Create Effective Ads

No advertisement is guaranteed to generate new business, new sales or customers, but you can dramatically increase your chances of success if you follow a few basic principles. Start by keeping in mind a tried and true advertising formula:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

If you can grab attention, create immediate interest, entice potential customers to learn more, entice people to want your product, and call them to action, your advertisement is much more likely to be persuasive and cost-effective.

All effective advertisements include an emotional appeal and a rational appeal. Rational appeal is based on clear, specific statements that help potential customers understand why, in concrete terms, they should purchase your products or services. Emotional appeals create a call to action on a more subjective level.

For example, in a new car advertisement the rational appeals may focus on fuel mileage or lower maintenance costs while emotional appeal could be based on safety or perceived image. The best advertisements create a blend of rational and emotional appeal. In a weight loss ad, the desire to lose weight to improve appearance could be as important as the need to lose weight for health reasons. In fact, some advertisement experts claim the average person decides to make a purchase based on emotion and then justifies that decision with facts.

Whenever you can, make sure your advertisements combine a blend of emotional and rational appeal.

Now let's look closely at the basic components of any advertising message.

Headline: Some experts feel the headline is responsible for as much as 70 percent of an ad’s success. Your headline should clearly state the benefit of what you provide. Readers should automatically be able to answer the question "What's in it for me?" based on your headline – or at the very least want to look more closely.

Say you sell a weight loss product. The headline "Weight Loss Programs Available" certainly states what you do, but in no way describes the benefits. The headline "Lose 2 Pounds a Week" is better, but the stronger headline is "Lose 2 Pounds a Week – Safely and Easily" That headline clearly states several benefits: Not only will you help people lose weight, but they can do so safely and, most importantly, easily.

Photos: Use photos, preferably of people, whenever possible. Studies show ads with photos of people draw four times the attention of print-only ads. Just make sure your photo is appropriate for your company and your message. If a reader cannot tell what your company does by your headline and the accompanying photo, choose a different one.

Make it personal: Use the pronoun "you" instead of third-person pronouns. Draw the reader in. Deliver your message personally. The best ads focus on benefits for customers so make those benefits clear and personal. "We provide outstanding weight loss solutions" is impersonal; "You will lose two pounds a week, guaranteed" speaks directly to your customers.

Provide guarantees and warranties: Over half of potential customers feel ads that offer a money-back guarantee are more credible. The same is true for third-party endorsements or testimonials. Almost half put faith in survey results. If you have independent data or endorsements, use them.

Get to the point: Few people will read past the first 50 words. If you have not delivered your message by then, you probably won't get the chance.

Ask for a response. Unless you are running ads simply to raise awareness of your products or services, include a call to action. Make sure your ads ask for the sale. Offer sales, delivery discounts, additional information or free services. Give your customers a reason to respond today. For example, if you run a newspaper ad, the newspaper will head for the trash tomorrow – so ask for the sale today.

Before you run an ad, review it and make sure you've answered the following questions:

  • Have I clearly described the benefits to my customers? Did I focus on customer needs instead of what I provide? There is a difference.
  • Have I created a clear advantage over my competitors? Make sure you show how your product or service is higher quality, less expensive, more convenient, or otherwise beneficial. Customers must see you as the right choice.
  • Have I included a call to action? Will customers feel they need to act on my advertisement? If you want a direct response, make sure your advertisement produces a direct response.
  • Does my ad reflect well on my business? Does it enhance my professional image? If not, change it. For many potential customers, your ad may be their first experience with your company so make it a good one.

Finally, keep in mind research shows most people need to see an advertisement at least four to five times before they will take action. Don't assume your ad is poor if it doesn't work well the first time you run it. Be consistent; then adjust your advertisements based on the results.