How to write Facebook ads that scream out for attention and convert cold leads

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Most ad copy you see in the newsfeed lacks any real emotional pull.  It’s why most Facebook ads feel so functional and generic.  

It’s also why many advertisers complain that Facebook advertising doesn’t work.  And the low price leads they were expecting fail to materialise.

One reason is that most ads are written by media buyers or ads managers.  For years, they’ve been spoiled by Facebook’s laser-like targeting and relatively low advertising costs.  Their creative is practically an afterthought because great copy and imagery wasn’t always necessary to attract clicks and sales.

With the roll-out of Apple’s new operating system, all that’s about to change.  Data-driven audience and ad optimisation will be much less effective, which means advertisers need to do a better job of creating an emotional hook to capture new leads.

What is a hook?

The hook is the central idea of your ad.  It draws prospects in by triggering an emotional response.

A great hook needs to generate some kind of visceral emotional response in order to be effective.  It could be anger, joy, frustration, sadness.  It really doesn’t matter what emotion you hit, as long as you hit something that’s relevant to your avatar.  It can relate to a fear they want to escape or a desire they want to move towards.

To be effective, your hook needs to speak to the deepest fears and unspoken desires of your audience.  It also needs to be placed right at the start of your ad, so it sucks the reader in and makes them keep reading deeper into your ad.

Here are some examples of great hooks that trigger an emotional response:

“I could see it in my wife’s eyes… even though she never said anything to me. The fire was out. Nothing. Not even a spark left to rekindle the flame.”

“I can’t blame her. Look at me. Here I was, a little boy in a grown man’s body.”


This ad copy is from a men’s personal development programme.  It targets married entrepreneurs whose businesses are thriving, but whose marriages may be on the rocks.  You can see how those first lines of copy really dig in the knife and speak to the avatar’s unspoken pain.

💭 Did you know the “Recommended Daily Allowance” was developed during World War II food rationing era? 📈

That means, what is “recommended” is just “survival” level nutrition… not “optimal” level nutrition.

This ad copy is for an optimal health multi-vitamin.  It hooks the reader in by presenting a little-known but fascinating piece of information.  It’s highly relevant to the avatar and makes them question their assumptions about nutrition. 

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Why do hooks matter? 

When you read an ad without an emotional hook, it feels flat.  Often, Facebook ads leap straight in and present an offer without pulling the reader in or tugging at their heart strings.

Like these examples: 

“Want to create a pop-up product that’s easy to sell, easy to create and even easier to consume? This course teaches you all of what you need to know, and none of what you don’t.”

“Want farm fresh shellfish?  It’s simple.  We’ll harvest your order and deliver overnight.  It doesn’t get fresher than that.”

These ads lack deep emotional appeal.  While they may generate some clicks from warmer audiences, it’s unlikely a stone cold audience will resonate with the copy or be excited enough to keep reading.

Which is precisely what happens when your copy is a hook-free zone.  Cold audiences will simply scroll on by and move on to the next cat video that shows up in their newsfeed. (Cats are cute. They elicit joy. And hookless ads can’t compete).

How to generate a killer hook

Now you know what a hook is and why it matters, you’re probably wondering how the hell to generate a hook that sucks in prospects like a barnacle with lip implants.

The reality is, there is no magical hook wand.  It’s a question of testing multiple ideas to see what resonates and doubling down on the hooks that work.

But, before you test, you’re going to want to focus on a handful of ideas you THINK might work, based on what you already know about your market and your product.

Here’s the process I go through to generate hook ideas:

Step 1 – Do the chuffing research 

If you’ve read any of my recent blogs, you might notice a theme.  Research is something that will come up again and again and again.

That’s because research is the basis of all great copy.  It’s also the thing most advertisers neglect because it doesn’t feel sexy.  

Without research, you’re just guessing who your avatar is.  You’re also guessing what keeps them up at night.  Sure, you might have an inkling.  Especially if you speak to your prospects on a regular basis.  But nothing can replace solid research when it comes to generating winning hooks.

That’s because you’re basing your test copy on actual data, instead of your own biases and assumptions about the market.

Use stories to overcome objections

Step 2 – Pick an avatar   

Smaller advertisers will probably only have enough budget to target one avatar.  But those with bigger budgets might need to widen their net and target several avatars, in order to prevent the dreaded ad plateau.

If you speak to your clients regularly, you probably know your avatar by instinct.  But e-commerce advertisers might need to lean on their research to uncover their most profitable avatar.

Once you’ve scoured your data, pick the avatar that comes up most often and target them to start.  (You can always go after a different avatar if your first one falls flat).

Step 3 – Identify 3-5 fears, desires or beliefs

As I mentioned earlier, a good hook speaks to your avatar’s unspoken fears, desires and beliefs.  

Before you start writing your ad, you need to identify 3-5 emotions you’re going to go after in your first few lines of copy.  Each ad variation should focus on just ONE fear, desire or belief.  You’ll need to write a different piece of ad copy for each emotion you choose.  

You’ll find these fears, desires and beliefs buried in your research data.  Take a look at what your prospects are saying about their struggles and desires in comment threads, product reviews and online forums.  Dig into what they want from your product, and what beliefs they have that might prevent them from buying from you.

You want to use these insights to pick the emotion you’ll agitate, and to generate your big idea or hook.

Step 4 – Uncover an idea that triggers your chosen emotion

Once you know which emotions you want to hit in your 3-5 pieces of test copy, you’ll need to come up with the angle that’s going to generate that emotional response.

There are lots of different angles you can present.  Here are a few:

  • A counter-intuitive or little-known stat 
  • A controversial quote from a respected expert 
  • An emotional quote from a past customer
  • An intriguing and never-seen-before product feature
  • An interesting story
  • A piece of research that contradicts conventional wisdom 

The goal of your idea or hook is to shock, intrigue, or frighten your prospect enough to make them wake up and pay attention to your ad. 

A good hook will make your prospect say, ‘Huh?’

A bad hook will make your prospect stop caring and ignore you completely.

What makes a bad hook? 

A bad hook is an idea that isn’t interesting enough to attract attention.  It’s an idea that bores your prospect or makes them feel apathy towards your copy.

Nothing is better at killing sales than apathy.

Here’s what makes a bad hook:

  • A stat that’s been shared 1000s of times before and confirms your prospects’ existing beliefs 
  • A boring quote your audience has heard before
  • A generic testimonial from a past customer 
  • A run-of-the-mill product feature, shared by every product in your market
  • A story that your audience has heard before 
  • A common piece of research that doesn’t tell your prospect anything new

Most Facebook advertisers don’t spend anywhere near enough time thinking through their hook.  Perhaps they think ad copy is so short it doesn’t require a big idea.  Maybe they think the image can do all the heavy lifting.  OR they rely entirely on Facebook’s targeting and optimisation to generate clicks and conversions.

The reality is, an ad without a hook can generate some leads IF your prospects already know what they want.  But when you’re dealing with cold audiences who have no idea who you are, you need to get creative if you want to win their attention.

Which is why creating resonant hooks is so important for your ad copy.  And it’s why I encourage you to spend way more time thinking through your ideas before you start writing your ads.

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