OUCH! How to Recover from an Ad Copy Belly Flop

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It was now or never.

My attempt of a one-and-a-half front flip could no longer be avoided.

Behind me was the climb up the cold, steel ladder. Before me, the dreaded 3-metre springboard.

I steadied myself and began the tentative approach.

As my full weight came down on the end of the board, the tension of the fiberglass strained beneath my feet.

I was in it. There was no turning back.

The board shot back up, launching me like a rocket into the powder blue sky. Such perfection. Nothing could stop me now. The thrill of victory was within my grasp.

I began my rotation. But before I knew it – “spinning like a record, baby, right round, round, round” – the world blurred out of control…

The moment of impact? A thing of legend.

The fusion of my belly becoming one with the pool’s surface detonated like the crack of a sonic boom. An epic flop, if you will.

Ah, memories. They SO love to remind us that mistakes were made.

Sure, not everything works on the first try. Or the second. Or even the third. Sometimes you belly flop – that’s life. 

Failure’s a difficult subject though. And it’s one many avoid. But without it, what would drive us to succeed?

As copywriters, we’re not strangers to a belly flop now and again. Especially when it comes to ad copy, which could fondly be described as the ‘olympic gold level’ of copywriting. 

Fear not.

With a few small tweaks in how you respond to it, you can learn to see failure in a positive light and soothe that bruised ego. 

Don’t worry. It’s easier than you think. And these quick tips for 3 fundamental heavy hitters will tune you right up.


But before we dive in, did I mention advertising isn’t an exact science?

I’ve had ad copy fail more than a few times. It sucks. And I know I’m not alone.

Thankfully, copy’s not always the culprit. Unseen variables are everywhere. World events. Politics. Even natural disasters can cause hiccups in the most carefully laid plans.

But, when your copy doesn’t land with a ‘cha-ching, things can easily spin out of control. Stress and anxiety can pull you under fast if you don’t manage it. And that’s no bueno.

It’s safe to say, most of us aren’t robots. Thoughts and emotions are going to get the better of us, like it or not. So, let’s get a leg up and learn how to fight back.

The Negativity Effect

We humans possess an interesting little feature called The Negativity Effect or Negativity Bias. It comes standard with every model. Basically, we put more weight on the bad than on the good or neutral stuff.

For example, you’re driving along, waving happily to hundreds of people as you go. They smile and wave back. But one person flips you the V-sign. It ruins your day. You can’t get past it. Boom. Negativity Bias at work.

Turns out, we’re naturally hard-wired to pay attention to bad weather, bad people, questionable ads on Facebook and so on. So, in a protective sense, bad is stronger than good. Strangely enough, that’s good. Not bad.

And here’s the beautiful part. Simply being aware of this allows us to change gears. You can benefit immediately by consciously making positive changes.

Pretty cool, right? To find out more, check out The Power of Bad.

But with all this self-control comes great power.

So let’s use it and shake things up.


My, oh, my, the company we keep

Occasionally, we need to clean house and remove unwanted party crashers. When self-doubt rears its mangy head, feel free to give it a swift kick up the backside. And, on its way out the door, tell that pesky imposter syndrome to ‘Take your doubt and shove it’.

If that doesn’t do the trick, try these 5 easy steps from skillsyouneed.com to help take control.


5 tips to manage failure

  1. Take a step back. This move is key to seeing the bigger picture. To get perspective. It helps to know where you’re at to figure out where you need to go.
  2. Don’t make it personal. Learn to separate who you are from what you do. It doesn’t change who you really are as a person. You’re still that same lovable you.
  3. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You know what they say about opinions and armpits. Everybody has them…yada, yada, yada. Try to define things on your own terms. Forget the rest.
  4. Take responsibility if the failure was yours. Don’t blame yourself for everything. Only what’s within your power to control. But own it.

    And finally,

  5. Learn from your mistakes, improve and move on. But, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The more eyes on a project, the better. And people are always willing to help. Mostly.

Give it a whirl. You could be back rockin’ copy in no time. Attacking the problem with a clear head. And when you’re done, you can sit down and sink your teeth into a juicy success burger.

Fundamentally speaking

Now you’re powered up and ready to rock. Let’s cannonball into some quick tips for 3 heavy hitters that can change the game.

And as every copywriter knows, it all starts with…

  1. Research

“Advertisers who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore the signs of the enemy.” — David Ogilvy

Bottom line, there is nothing more important for successful copywriting. 

How to research like a pro:
  • Become the customer: Buy the product. Use it. Learn it inside and out. First hand experience is an incredibly valuable insight. 
  • Listen more to what customers are saying: What do they want? Pay attention to ‘where they’re at’ (customer awareness) and meet them there. 

    In-person interviews, online surveys, Reddit user groups and review mining are all great sources.

  • Find the “golden nugget”: Discover the one thing about the product that competitors have missed. Eugene Schwartz and Claude Hopkins wouldn’t steer you wrong.

If you don’t know your customer and your product, there’s not much that luck will do for you.  Become the expert. You’ll be glad you did.

2.The Headline

“If you use a poor headline, it does not matter how hard you labor over your copy because your copy will not be read.” — John Caples

The most important element of your ad. You have about 3 seconds to grab someone’s attention with your headline. If they move on, your sale doesn’t. It’s that simple. 

3 tips to turn you into a headline master:
  • Keep it simple and powerful: Get right to the point. Use short words. Be clear, not clever.
  • Identify your target audience: Call out to people most interested in what you’re selling.
  • Use headline formulas: These help you save time and learn what works.

Check out CopyBlogger for these 22 headline formulas to get you started.

  1. The Call to Action

Move it or lose it.

A great Call to Action guides the customer through the sale. Simply and directly send them to their next step. 

Grab these CTA tips today!

  • Use a strong command verb: Be clear, direct and tell them exactly what to do.
  • Offer one choice: Don’t confuse the customer. Keep it as simple as possible.
  • Create a sense of urgency: Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a great motivator. 

You’ve set the hook. Now reel them in.

Learn to ‘CTA’ like a pro from The Creative Copywriter’s very own big kahuna himself, Konrad Sanders. Read it now.

Finally, our secret weapon. Before you send off your ad copy, take a run through our 13 Lenses Methodology. For the sharpest copy on the block, these tips will get you there. Give it a go.

One last splash 

I think we can agree, it’s never fun when your ad copy tanks. But you’re not alone. And now, armed with these solid tools, you can send those ugly feelings packing. Stay strong and rock that copy.

FYI, after immersing myself in and practising the fundamentals, I got back up and totally nailed that dive.

Remember your failures. And learn from them. Because every belly-flop moves you closer to that perfect 10.


If you found this useful, please go ahead and spread the love. Share it with coworkers, friends or anyone you think could benefit from this information.


Download our FREE, expert eBook to unravel the mysteries of high converting copy.


Download our FREE, expert eBook to unravel the mysteries of high converting copy.

About the author

Jeremy Walsh Freelance Copywriter
A Rubik’s Cube of ideas and creative communication. Jeremy blends down-to-earth humor, story and relatable content to reach audiences in a language they understand.

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