The Magic Of ‘Show Don’t Tell’ Advertising


Ad copywriting is one skill that can take years — sometimes even decades — to master. But there are a handful of tips that’ll shorten your learning curve.

Tom Wanek, here, and you’re watching Wizard Marketing TV, where business owners learn persuasive tools and techniques to spark miraculous growth.

Stay tuned and I’ll share one of the greatest copywriting techniques that is sure to electrify your ad copy.


Good ad writing—persuasive ad writing—is as much about the concepts you use as it is about your ability to artfully string together a sentence.

Hands down, one of the greatest ad writing techniques I’ve learned is to show, rather than tell.

Just about every young fiction writer receives this advice early on in his or her career. And it’s damn-good advice that every ad copywriter should receive as well. So, now I’m giving it to you.

Science-fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer, beautifully explains the “show, don’t tell” concept:

“Every writing student has heard the rule that you should show, not tell, but this principle seems to be among the hardest for beginners to master.

First, what’s the difference between the two? Well, “telling” is the reliance on simple exposition: Mary was an old woman. “Showing,” on the other hand, is the use of evocative description:

Mary moved slowly across the room, her hunched form supported by a polished wooden cane gripped in a gnarled, swollen-jointed hand that was covered by translucent, liver-spotted skin.

Both showing and telling convey the same information — Mary is old — but the former simply states it flat-out, and the latter — well, read the example over again and you’ll see it never actually states that fact at all, and yet nonetheless leaves no doubt about it in the reader’s mind.

Why is showing better? Two reasons. First, it creates mental pictures for the reader. When reviewers use terms like “vivid,” “evocative,” or “cinematic” to describe a piece of prose, they really mean the writer has succeeded at showing, rather than merely telling.

Second, showing is interactive and participatory: it forces the reader to become involved in the story, deducing facts (such as Mary’s age) for himself or herself, rather than just taking information in passively.”

See, this is where most advertising falls short. Most ad writers are lazy. Their advertising tells the audience what the company is good at—usually in the form of ho-hum clichés—but it never demonstrates these qualities in rich, colorful detail.

Let’s look at an example:

“When you want the job done right, call Done-Right Heating. Our work is the best, guaranteed.”

That statement rings hollow, doesn’t it? There’s no meat to the bone.

Now, here’s the same idea, but written to show rather than tell:

“When we say we do what’s right by you, we really mean it. That’s not just happy talk either. See, at Done-Right Heating we refuse to do a job—any job—unless it’s done the right way. Picture perfect in every way.

We even gave one of our vendors the boot when they refused to stand behind their product and replace a defective control module on a heat pump. Those knuckleheads asked us to ignore the problem and hide the defect from our customers.

Well, that’s not how we do things around here, so we fired the vendor and replace 162 defective heat pumps on our own dime.”

Wow! Now you have a dramatically different mental picture of the company and the message it sends. You now know—you now believe—in your heart of hearts that this company will go to any length to protect your best interests. They are champions for your home, comfort and safety.

Never forget that we live in a noisy, over communicated society. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with all kinds of claims such as having the lowest prices, best service, widest selection and so much more. Because of this, the grizzled, skeptical buying public demands proof that you are who you claim to be.

Proof comes in the form of specifics, which are more powerful and believable than generalities.

It’s not enough to merely state that you’re a “champion” for your customer’s home, comfort and safety. You have to dive deeper … you have to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. And the way you prove it is by showing rather than telling.

Give your customer a specific example of a time when you stood up for them and refused to cut corners … when you refused to do the job any way, but the right way.

Electrify your ad copy. Show rather than tell. It works magic every time.

Alright Marketing Wizards, did you like this video? Then do me a big, BIG favor … please subscribe and share it with peeps all across the YouTubes and the Interwebs.

And now it’s time to hear from you. Send in your marketing and advertising questions. Hit me up at, and I’ll give you an answer right here.

Always remember, we’re in this together. I’ve got your back. I’ll see you real soon.

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