AdWords and the 25-Character Elevator Pitch

Written on 07 April, 2015 by Lazar Dusanovic
Categories PPC

In the pre-digital era, there weren’t many ways of performing an unsolicited business approach:

  • Door-knocking
  • Leaflet drops
  • Phone calls (often using Yellow Pages)
  • Print/TV/radio advertising

The key to success was gaining the attention of people:

  • TV ads that yell at you, or scare you, or remind you of your mother
  • Leaflets with a few words, in large text
  • A door-to-door sales pitch that attempted to interest people in the first few seconds.

Now that we are bombarded with more messages than ever before, getting someone’s attention is still the prime objective – the competitive noise is just louder.

In your standard Google AdWords search ads (and not forgetting Bing Ads), you don’t have images, you don’t have audio, and you can’t even change the colour, size or font of your text. Ads will mostly look the same, and all you have to work with is the words that you choose.

The typical Google search results page is filled with words to look at, and searchers only spend a second or so deciding which of those words they should read.

It sounds like an impossible task, but because Google is a search engine, and that means you know what the person is searching for. You will be targeting those keywords, and to do so, you need a headline that works.


The term “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately 30 seconds to two minutes. The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in exchange of business cards or a scheduled meeting.

Wikipedia fails to mention that sometimes that random elevator meeting is actually contrived to some degree. Ask Hollywood producers how many times writers and actors accidentally bump into them…

In AdWords your elevator pitch isn’t 30 seconds long. It is one second. And it isn’t 50 words, but a 25 character headline. It is the quickest elevator pitch ever.


It is quite common for ad writers to simply repeat the search query in their headline – Google even allows you to automate this. It works pretty well, but it does depend on what else is happening on the result page. If the headlines of six ads and the top three organic results all parrot the search query, none will stand out.

Contrarian approaches are risky, but when they work, they work very well (ask the famous investor and contrarian Warren Buffett). Examples include:

  • The TV ad that is 30 minutes of silence
  • The TV ad that yells at you
  • The junk mail envelope that seems to be saying you have won something…
  • The pregnant Demi Moore magazine cover.

They work because they are contrary to what people are used to – they grab your attention.

We have seen contrarian headlines work in AdWords, but it can be hit and miss, and ads may be disapproved. Still, no harm in trying.


Being in an elevator with someone and bragging loudly might not be something you are comfortable with. But there is no you in a text ad. You can brag about the best aspects of your product or service in an ad, because people don’t judge text ads. Just make sure you can back up anything you claim, Google prefers that:

  • The World’s Sexiest Watch
  • Guaranteed Fastest Result
  • Biggest, Baddest One Wood.


The shorter your USP, the more likely it will convert, and the easier it is to create an ad headline.

If your business isn’t unique, then maybe you are more convenient, or your prices are cheaper. If someone asks why they should buy from you, it is an easier sell if you can say “we are cheaper” or “ours are custom made”. This translates easily into ad headlines:

  • Cheaper School Uniforms
  • Your Local Uniform Store
  • School Uniforms Delivered
  • Custom School Uniforms

Each headline contains a basic USP. On the landing page you need to show a price comparison, or a map, or information regarding your delivery/customisation options.


It is vitally important that your ad message is reiterated on the landing page. If the ad is visual, make sure they are visually similar. The searcher just wants to be sure they have come to the right place, and that the promise from your ad is genuine. If that is hard for them to achieve, they can leave as quickly as they arrived.

Make sure the messages are matching at each step of the conversion (including checkout and follow-up emails), but especially on the landing page:

  • A) Because the searcher expects to see a site that reflects the ad
  • B) Because Google understands A, and will reward you with a higher Ad Rank, which means cheaper clicks.


If the landing page reiterates your elevator pitch, then it is worth being repurposed in multiple ways:

  • Landing page for any advertising
  • Boldly linked to from your home page, giving the link the same wording as your ads
  • As the basis for a video.

And your AdWords headline can be reused, because it will fit all these formats:

  • Blog post headlines (8-10 words)
  • Email subject lines (3-12 words)
  • Tweets (roughly 15 words)
  • T-shirts and bumper stickers
  • Funny memes.

Spending time creating your best 25-character elevator pitch can be a great addition to your marketing arsenal.

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