Keep It Simple, Stupid!
I wanted to come up with a set of simple, concise rules to explain what goes into great ad copy, but after a little bit of digging it turns out that someone already has. Back in 2000, a group of influential advertising folks selected the best slogans, straplines, taglines, and headlines of the 20th century to form the Advertising Slogan Hall of Fame. And last year, the authors of "A List Apart" (a popular weblog) dissected these 115 items to find out what makes great copy. They were able to summarize it with six simple rules, which also apply quite well to digital signage copywriting tasks:
- Be five words in length
- Don't mention the brand name
- Be declarative
- Be grammatically complete
- Be otherwise standard
- Contain alliteration, metaphor, or rhyme
Remember your Call To Action
Regular readers of the blog know that we're huge proponents of using a persistent call-to-action in digital signage content, whether in the form of a command, declarative statement or mere suggestion. However, we've found that using an imperative (command) statement does tend to work better, especially when the command is immediately actionable. If you ask a viewer to do some task that they can complete immediately (or at least in the very near future), there's a much greater chance that they'll do it. Likewise, easier tasks are more likely to get completed than more challenging ones.
Writing a short, polished and effective call-to-action is still something of an art form. But in the course of researching this, I found a great source of inspiration: Google AdWords. Do a search for any term that's related to what your content is promoting, and chances are that somebody has already thought long and hard about the few dozen or so characters that will best convince viewers to pay attention. Of course, I'm in no way condoning plagiarism, but you should take a look at how successful AdWords campaigns are being conducted before trying to write your own copy. After all, why should you re-invent the wheel when they've already put the time and effort into the necessary research and development? Think of it as inspiration for some approaches that you might try. I also have a few personal preferences that would arguably improve the performance of a call to action, but we honestly haven't tested them as thoroughly as I'd like to (yet). For example:
- Start the call-to-action with a verb
- Keep the verb and subject close together, e.g. "Ask a salesperson for details"
- If you can't keep the call-to-action on screen the whole time, show it several times per spot so that casual viewers have a better opportunity to see it (assuming your spots are more than a few seconds long, of course)
- Follow the guidelines for using the serial position effect, chunking and coding, and contextual relevance!
I know it doesn't seem like rocket science, but simple, straightforward copy and a strong call to action can make the difference between a content spot that converts and one that doesn't. And despite how obvious these tips may seem, I still run into digital signage spots that don't take advantage of them. Airport networks seem to be the worst offenders -- or maybe that's just where I see lots of digital signage, so I'm exposed to them more frequently. In any event, I know that some of our customers in retail, transportation, healthcare and corporate communications were missing at least some of these points, so they were able to make measurable improvements based on our collective findings.
As we've seen today, the message in your call-to-action is crucial to the performance of virtually any digital signage spot. But next week, we'll look at something that can significantly impact how (or if) viewers consume your message: what the text looks like. Coming up, I'll give you a crash course in typography, including the font faces, sizes and layouts that work best to get your message across.