3 PPC Ad Tips Inspired by Infomercials

A few weeks ago at ad:tech New York, Matthew Lesko stopped by my company’s booth and freaked me out by doing this! And as that finger haunted me for the following couple of nights, it got me thinking about the success he’s had with infomercials and if there were any search marketing lessons to be learned from them.

Turns out, there are. Take these three classic infomercial pitch principles:

1. Make the Product/Service Look Effortless to Use

Pitchmen go to great lengths to make the use of their Slap Chop/Ginsu knife/OxiClean product look effortless. And they go to even further lengths to demonstrate ease of use, either by operating the Slap Chop with one finger or cutting a Ginsu through a soda can, or chanting “Set-it-and-forget-it.”

i-see-billy-maysImage courtesy of cheesburger.com

2. Make the Prospect Visualize the Process/Benefit

This may seem easy to do in an infomercial, since you can just demonstrate the product. But notice how the demos are always scenario-based; they don’t just use the product, they create a typical backstory that would fit right into your own life, and then they demo the product as part of that scenario. The idea is to get you to relate to the story, and therefore, visualize yourself using the product/service in a similar situation.

3. Make the Offer Clear

As the saying goes, “A confused prospect does not buy.” The easier to understand you make your offer, the better your chances are of making a sale.

Have you ever seen an infomercial that left you confused about what you would get for your money? Or how much the payment was? Or how to order?

(OK, maybe just that one time Vince said you’d love his nuts in the Slap Chop infomercial!)

The 3 Principles in Action: Winning & Losing PPC Ads

When you’re done replaying the video to everyone else at the office, let’s look at these principles in action, and how they’ve been used to boost the performance of some PPC ads; starting with this one about DIY rental agreements:


Notice how the winning ad walks the prospect through the process, demonstrating just how easy it is to use the rental agreement.

Even though the losing ad also has the “Print, Save, Send” trifecta, the overall wording doesn't make it sound easy. The first line of copy makes it sound as if the buyer will have to make the agreement, rather than downloading it. This muddies the perceived offer and makes the winning ad seem clearer by comparison.

All in all, the winning ad makes the legal form service look easy, gets the prospect to visualize the process, and makes a clearer offer than the losing ad. A nice clear difference that boosted the click-through rate (CTR) by over a third.

Now look at this ad for a Ford clearance sale:


The winning ad only does two things the losing ad doesn’t, and it does them both in the second line of body copy:

  • It promises that the process is easy. 
  • It helps the prospect imagine clicking on the ad and finding a great deal on a Ford.

And that’s enough to score a whopping 148 percent increase in CTR.

One more for good measure? Check out this ad for college sports recruiting:


Again, note how the winning ad helps the prospect visualize using the service to “Find Top Scholarships Now” – a line that engages the imagination and makes the offer much, much clearer. No wonder the winning ad beat the losing one with a 51 percent increase in CTR.

So, as it turns out, there are lessons to be learned from successful infomercials. Now that you know some of them, go boost your PPC ads!

About the author

Named one of the top 20 most influential PPC experts by PPC Hero, Noran is a digital marketing consultant, columnist, speaker and instructor. She is a board member of the local Los Angeles chapter of SEMPO, as well as an Associate Instructor of the Master Certification in Conversion Optimization Course at Market Motive.

She specializes in analyzing the PPC customer journey, creating buyer momentum and optimizing their experience from click to conversion. Her passion for understanding today's customer is a key driver to her analysis of industry trends and keeping up with the latest in PPC, voice of customer, analytics, and conversion optimization.

In addition to writing for publications such as SES Magazine and ClickZ, Noran is also a frequent speaker at the SES conferences, the Internet Marketing Conference and the Online Marketing Summit.

When Noran is not online, she is either traveling or diving with sharks in the Red Sea.