Selling Your Art: Writing an Ad

Ads help your clients understand your work. If the client doesn’t understand your work, they won’t  buy it.  If the client can’t understand your ad,  they won’t understand your art and you won’t make a sale.

Sell your features AND your benefits (Image:

Several years ago, there was a trend for artists to use their pets in the ad. The reason? A pet supposedly made the artist seem more appealing, interesting, human or fun. Generally the pet’s name was included as well as a title, “Chief Tester,” or “Canine of the Board.” I never thought this was a good idea. Adding an element you aren’t selling requires an explanation, and that’s a waste of valuable ad space.

Rule #1 for art ads: Show your art. It’s what you are selling. If you do pet portraits, paintings, or other artwork, you can put your pet in the picture. Otherwise, leave your pet out of the picture.

Rule #2: Give the clients a reason to like your work. Close ups of your art is best. If your art is functional, showing it in use is also a good idea. Clothing is almost always shown on gorgeous models so you can imagine yourself looking that wonderful if you wear that item.

Rule #3: Talk to your audience. That means you have to know who your audience is. Hint–it’s not “everyone.” Use words, references, and ideas your audience knows and approves of. If your target audience is young women between the ages of 16 and 30, skip the references to Woodstock, Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy and fountain pens.

Rule #4: Keep the copy simple. The best copy includes the features of your product (characteristics that make it special) and the benefit to your client. (Benefit is how your product will make the user’s life easier). I know it might sound obvious that a waterproof purse lining will not absorb spills from your water bottle, but the reader may not be thinking about that.

Rule #5: Include your contact information. Give the reader at least one way to see more of your work (store hours, website) and one way to reach you (phone number or email.) And include the name of your business as well.

Rule #6: Show the price. This is controversial. Many artists believe hiding the price keeps clients from rejecting it before the artists speaks to them about it. I don’t believe this. If the client is shopping by price alone, and will eliminate your piece only because the price is too high, the price will always be too high. I’ve tried it both ways, and I get more sales if I show the price.

Yes, ad writing can be complicated. Yes, there are a lot more rules. But if you follow the ones above, you’ll have an ad people will understand. And that’s a big step forward.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist and a trainer in communicating clearly. She has a business site and an art site. (c) 2008-9 All rights reserved.

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