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Gary Halbert’s YouTube Ad Template

This ad formula comes from master copywriter, Gary Halbert. Gary is known as one of the best direct response copywriters of all time, so you’re going to want to pay attention.

Gary didn’t quite live to see the first-ever YouTube ad. YouTube launched in 2005 and Gary passed away in April of 2007. The first ads were seen on YouTube in August of 2007.

Interesting side note – these first YouTube Ads were called “in-video” ads. They were banner overlays and clicking the banner would pause the video you’re watching and play the advertisement.

Gary mailed out a monthly paid newsletter for almost 14 years starting in 1986. You can actually find most of these newsletters online for free right now by going to

In his eighth monthly newsletter dated April 1st, 1987, Gary graced us with one of the best lessons on copywriting taught by anyone anywhere ever.

If you want to be a professional copywriter, it would be irresponsible of you not to read that particular newsletter and do everything he tells you to do.

If you’re not worried about what it takes to be one of the best copywriters in the world, if you just want to write some YouTube Ads that convert, then you can follow a seven-step formula that he lays out in that letter.

I’m going to share the formula with you in this blog.

Before we get to step 1, you need to have what Gary calls a “central selling idea”. This is the main hook or message behind your advertisement that is going to attract the right people.

Gary’s approach to finding the central selling idea (which he lays out in the newsletter) was to spend days researching and writing and thinking of selling points for a product. Then, he’d leave work for a few days, let the ideas incubate, and when he came back and started reviewing his notes, a central selling idea would emerge.

For him, it was important to have a winning central selling idea nailed down right away because he was going to be writing long sales letters and then they’d be mailed out to prospects at a fairly significant cost.

With YouTube Ads, we have it a lot easier. We can test lots of different ads with lots of different central selling ideas at a relatively low cost. We can quickly let the market tell us what our most attractive, central selling will be.

As I go through the seven-step sequence, keep in mind that every ad needs a central selling idea.

Step 1 – Say Something That Gets Attention

This, of course, is the hook. In Gary’s formula, the hook is the central selling idea. An example Gary gave us is:

“Did you know that there is now a way to buy L.A. real estate without making any down-payment whatsoever?”

Gary also gave an example of how this hook could be modified if you were advertising to a more specific group of people:

“Did you know that there is now a way for a cardiologist to buy L.A. real estate without making any down payment whatsoever?”

This is obviously a great hook. It’s specific, it’s compelling, it’s an open loop, a new perspective, a bold statement. It’s going to immediately attract the target customer and repel everyone else.

Step 2 – Tell Them Why They Should Be Interested

Here, you’re going to expand on the central selling idea. This could be done by revealing a problem, providing benefits, etc.

From the example we just looked at… Why should cardiologists care that they can buy real estate in L.A. with no down payment? What’s in it for them?

Step 3 – Tell Them Why They Should Believe What You Are Saying Is True

Step 4 – Prove It is True

Steps 3 and 4 go hand in hand. You might tell a story here, you might share your results or someone else’s results. If your ad is for an info product or a webinar that is promising to help someone gain some type of pleasure or avoid some type of pain, maybe you can help something small right in the ad to prove that if they spend more time with you, you can help them a lot more.

The main idea with steps 3 and 4 is to get past any skepticism the viewer might have about why they should trust you.

Step 5 – Itemize & Describe All Benefits

Now, of course, Gary’s formula was for writing sales letters. In a YouTube ad, you’re not going to be describing all of the benefits of something like you would if you were writing a long-form sales letter. But describing one or a few benefits here can help seal the deal for you going to the last two steps of the framework.

Step 6 – Tell Them How To Order

Step 7 – Tell Them To Order Now

Just like at the end of every good YouTube ad, the end of Gary Halbert’s sales letter sequence has a call to action.

I like that he broke this into two parts.

You can tell someone how to order something, but some people need that extra nudge. They need you to say, “Go do this now.”

You could also tell someone to order something, but if it’s not clear how they would actually do that, then you might lose the sale.

It’s important to have both parts.

In a YouTube ad, of course, you’re not necessarily telling someone to order something right away, but you should be telling them to take that next step and how to do it.

For example, “Click the link next to this ad right now. Go enter your name and your email to get my free ….”

So, to recap Gary Halbert’s ad framework:

  • Say something that gets attention.
  • Tell them why they should be interested.
  • Tell them why they should believe what you are saying is true.
  • Prove it is true.
  • Itemize and describe all benefits.
  • Tell them how to order.
  • Tell them to order now.

Now go forth and make some “fungolas”.