Writing Ads to Promote a New App: What Works, What Doesn’t

Photo: Baby Steve Jobs

“I’m designing a new app” is the new “I’m writing a screenplay” for creative types who want to get rich quick — or just impress attractive women at cocktail parties.

Yes, a rare few do actually manage to create a killer app with potential. The next step (at least for the marketing team) is breaking through the very crowded Apple barrel. A good start is to write an effective online ad. A study from idea.org looked at what worked … and what was a dismal failure.

First, here’s what not to do: Mention the price. Or include fancy graphics. Surprised? Me, too. Turns out the most effective ads are simple, text-based ads — and shorter is better.

In fact, text-based ads outperformed visual bling by a startling margin. As in, no one in this study even clicked on the ad with the image, and lots of people checked out the app when it was a simple, single-line request.

The top performer?

“Have an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch? Check out our app.”

The four takeaways from this study:

  1. Text is better than graphical (a lot better).
  2. Shorter is better.
  3. Bright yellow highlighting helps.
  4. Don’t include a price on the ads.

You can read the full study here (from 2011, but still very relevant). Or just go back to writing that screenplay — the one about the app that takes over the world.

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