Copywriting formulae: are they all that?

Having worked in sales for a number of years before I became a copywriter I was exposed to a number of selling techniques, many of which could be condensed into handy acronyms or were made memorable in some other way.

However, not all sales formulae transfer to the written page and they don’t all work in every marketing scenario. So which ones could be useful to a copywriter and which can we leave to the verbal communicators?


This was the first sales technique I was ever taught – it stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Urgency and Action.

AIDUA actually a pretty resilient process, and while you would never write page after page of a brochure or website using it, a long copy advert or sales letter employing this formula could be very effective.


I’ll be straight with you – I’m not a fan of PAS. The idea behind it is that you identify a Problem, Aggravate it and then Solve it.

My main issue with PAS is that most people are more likely to buy when they’re in a positive frame of mind and unless it’s executed cleverly PAS runs the risk of making the reader very unhappy – no matter how fantastic your solution is.

Despite this fact, you regularly see adverts on TV using such a device, and insurance salesman and financial advisors are infamous for trying to scare their prospects into action.

Useful, Urgency, Unique, Ultra-specific

Not so much a roadmap for how to sell, this technique reminds the writer of some of the most important aspects of effective copy. While it’s always important to make sure that you are of use to your reader – and to instil a sense of urgency in them – by demonstrating that your product is unique (and it will be, in some very detailed way) you can set yourself apart from the competition.

Being ultra-specific is always important when gaining your reader’s trust. While approximations on figures run the risk of appearing as bloated estimates, by explaining your averages or best performance down to the last decimal point you’ll leave your reader in no doubt to exactly how good your product or service really is.


Employed regularly by copywriting legend Victor O Schwab, AAPPA encourages you to get your readers Attention; explain the Advantage you can give them; Prove this by use of facts; Persuade them to let you help and then finally ask them to take Action.

In many ways AAPPA is like AIDUA, although the crucial difference is the reliance on data to make your case. Of course, if you have powerful and relevant data available it’s hard to imagine why you wouldn’t use it, but this formula also succeeds in that it insists you ask the reader to take action: something that’s non-negotiable in my opinion.

It’s clear that some of these could work very well while others might struggle. What’s most important for the person writing your copy is that they have the nous and experience to know when to use which technique and how skilfully they can deploy it.

About the author: Mike Robinson

I have an Honours Degree in English Literature from Edinburgh University, a Masters in Corporate Communications and of course I’m a qualified copywriter, but then giving you prose that’s powerful, grammatically correct and spelling error free should be the least of your expectations from a copywriting professional.

Get in touch now and we can discuss how best to drive your marketing forward – you’ll find it a very productive conversation.