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How and when to use subliminal messages in your ad copy

How and when to use subliminal messages in your ad copy

Writing ad copy is fast becoming another nature for the experienced paid search markets. It tends to be one of the easiest and most straightforward components of PPC structure and strategy: Ad Copy = Messaging.


But as our industry evolves, the way we write ad copy also remains one of the few constants that does not undergo much change.

While we can all breathe a sigh of relief over this, it is important to recognize that we cannot become complacent with the “light” components of paid search. We must remain diligent in continuing to promote our understanding of how we create ads that affect our target audience.

As brands and advertisers, we are often so focused on creating ad copy that covers what we want to say – but what do we want users to feel?

Subliminal messages are defined as “psychology insufficient to produce conscious awareness but capable of eliciting a response.” And it can be a powerful addition to your ad copywriter arsenal.


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Here are three easy ways you can talk to consumers on an unconscious level by using subliminal messages in your ad copy to elicit a response.

Create a sense of urgency

It is common to see phrases like “Buy Now!” used in ad copy to indicate a clear call to action. The less obvious, but no less important component, can come from creating a call to action through a subliminal sense of urgency.

One way to do this is by using ad customizations, e.g. Countdown adjusters that allow you to add a countdown timer to your ads.

This is perfect for creating FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when you are promoting an upcoming event or getting a discount (whether it is limited time or evergreen).

Count-down customizations can be added to several components of an ad, including title, text, and path.

The intention is to make the user feel that there is a limited time to complete the conversion process and reinforce the need not to miss the opportunity to do so.


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I have found them particularly effective through remarketing.

Another strategy is to use a specific ad copy language, e.g. “Limited time”, “limited (re) stock”, “last chance” or “much in demand”.

This in turn creates the sense of urgency that this product or campaign may run out of at any time.

This potential loss of opportunities can create the need to “buy now,” replacing the need to plan the purchase, wait for a better price, or more carefully consider whether it is something they want or not.

From these two tactics, you could effectively expect an increase in CTR and in conversion rate.

2. Ad customization and connection

Personal ads can really speak to a consumer and help create the sense of connection with your brand that you are trying to achieve.

Try using keyword insertion in your ad copy, where your matched keyword based on the user’s search query will be dynamically inserted into your ad copy.

This is possible within the ad title, text or URL path.

You can think of keyword insertion as the paid search engine to mirror someone – a common psychological tactic of copying or mirroring their verbal or non-verbal behavior back to someone to subconsciously create a sense of intimacy and trust.

While it is likely that you will see an increase in CTR from this tactic, there are other benefits to using keyword insertion.

This can include better relevancy scores from search engine algorithms, which can lead to higher quality results and improvements in ad ranking and potentially even lower CPCs.

The inserted keyword will also appear in bold in the ad copy and immediately attract the user’s attention to the part that is relevant and will feel most familiar to them.

Use strategic and conscious language

Make sure your ad copy language is strategic and intentional. Think about whether users are more or less likely to click (and convert) with small tweaks to the wording or language you use.


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We now see the use of the “99 cent” pricing modifier as an industry standard and best practice (e.g. spend $ 19.99 instead of $ 20.00 on pricing).

However, there are other ways to update rhetoric to make it more enticing.

One scenario is when you run a campaign, e.g. A “50% off” campaign in your ad copy.

While this is a good campaign, you may want to consider testing whether using a Buy One Get One (BOGO) language in your ad copy helps improve your CTRs and conversion rates.

This can be a more stimulating offer to consumers and comes with the added bonus for the advertiser of potentially getting the consumer to buy more products and generate more revenue with BOGO, as opposed to offering a single product with a 50% discount.

Another example considers the campaign itself — if it were a dollar-based rebate, would a percentage-based rebate seem “greater” to a consumer even if the actual value of the rebate is the same?


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Or the other way around?

Consider what the user will be more captivated by and elicit the answer you are looking for.

Important takeaways

When drafting and / or re-evaluating your strategy of writing influential ad copy, consider subliminal tactics that elicit a response from your consumers on an unconscious level.

Whether you’re trying to create a sense of urgency or FOMO, write a personal ad, or be aware of how your ad copy language resonates with your target audience, do not be afraid to get creative and test ad examples that are out of the norm. – or at least your norm.

Look to appeal to a sense of brand loyalty, create relatable messages through humor, build an air of exclusivity or even evoke a sense of nostalgia.

Ultimately, the end goal is to carefully consider who your target audience is and what the best way is for you to influence and connect with them through 180 characters.

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