

If you remember Star Trek you’ll be able to recall the scene. Every other week Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise would have landed on some strange planet only to be confronted by an alien creature the likes of which they had never encountered before. It was always left to the redoubtable Mr. Spock to sum up the situation, “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.” It’s the same with Google AdWords. “It’s advertising Jim, but not as we know it.” But if there’s one thing we do know, because history tells us, it’s that copywriting by copywriters has always made a significant difference, wherever it has appeared.

Google AdWords will be no exception, which is hardly rocket science, or indeed illogical.

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