Working Within Ad Copy Restrictions to Maximize Creativity

Post by Caterina Merenda, Copywriter

Building out campaigns, ad groups and keywords is a fairly smooth process once we understand brands’ needs, services and/or products. Yet, trouble brews when restrictions apply to specific keywords, phrases or claims, which often hinders creativity in messaging. Brands that fail to create compelling and unique ad copy within restrictions can see significantly lower click-through rates (CTR) and lower performance.


As we know, in paid search copy, there are only so many characters we have to work with. Here’s a quick rundown:

Headline: 25 characters

Description Line 1: 35 characters

Description Line 2: 35 characters

It’s typical for copywriters to work within brand guidelines, such as:

  • Refrain from using specifics (names, locations, etc.)
  • Use the same, exact phrasing as currently displayed on the website
  • Avoid any type of claim that may clash with a brand’s legal department

These complications are pretty common and can get in the way of creating compelling, creative copy. But just because they can get in the way, doesn’t mean they should!  Work within these guidelines to create inviting ad copy without breaking brand and format restrictions.


Here’s a breakdown of how I assess these situations:

  1. Refrain from using specifics: Addressing your brand is very important in paid copy and should usually be done so in the headline, or at the very least, the first description line.

In this situation, avoid the name, but describe the person.  Here’s an example:

When writing an ad for an upcoming movie/trailer, capture the audience’s attention without using the lead actor’s name. It would go something like this:

Headline: [Your Company]

Description Line 1: Come See America’s Hero in Action

Description Line 2: in [Movie Name] on [Movie Release Date]!

With this version, we are calling attention to the main character of the film and his/her role without actually saying their name. Also note that this ad copy follows best practices- simple and to the point!

  1. Use the same phrasing: Using new adjectives, phrasing and verbs is great when writing ad copy, but sometimes it causes us to stray away from the original message.

Even though you’ll be using the same claims and phrases over and over again, you can spice them up by switching around the call-to-action (CTA) in the beginning and the hook at the end. Focus on using intriguing words and phrases that will grab consumers’ attention and prompt them to click through while still staying loyal to your brand. Find different taglines that are currently being used in a campaign and see how they can fit into the ad copy and tie back to the product or service being addressed.

  1. Avoid claims: Check with your legal department after creating the ads.

This is mainly an issue if you’re in the medical or health industry, but it can still happen among other brands. You’ll want to get creative with your ad copy, but as you know – there are restrictions with claims and verbiage. You can still get creative here by exploring a new CTA and beginning your ad with a question or statistic. It’ll also help to refer to your current media brief or campaign for ideas!

It’s absolutely possible to get creative in ad copy, even when there are loads of restrictions. It’s all about working within restrictions to still make the copy compelling!

For more information on writing compelling ad copy, please contact your performance account team today.

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