Problem-Agitate-Solve: Best Formula for Writing Potent Web Ads


How long do users stay on a web page? For the last decade and a half everybody has asked that question, but the answer remains the same…

Not very long.

It’s the unbreakable rule of the web. Web users are a fickle bunch. That’s why web copy always demands precision, clarity, and persuasion. And the best way to write short sales messages like this is to use a proven formula known as Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS).

The concept is simple:

  • Problem: Identify your reader’s pain point.
  • Agitate: Stir it up so it hurts to the point of discomfort.
  • Solve: Deliver a solution.

Here’s how it looks in practice:

Insecure? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, stay that way and you’ll never accomplish anything of significance. Fortunately, there’s a book called Insecure No More that will teach you how to be confident and courageous in just 30 days. Buy it now.

The question immediately identifies your target customer: shy, timid people. They’ll answer “yes” to the question. Then they’ll get it in the gut when they read about the consequence of ignoring their problem.

But don’t let them wallow in their misery. Show them a way out. In this case, a book with a secret to conquering insecurity in less than a month.

Two Other Problem-Agitate-Solve Examples

What’s wonderful about this formula is it helps you zero in on what’s truly important. Short sales copy always does. You need to come out with the big guns. The big emotions. Fear. Greed. Lust.

And you need to offer a solution for that one indisputable problem ailing your customer.

Here’s how you could write short sales copy for Crazy Egg’s heat map tool:

Losing visitors? Every website loses visitors, but for you every person who bails is lost income. And it seems like things are getting worse. If you want to stem that downward spiral then use the heat map tool by Crazy Egg to optimize your site based on your visitors’ usage patterns.

And here’s how TechCrunch could do it:

Are you always the last one to get the scoop on technology start-up trends? It wouldn’t be so bad, but your job demands you stay current, otherwise your competition gets a jump and profits when you don’t. Instead subscribe to TechCrunch and start getting the scoop first so you can leave your competition in the dust.

Keep in mind, you CAN’T do this successfully without first understanding your customer and their basic problems. It’s simply impossible.

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  1. says

    Great summary of a simple, powerful concept. Looking at my writing, I realize I’ve been gradually approaching this, but this will definitely give me the added spark to my work going forward.