It's been a long time since the prehistoric era, but what hasn't changed is the primary drivers that inspire people to act.

PPC professionals always try to answer the question: "What appeals to our customers?"

It turns out the answer is right here in our behavioral story.

Purna Virji, Senior Manager, Global Engagement at Microsoft Advertising, demonstrated in her SEJ eSummit session how centuries-old principles of human psychology can be re-mixed for the proven success with today's paid search customers.

Here is a summary of their presentation.

Caveman Advertising - Exploring the psychology of ad copy

What do diamond rings and oranges have in common?


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Both products have become part of our daily lives through advertising campaigns.

During the Great Depression, De Beers struggled to sell their diamonds. Your advertising agency developed the now famous slogan “A diamond is forever” – and associated it with everlasting love.

Now, generations later, we propose diamond rings.

Orange growers in California faced a major problem in the 1900s.

They picked more fruit than they could sell. What do you do with the excess?

Well, another ad agency came up with a new use for oranges – juice.

It became so popular that orange juice remains a popular drink to this day.

Both examples show you how powerful advertising is and why it has been used for a very long time.

However, in today's modern world, people are increasingly turning to anti-ad.

Everywhere we go we are inundated with advertisements.

However, some people claim that people have fewer attention spans these days.


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That's not the case.

Think about it:

How many people have watched a Netflix series or regularly streamed shows every night?

The truth is that attention span is not the problem.

People will spend time paying attention to what is important to them.

That’s the key.

What interests people and what drives them to action hasn't really changed since the times of the cavemen, other than the clubs and the fire.

Something that has proven itself in the past will work again in completely new forms.

As Claude Hopkins, author of Scientific Advertising, put it:

"Human nature is permanent, which means that the principles of psychology are firm and permanent."

Marketers should consider taking those centuries-old belief systems that have always been a piece of human nature and remixing them for today's advertising-weary customer.

Here are four ways to do this.

1. Make a bargain irresistible

Ever since cavemen learned to trade, they have learned to go back and look for good deals.

What is interesting, however, is that we don't like cheap.

We like to get what we see as a bargain, no matter what the real cost.

Here is an example of the dangers of cheapness as a major benefit.

In 2009, Tata Motors, the same company as Jaguar and Land Rover, wanted to develop a car specifically designed for the Indian market, which is a developing country.

People are increasingly looking for ways to become more mobile and get around.

You'd think that having a car below $ 1,600, probably the cheapest car in the world, is pretty good business.

We know that for many, a car is associated with social status and prestige.

But instead of starting a marketing campaign that focused on the prestige of being able to earn a new car, their marketing campaigns just went out and focused on how this was the cheapest car in the world.


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As you can imagine, it backfired horribly.

Nobody wanted to be seen driving the cheapest car in the world.

How can you turn your next special offer into an irresistible bargain?

Look at the Ellen Langer experiment from the 1970s.

There is a queue at the photocopier.

The researchers had people use three different, specifically worded, queries to get in line.

  • “Sorry, I have five pages. Can I use the Xerox machine? "
  • "Can I use the Xerox machine because I'm in a hurry?"
  • "Can I use the Xerox machine because I need to make copies?"

Here's how the wording affected whether people reconciled them.

  • “Sorry, I have 5 pages. Can I use the Xerox machine? “: 60% conformity.
  • “Sorry, I have 5 pages. Can I use the Xerox machine because I need to make copies? “: 93% conformity.
  • “Sorry, I have 5 pages. Can I use the Xerox machine because I'm in a hurry? ": 94% conformity.


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It all came down to the power of the word "because".

Essentially, the experiment found that people are more likely to say "yes" when given a reason.

So how does that relate to PPC ads?

If you saw the following ad, what would you think of first?

Bargain - PPC ad sample

You would probably think that something is wrong with these bindings.

The deal might be too good to be true.


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What if we add "because"?

Bargain - PPC ad example 2

The ad becomes relatable and can attract users' attention better than the first ad.

Take that away

We're all used to being bombarded with sales and discounts.

Adding a reason for it can make your ads even more compelling.

2. Use the power of surprise

We might think that people are already exhausted and "ad blind".

That's not true at all.


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People just get bored with the usual sales items.

But we can still surprise them.

Surprise is powerful and can charge other emotions, both positive and negative.

Focus on the good to improve the positive mood and get people to act.

Here is an example.

What if you worked for a sports nutrition company and you knew that it took most of your customers an average of three months to complete the box of the protein shake?

In the second month, your company could run an ad like this:

Caveman Promotion: Exploring the Psychology of PPC Ad Copy

When customers see this, they would likely consider re-ordering.


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Not only did this ad come at the right time, it also made a compelling proposition and showered them with a little love of loyalty.

This is a potentially effective way to increase customer life.

Take that away

With every advertising measure, think about how you can bring the unexpected to surprise and inspire searchers.

3. Present your personality

People who appeal to customers still work today.

They arouse emotions and make companies more unforgettable.

After all, we buy on emotions and justify with logic.

This is almost a cliché at this point.

Even so, advertising the logical brain is still the default for many.

Why is that?

Well, because it's difficult not to think about ourselves when creating advertisements.

But let's look at the power of personality and how it can help you stand out.

Here is a classic example.

How crazy is she

Now the florist could have simply listed the different bouquets, prices, flowers used, etc.


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Instead, they reveal their unique personality by speaking about a human situation that many have encountered.

In doing so, they have achieved both trust and sympathy points – and we can bring the same to our PPC ads.

A few years ago when the iPhone 6s came out, Samsung had a similarly named model, the "S6".

And so they decided to run a PPC campaign.

Every time someone searched for the iPhone brand, this ad came up.

Samsung S6 ppc display

You didn't stop there.


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When did the iPhone have the "Bendgate" scandal?

Samsung also had an ad to respond to it.

Caveman Promotion: Exploring the Psychology of PPC Ad Copy

Take that away

Personality is also helpful because it adds an emotional connection and helps establish brand preferences.

Remember to connect and bond with your audience by making your personality shine.

4. Consciously include

All people have a need for connection and inclusion.

This also applies to our advertising and marketing efforts.


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Inclusive marketing is the key to loyalty, especially for marketers targeting Millennials and Gen Z audiences.

Take a look at these statistics:

including marketing statistics

Including advertising, done authentically, feels like connection and family.

It creates feelings of joy and confidence.

According to Microsoft Advertising Research, brands that depict diversity in ads are more authentic and trustworthy.

How can this be applied to PPC?

We are subject to our own prejudices / blind spots when creating campaigns, keyword lists and ad copies.


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We need to shed light on this as an industry as our collective blind spots and unconscious biases can result in the fact that large numbers of our customers may not be served.

Check out this example of poorly designed ads.

Cell phone discount for military

The good thing is that there are inexpensive and low-competitive options for picking for all of us.

In times like these in particular, we are looking for ways to expand our reach, expand our audience, find new segments and differentiate ourselves from our competitors.


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See who is targeting your ads.

To find out, the first thing you want to do is determine whose voice is missing.

Think about the potential groups that could be accidentally excluded. This varies from company to company. However, when you think of traditional groups, they include:

  • Gender.
  • Age.
  • Spoken language.
  • Sexual orientation.
  • Run.
  • Ability.
  • Etc.

Follow these quick tips:

  • Use the Keyword Planner to find my inclusive keywords.
  • Use dynamic search ads to spot exclusions in your keywords and ad copy.
  • Also remember to optimize the shopping campaigns.
    • Your title should include product details with key dates upfront (i.e., "Adaptive", "Ethical", "Sustainable", etc.).

Take that away

A few simple tweaks can yield big profits and increase loyalty.


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Check out this presentation

You can now watch the video of Virji's full presentation from SEJ eSummit.

Caveman Promotion: Exploring the Psychology of PPC Ad Copy

More resources:

Photo credit

Featured image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots by the author, August 2020


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