Little did I know in 1999 that my high school English teacher was going to teach me a lesson that would be extremely valuable for future PPC ad copy writing.

Somewhere between analyzing the corrupting power of unchecked ambition in Macbeth and teaching us to use three strong supporting points to advance a hypothesis, Mr. Maretzki emphasized the importance of showing vs. telling.  He instructed us to paint a picture with our words.  He told us not to get lazy with our adjectives.  Most importantly, he insisted that we distinguish our thoughts on a topic in a way that made those thoughts more valuable than other writing on the topic.

These lessons are surprisingly applicable to writing ad copy for PPC.  Your ad is meant to be a portal between a consumer’s search and an advertiser’s solution in the form of a landing page.  Your job in writing ad copy is to convince the consumer that you are providing the best portal to accomplish that.  There are often ten other ads on the page for a given query.   How do you distinguish yourself?  How do you stand out?

Every time I see an advertiser talking about their great selection, great prices, or easy-to-use product I cringe.  Did you hear me when I said you were competing against ten other advertisers?  What makes you think that sort of generic language will induce a click on your ad?

When I speak to some of these very same advertisers about what makes their product or service better than those ten other competitors, I’m typically met with an impassioned soliloquy about the fantastic and distinguishing features of their business.  Those features need to be reflected in PPC ad copy.

The best trick for showing not telling in ad copy is to ask yourself why.  Why is our selection great?  Why are our prices good?  Why is our software easy to use?

Some examples of generic ad copy that tells vs. ad copy that shows below:


Tells Shows
– Great Prices Every Day. – Blue Widgets Starting at $89!
– Huge Selection of Couches. – Shop 300+ Leather & Suede Couches.
– High Quality Lead Software. – Increase Qualified Leads by 300%.
– Quick & Easy Set Up. – Launch the App in 5 Minutes.
– Top Enterprise CRM Software. – 75% of the Fortune 500 Trust Us.
– Premium Lead Scoring Software. – Gartner – Top Lead Scoring.
– Trusted & Reliable Platform. – 40,000+ Customers Globally.


As Mr. Maretzki also taught me, nobody likes to critique his own work.   How do you evaluate whether you’ve written PPC ad copy that actually stands out?  Be honest with yourself: if you searched a given query, would you be most likely to go find what you were looking for by clicking on your ad or a competitor’s ad?  If it’s the latter, that probably means it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Finally, it should go without saying that these new ads should still be tested against the prevailing winning copy.  Ad copy that shows, like the examples above, typically beats out the generic copy, but making that assumption can get you in trouble.  Have the humility to test your ad and let the data do some show and tell of its own to confirm you’re on the right track.