Is Leading On Price Good Or Bad In Advertisements [Copywriting Tips]

This week’s series of posts is mostly about pricing. We kicked off on Monday about the price of nothing and the value of everything (see that here). So it makes sense to see how leading advertisers are positioning their products.

Enter ‘iPhone 12’ in Google search and you might see something like this (this is the first advert that came up):

iPhone 12 – Give something wonderful

A joy to behold. And hold. Shop now. £4 for 2-hour delivery on all eligible products for a limited time in selected areas. A14 Bionic chip. Ceramic Shield. 5G.

As you can see, it doesn’t lead on price (although the delivery cost is mentioned in the body text). As it’s December, it makes sense to lead on Christmas (or the holiday season). ‘Giving’, ‘joy’, and ‘beholding’ all have relevancy at Christmas, aligning the body copy with the headline.

They slip in a benefit in the second sentence, which ties ‘joy’ and ‘hold’ together (remember they have a very limited number of characters to get the message across).

The call to action comes next ‘Shop now’, followed by the first notion of price – £4 for delivery – which is immediately followed by a huge benefit – get it in 2 hours (plus some T&C’s in case they can’t deliver).

The last 3 pieces of information are features aimed at geeks (because if you don’t know what an A14 Bionic chip is, well, you’re evidently not qualified enough to get your hands on one of these hot little babies are you?).

The landing page for this ad is a big fail because it doesn’t tie in the holiday season at all. Instead, it geeks out even more on features, with the lead switching to speed (“Blast past fast”).

Everything else on the landing page supports the speed angle (plus a few more features such as being a little thinner and smaller).

Compare this with the second ad on the page:

£24.99/month – iPhone 12 – With free next day delivery

Contract killer. Join Raylo and get your Brand New iPhone 12 for £24.99pm. Pay way less..

There’s no doubting this leads on price – it’s the first thing we see. They’re selling the iPhone 12 as a commodity – it’s like a challenge: “Beat this or eat your heart out!”. We also know we can get it the next day with no delivery charge (a benefit).

But the landing page has precisely ZERO benefits. They know the audience doesn’t need to be sold on anything OTHER than price, except they make one major mistake. The default price on that page is £3 more (£27.99). You have to click on the iPhone 12 Mini option to find the advertised price.

As a consumer, I’d be wary of that. If I was paying for this, I would tell it like it is and not try to get an edge by misleading words (and by that I mean, an iPhone 12 is not the same as an iPhone 12 Mini).

But that would mean messing around with our very limited number of characters in the headline. So here’s how I would word it and still keep the low monthly cost:

£24.99/month iPhone12 Mini – free next day delivery.

I might try a tricksy variation on this by calling it an iPhone12M if I thought the word ‘Mini’ would put people off, but that’s debatable and may break Apple’s and Google’s terms.

Here’s the third and final ad (Google’s result page for this search actually starts with a carousel ad covering a bunch of different sellers, but what we really want to see is the creative being used on very expensive PPC ads like these):

Get The iPhone 12 64GB On O2 – Treat Yourself This Christmas

Get The iPhone 12 64GB Today And Save Up To £144 When You Pay £37.37 A Month On O2.

This one leads on the holiday season too, and chucks in a feature (64GB). It also hopes that its reputation is super strong by mentioning the brand name (O2) twice.

The landing page has zero benefits, but aligns with the holiday season via some Christmassy graphics.

The first ad (from Apple) is there because Google, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that it’s the highest quality ad (assuming you believe everything they tell us about Quality Score – I’m not sure if you couldn’t get to the top of Google simply by upping your bid to a massively overpriced number – but no one’s fool enough to do that are they…).

I then changed the Google search term to ‘iPhone 12 buy’ to see if that changed the results. It did, but only by a little. Apple stayed top with the same ad. Raylo disappeared completely (telling me the cost of that keyword was too high for them, or it attracted buyers who didn’t particularly care about price, so they removed it).

And finally, I forced the algorithm to put ‘price’ ahead of everything by searching for ‘iPhone 12 buy cheap’. Apple and the other corporate advertisers disappeared completely (who wants to be associated with ‘cheap’) and were replaced by deal type sites.

Here are the 3 ad headlines:

Best Apple iPhone 12 Deals – Exclusive Christmas Deals

Cyber Monday: £150 off Cyber Monday – Cheap iPhone X – Review before you Buy

Only the ‘Very’ ad uses the searched for term ‘cheap’ in its ad. Is that good or bad? I think it fails because whilst we all want ‘cheap’ we don’t want to be told it’s cheap. We want to be told it’s the BEST DEAL or something else that implies cheap without saying so.

However, since ‘Very’ is a respected brand, it probably works fine.

What’s the point of all this analysis? It’s to get us copywriters to start looking deeply at what’s going on in the world of advertising – and to start doing it everyday. Every one of these ads was written with intent. The words weren’t slung together on a whim (at least I hope not), they were thought about over a period of time, then tested against other headlines (and hopefully still being tested right now).

The people writing them were paid good money (because what’s at stake everytime someone clicks an ad IS a great deal of good money). But more importantly, every one of these writers is a professional copywriter, so should you ever be put in charge of an account like any of these, you need to know your onions.

PS. I wrote this because I’m often asked if I can show people some copy either I’ve worked on or some other professional has. My reply is always the same. Copy is everywhere. Take a look at anything being advertised and you will find what you’re really searching for – REAL copy.

PPS. Don’t mistake REAL copy for all the IM industry copy you see – eg. the “Make 7 Figures In 24 Hours – Hurry, Limited Time Offer” style of ad. Whilst it’s possible to do this (by using outrageous claims), the people that actually achieve it are as rare as hen’s teeth.

PPPS. Is it better to lead on price? No. Price is just another angle you can use in the rich plethora of Big Ideas.

Ready for the next part in this mini series on price? Here it is:


price, Value

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