The Basics of a great Ad

Have you ever invested a bundle in what you perceived as a great ad, and then were disappointed from the results it generated? Unfortunately, it happens all the time with many ads; great visuals, catchy headlines, but no subsequent brand-recall whatsoever, and of course, no increase in sales that’s worth mentioning.

The problem with these flamboyant, but-easy-to-forget ads is that there is typically an overwhelming emphasis on visuals that divert the consumer’s attention from your key messages, brand name, and logo. This applies to ads in all platforms – TV, print, radio, and online. People may be humming your radio jingle throughout the day, but if they can’t affiliate that humming to your brand name, it won’t do you much good. Frequency or pulsing won’t help much either. If it’s a lemon ad, it’ll stay one regardless of how hard it is pushed.

Don’t blame it all on your ad agency though. Those guys can’t really produce great work if they are not properly briefed. So if you don’t have a great marketing plan that clearly explains all there is to know about your objectives, marketing mix, segmentation strategy, target audiences, and key messages, your agency is more or less working in the dark and as such has no other option but to focus on the artwork.

Regardless of your advertising objectives (e.g. sales, footfall, web traffic, etc.), they will for certain require more than an attractive visual. Here are some guidelines toward designing an effective ad that produces results.

Attractive Visuals

Visuals are there to attract attention. In the case of newspapers, the artwork will determine whether the reader notices your ad or not. If the visual is too catchy or looks too smart, your ad might backfire as the reader may spend too much time admiring the artwork, and then flip the page without seeing
the rest of your ad. Make sure the visual triggers the reader’s interest to observe all the other details of the ad.

A great Headline

The next item your reader needs to see and absorb is the headline. This is where the essence of what you’re communicating is served in one easy-to-read and-memorize statement. You have to factor in the risk that your reader has probably a very short attention span and may not read beyond this point, so make sure the headline communicates what you have to say briefly and clearly. Your ad agency’s copywriter is going to spend time and energy composing one that is right on target. If the copywriter does a decent job, the headline will entice the reader to move on to the text of your ad, which is exactly where you want them to be.

Effective Text

The body of your ad is where you can elaborate more about what you are offering or promoting, so be precise and specific. Elaborate, but don’t overdo it. Use short sentences and a language that people can actually understand and memorize. Don’t brag about your brand, but focus on benefits and value. Again, the skills of a copywriter are critical here. Writing effective text is a gift that not many possess, so make sure you have a pro on board who can get the job done.

Call for Action

Every ad should have a clear and specific call for action such as visiting a store, calling a number to schedule an appointment, or browsing a website. The call for action does not have to be limited to the text but can be articulated multiple times throughout the ad, as long as it is consistent and focused.


Ideally, you want to incorporate tools that help you measure the results of your campaign. For example, if the add is an attempt to attract consumers to call a number and schedule an appointment, assign a phone number that’s exclusively linked to the ad, so as to gauge the number of calls you’re getting through that advertisement. Keep record of the number of callers, how many scheduled an appointment, and how many generated revenues. If the number of callers fails to meet your expectations, you’ll know that the ad wasn’t effective. If the numbers are high but don’t produce enough appointments, you may want to check up on your receptionist’s phone skills. If both are up to par but your sales are not impressive, you might have to revisit the packages that are being offered. Maybe those aren’t all that attractive as you initially thought.


Marketing isn’t magical. Advertisers can’t expect to invest in one ad and reap the fruit. It takes multiple times for an ad to start registering, so be patient and stick to your media plan. If your media agency recommended twelve consecutive ads, trust them. They are pros and know what they’re doing. This also applies to email, social media, and all other communication tactics. Take social media marketing for example. It takes weeks – if not months – of posting daily interesting content to your Facebook page before people start engaging with your brand. Don’t give up if you don’t have but a few hundred likes after weeks of doing this. Facebook may be free (not really), but nobody ever said it doesn’t cost a fortune in terms of time, effort, and sweat.

Last but not least, it all begins with you forming clear objectives and targets for your campaigns. Communicate those clearly to your ad agency/ marketing experts, brief them well, trust them and listen to what they recommend, and then stick to your plan and commit to it.

About the Author

Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.

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