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Classified advertising on much fun!

Posted by: Editor on 4/14/2011
We’ve been spending a lot of time of late perusing the classified ads.  We’re in the process of another round of investment in our collection, and so we’re keeping a close eye on the classifieds for potential new additions.  Today we saw a classified headline that stuck out, and it triggered the desire on our part to write a little about why we find classified advertising on Kingsnake to be so much fun.  Read on if interested.

The headline in question read “EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE ONE – NOW YOU CAN OWN ONE!”  This is an interesting headline for several reasons and provides an excellent opportunity to explore the psychology of classified advertising.  The classified advertising section on Kingsnake is essentially a reverse chronological listing of ads within the last 30 day, 80 ads per page. Each ad has the following six variables: 1) date, 2) opportunity for placement of small thumbnail photo, 3) a headline describing the contents of the ad, 4) the name of the person or business posting the ad, 5) location of the seller, and finally 6) the time of day that you decide to post your ad.  These are the six variables that sellers have to try to distinguish their ad from that of the next person, and we suspect none is more important than the headline!  Most professional advertisers would probably tell you that the headline is the most important part of an advertisement, as far more people read headlines than the actual underlying content.  For this reason, writing an effective headline is critical to any successful advertising campaign.

So what makes an effective headline?  Taking a page out of David Ogilvy’s masterful “Confessions of an Advertising Man,” there are a few “musts” that Ogilvy recommends for impactful headline construction. First, you have to have one.  According to Ogilvy, not having a headline “is the wickedest of all sins.” Second, you must convey information about the product without discouraging any particular demographic.  If it’s a piebald ball python you want to sell, piebald better be in the headline and there should be nothing that discourages women from viewing the add.  Third, every effective headline should promise some benefit to the potential customer. Fourth, use clichés!  While outwardly “cheesy,” words and phrases like Amazing, Gorgeous, Perfect, Beautiful, Nice, The Best, Just Arrived, Super, Wow, SCREAMER, Announcing, Introducing and Best on Kingsnake actually work.  Clichés are clichés for a reason!  Fifth, don’t be afraid of long headlines.  Sixth, include some kind of lure to read on. S eventh, avoid tricky or “blind” headlines that require you read the copy to understand them.  And finally, don’t use negatives.  If you say “No eating problems,” people will read and remember “eating problems” instead.

Clearly effective headline construction is part art and part science, and this brings us to the core of why we find classified advertising on Kingsnake to be so much fun.  As we’ve discussed elsewhere on the site, we use Hudson Valley Herpetological LLC for a variety of purposes.  We use it as the vehicle for managing and expanding our reptile collection, fulfilling our interest and passions as reptile enthusiasts.  Our captive breeding activities allow us to explore our interests in evolution, biology, and natural history.  We also, however, like to use HVH as a lens through which we can explore, learn about, and understand human psychology.  Why do people keep and collect snakes, or anything else for that matter?  What makes someone buy one snake vs. another?  What makes people click on a particular advertisement?  Classified advertising on Kingsnake is a perfect avenue for exploring exactly these types of issues!

When you list an ad on Kingsnake you create the opportunity to collect quite a bit of interesting data.  To start with, once you post an ad, Kingsnake tracks how many people view your ad during the period in which it is posted.  This data is fairly straight forward, and provides an opportunity to experiment with different kinds of headlines to see what delivers the best click through rates (CTRs).  Obviously if you post an ad, you want people to click on it to view the content of your post. By experimenting with different headlines, you can use the CTR on each one to optimize the types of headlines that tend to get the best response.  We find these kinds of experiments to be a lot of fun, very informative, and often financially rewarding over time.

But CTRs are only the beginning.  Once you’ve gotten people to your ad, you want to provide copy in the body of the ad that gets people to do what you want them to do, which may or may not be more complex than simply getting them to purchase your product.  For example, perhaps you want people who view your ads to visit your website.  You can very easily track and measure how many people who view your classified ad click through to your website by using simple tracking tools like Google Analytics.  Let’s say you run two different ads in succession for the same product, posted at the same time of day and for the same duration - one that is long and has a lot of copy associated with it and one that is extremely short and only lists the minimum details about the product.   In each ad, which one induces more people to click on the link to your web page?  Simple experiments such as these can yield very interesting and sometimes counterintuitive results.  We like to try and use the selling process at HVH to explore these kinds of issues, and we have a lot of fun doing it.

So, back to the headline that originally got us going on this topic – “EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE ONE – NOW YOU CAN OWN ONE!”  We’re going to step out on a limb and say that this is an example of a “blind” headline.  What does it mean?  It was posted in the ball python section of the classifieds so we know presumably it is for a ball python, but what kind? We have no idea.  The headline gives us only a riddle.  Will this riddle entice people to click through?  Ogilvy’s extensive research would suggest that CTRs for this headline should be disappointing.  We would be curious to know if this advertiser got meaningfully fewer page views for this particular ad when compared to other ads they have posted with more specific product information in the headline.  For our part, we decided to click on it for research purposes!  And what did we find, you may be curious?   The seller in question was selling a female woma x pinstripe ball python, also known as a “WINNER!”


Categories: Business |
Tags: Advertising |
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