How To: Classified Ads

Champagne Ads On A Beer Budget


All of us working with American Classifieds/Thrifty Nickel papers fully understand how classified advertising is to display advertising what beer is to champagne! It’s cheaper and a lot more of them get used successfully all across America every week. Reader Ads/Classified Word Ads also bring maximum, extremely cost effective results for our weekly advertiser’s products and services.

The most cost effective form of print and web advertising is in our papers every week. Not a brag, it’s a fact!

Too many potential advertisers and readers continue to think that classified ads are read only by lower-income buyers and sellers. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it’s true that you won’t find many ads by physicians and high-priced CPA’s in the reader ads in most of our papers, certain services and products are very appropriate for our classifieds.

Even with the current terrible real estate market, the high-end real estate industry, for example, has taken advantage of classified advertising in some of the luxury-home magazines that are now so popular. This shows that classified ads in themselves are not a stigma, it all depends on the readership of the publication.

In this time of severe economic uncertainly, higher income readers have turned to bargain publications to find affordable items they would normally just go buy new. Pre-owned autos, furniture, and electronics are now bought by households earning in excess of $250,000 annually income. The rich can not stay rich by not searching out bargains when they are all around them.

The day when our papers were only read by bargain hunters on a beer budget have long gone. These typical bargain hunters have now been joined by the champagne budget buying block.

So, we need to be very careful to be sure that we have the most probable successful classified ads running in our papers every week.

From a purely technical stand-point, there are several specific techniques involved in successful classified advertising. First, you have to get the reader’s attention, no matter what economic bracket they are in. Remember that you’re competing with dozens of other classified ads on the page, and the reader’s eye will be attracted to only a few. For this reason, your first 2-4 words should be in larger, bold type (usually offered at no additional per-word charge by our publishers) and it should be eye-catching! Key words and phrases that are always attention-grabbers: ABSOLUTELY FREE, EARN BIG MONEY, SIMPLE AND EASY, WORK AT HOME, GET OUT OF DEBT, PAY YOUR MONTHLY UTILITY BILLS etc. etc.

After you have the reader’s attention, you need to present a benefit to personally stimulate the reader’s interest. Example being, if you’re advertising for work from your home marketing, your ad might begin: “NO DIRECT SELLING REQUIRED. Double your personal income & work from your home.” Or: “EARN THE MONEY YOU NEED TO SUPPLEMENT YOUR FAMILIES INCOME. Work right from your home.” Different products or services will need to be marketed differently with the best text that grabs the most potential users, or buyers.

Before you come to the end of your reader ad or display classified ad, you should also present an indisputable fact, such as mentioning research that has been done or using specific concrete concepts to show the reader how the product or service has been useful to others.

Always end your classified advertising with a call to action. You must always tell your American Classifieds/Thrifty Nickel reader to call or visit your advertiser’s store. The end must always tell the reader what to do to get the special offer, or how to take advantage of the offer…today. Say something like, “Act now, call today, don’t wait, limited time sensitive offer, discount good for first 50 customers that show up, respond now, call or come by now.”

Folks, we have to be sure that every one of our paper’s ads move the bargain hunting readers to action. We have to write and design the very best classified advertising keeping the objectives outlined above.

Our production departments and ad artists have to check every week to see that all the important ingredients of a good classified advertising are present in every reader ad and display ad. In addition, don’t let any of our ads get stale. Every ad must be fresh, every week. Don’t let ads stay the same every issue. Ads must be freshened up. Headlines need to be changed every week along with copy and art. Just as you ‘refresh’ your computer, you have to ‘refresh’ your print ads every issue.

Fact is, just one powerful little classified ad can make your advertiser a lot of money. In our weekly papers, it can sell their products or service for months, even years going forward. In reverse, a poorly worded and designed ad might not produce enough response to economically justify your advertiser even running it with your publication.


I believe that writing great ad copy is an art form, but it is an art that can be easily learned with a little guidance and a little practice. So we need to stop wasting our time writing useless weak ads. We must have our production departments along with our ad representatives write powerful ad copy every issue. To do so, try the following three simple ad tips.

1. The headlines of our classified ads must catch the reader’s attention instantly. Potential users of our publications scan our ads in seconds. In addition our ads are competing with a lot of other local media ads and information for their attention. The headline of our ads must bring that potential user/reader immediate action.

2. The body of our ads must not only hold the reader’s attention, it has to get the reader excited about our advertiser’s products or services. We must be sure our readers become ready and eager to act on all of our advertiser’s ads every week.

3. Every ad we publish, large or small, must successfully target our advertiser’s potential customers for their products or services. Blind ads which are defined that way because they are not specific about what the offer is, may draw some initial attention from our readers, but few will buy and we are looking for buyers, not “tire kickers” for every advertiser. It’s just as easy to write a powerful ad as it is write a weak one when you know and follow the three simple ad design tips above.

We must all remember that our readers are not interested in our advertiser’s products or services, they are only interested in what those products and services will do for them. How will they benefit from using our advertiser’s products or services… that’s the key to writing powerful ads. Write for the sizzle, not the steak!

Our papers have the power of being the local classified leader. Now, more than ever, make sure that every ad we print is the best it can be to best serve our advertisers.


“I have discovered the most exciting, the most arduous literary form of all, the most difficult to master, the most pregnant in curious possibilities. I mean the advertisement. It is far easier to write ten passable effective sonnets, good enough to take in the not too inquiring critic, than one effective advertisement that will take in a few thousand of the uncritical buying public.”

 – Aldous Huxley



Till Next Week, Your Ad-Visor…

Mike Story