Best Advertising Books To Improve Your Ads and Copywriting

by Toby

July 11, 2014

best-business-books-for-advertising-copywritingThere’s nothing worse in advertising than spending money on ads that don’t give you a good return on spend. Do you ever wonder if your ads are even written effectively?

Perhaps you have hired a media buyer that is placing ads for you. Or maybe an ad rep for a local magazine or newspaper sold you on a 6-month advertising package and she is going to help you create your ads.

At the end of the day you know you have to spend on advertising to acquire customers but you can’t afford to waste your money on ineffective ads that aren’t giving you a return on your investment. How can you be confident in the creative? Are the headlines effective? Is the copy written well and designed to make your phone ring?
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Several advertising and copywriting books have greatly influenced my ability to write more effective ads and significantly improve response rates (and return on advertising spend), not only for my own ads but for clients as well.  The core concepts in these advertising books apply to both traditional and online marketing – I could have easily titled this post as the top online advertising books.

Although the books I’m recommending below were written prior to the online marketing boom, and many were written decades ago, but they are classics that have stood the test of time, are referenced by top advertising pros both online and in traditional media. They all get to the core of human psychology and what drives customers to buy and respond.

So behold my short list of best advertising books to improve your ads and copywriting.

Here we go:

  1. Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples.
    This books is one of my all-time favorites.  It’s very tactical with tons of specific examples on how to write headlines, proven formulas for writing headlines that you can grab and implement right away, wrong methods of writing copy, and more.  If you ever want a quick reference on your bookshelf this is a must have. 

    If you need a quick reference to help with brainstorming copy, this books is one to have readily available. 

  2. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
    Ogilvy is still regarded as one of the most successful advertising execs ever. His book is full of examples and How To’s. His advice on advertising spans multiple mediums and industries, discusses business-to-consumer and business-to-business advertising, and is not just focused on copywriting. Not as much of a deep dive tactically as John Caples’ book, but a solid complement with actionable examples.
  3. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
    Another classic that has stood the test of time. This book is short, simple, easy to read and practical at how to write copy, headlines, and sell to your customer through advertising. My favorite quote from the beginning of the book is, “The only purpose of advertising is to make sales!…It is not to keep your name before the people. Treat it as a salesman.” If more companies would adopt this philosophy with their ads they immediately grow profits and increase return on advertising spend.
  4. The Elements of Style. Everything You Need To Know To Write. by William Strunk Jr.
    At only 51 pages, this book doesn’t take long to get through. It’s not necessarily for advertising, but if you have to write copy this book offers help in how to write more effectively, and eliminate common mistakes.
  5. Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz
    Another classic, originally published in 1966, this is not a casual read and is incredibly thorough. The books goes into far more depth and explanation than the prior four books, and covers persuasion, headlines, copywriting and more.

So there you have it – my top advertising books. These five books will put you on a better track.

About the author 

Toby is the co-founder of 39 Celsius. He has over 20 years of digital marketing experience and has started several companies throughout his career. He's an expert in SEO, Social Media Ads, Google Ads, Marketing Automation, and more. He has a BA in Chemistry/Biochemistry from UC San Diego and an MBA from SDSU.

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