Local and small business advertisers: why you shouldn’t ask why not

How to write better DIY advertising copy … Why not read this great article of mine? “Because I don’t want to, that’s why not.”

Often in local and small business advertising you’ll see a sentence – usually as part of the call to action – that asks “why not (try this, drop in, call for our brochure, look up our website, etc.)”

Why WHY NOT? can detract from your advertising message

You need to show that you’re 100 percent positive about what you’re selling: “why not?” can introduce an element of doubt.

Although it may seem like a polite invitation, that’s the problem: it’s too polite.

Why “why not?” is not a good idea in advertising copy

Ever since I was taught to write ad copy by a hardened former Madison Avenue copy chief back in the last century, it was drummed into my head that “Why not?” nearly always results in “not.”

One problem that the term raises is that it suggests hesitation on the part of the advertiser. “Why not try our lovely fresh pastries? After all, you’ve got nothing to lose, and you might even end up liking them so much you’ll even buy some.”

Given that it’s hard enough to persuade people to buy your stuff at all, introducing an element of “wiggle room” in your selling proposition is a bad idea. You need to show that you’re positive about your products or services. If you don’t feel 100 percent passionate about them, why should anyone else?

Another, related problem with “why not…” is that subliminally at least, some people will take this as a mildly aggressive challenge – see my first sentence at the top of this article. “Why not …? Because I have better things to do with my time. Give me a good reason to engage with your stuff, not some wishy-washy suggestion that implies I’ve got nothing better to do than try out your crappy products.”

Sounds crazy, but it’s true. That’s what my ex Madison Avenue copy chief told me and trust me, he wasn’t as polite about it as I am.

So what works better than “why not?

Let’s start with those pastries. Instead of “Why not try our lovely fresh pastries?” … how about “You’ll love our delicious fresh pastries … drop by this week to sample your favourites…”

“Why not give us a call to discuss your garden planning needs for next spring?” … “Call us now to discuss your garden planning – Spring is just around the corner!”

“Why not come to our open evening and look around the school for yourselves?” … “Be sure to take this opportunity to see our school for yourselves: join us at our open evening”

“Why not let us give your car a winter check over, absolutely free?” … “Don’t miss this chance to have a winter check over for your car – absolutely free.”

How do ad copy sentences beginning with “why not?” affect you?

Do you feel they are less powerful than more positive, thrusting invitations? Please share your views!