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What Makes a Good Ad

Alexandra Maksimova

July 6, 2022

What is a good ad?

What is a good ad and what are the elements of good advertisement design? When asked this question, everyone always has their own answer - that catchy ad at the Super Bowl, the quick commercial you saw before watching a YouTube video or an ad banner you saw while scrolling
on instagram. Those ads are all different, so what makes advertising effective? What makes the person watching remember the ad and most importantly - what makes the person click “buy”
after seeing the ad.

The topic - ‘what makes a good ad’ has been discussed among thousands of marketers globally and countless books were written on the matter. This article will attempt to summarize just some of the most vital points that any marketer should include in their ads, and advertisement design ideas of other businesses

But before doing that, let's start with the basics, shall we?

What elements make advertising effective?

1

Format

It doest matter what format of the ad you want - video, banner, billboard - you just have to do it right and have a format defined before you decide to do anything.

2

Message

What do you want to say with your ad? What message do you want to get across? Do you want to inform, persuade or remind? 

3

CTA (call to action)

What do you want the personto do after they haveseen your ad?

4

Simplicity

The reader of the ad does not owe you anything, even reading your ad. Is it the job of the marketer to find ways to make ads stand out, easy to read and easy to understand.

5

Benefits

Before starting to create any advertisement, it is important to define clear benefits that your product or service will have for the client. What problem does the product solve? What aspect of the client’s life will your product make easier?

Easy to say, difficult to achieve? What are the concrete steps you can take to achieve an effective ad?

When creating an ad, on all levels and in all processes, from  ad design to copywriting to video editing you should keep the following things in mind:

Is everything clear? Would your target audience understand what you meant?

Do all of the elements compliment each other, or are they just distracting?

What is the journey you want the user to take after they have seen your ad? Do you want them to go to the store? Go to your website? 

Books to read about marketing

Influence: Science and Practice Book by Robert Cialdini. This book provides insight into one of the most important components of marketing - persuasion, taking the reader on a journey of truly understanding what makes some people say “yes” to offers.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On Book by Jonah BergerThe name of the book is quite self explanatory and gives a pretty good idea what the book talks about - namely, what makes things go viral and what are the factors that determine how certain trends and mass behaviors emerge.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable Book by Seth GodinAlthough the name of the book seems silly at first glance, there is a deep meaning behind the name “Purple Cow” and standing out. Seth Godin goes into great detail explaining what a purple cow is and how everyone - both businesses and individuals can become a purple cow themselves. 

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind Book by Al Ries and Jack TroutEveryone in the field of marketing understands what positioning is, Jack Trout takes an unusual approach to explaining the concept: creating a "position" in a potential customer's mind that reflects a company's own strengths and weaknesses.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products Book by Nir EyalThe book argues that the best way to create long lasting customer relationships with repeating customers is by making the product part of their daily life, making the product that would tie into the individual’s daily life and habits.

Testing: do it right.

So you have an ad - you carefully choose your message, and define your audience. Your design team provided stunning visuals and your copywriters wrote amazing text. But before you press “post”, a couple more tests are needed. So how can you do it right?

1. First, ask yourself. Pretend you are the target audience and for a moment forget everything you know about the company, its product or service. Do you understand this ad? Do you fully get the meaning behind each element and understand its purpose?Would a five-year-old get it if they saw it?

2. Ask your colleagues, preferably the ones that don’t know you or don’t like you. Yes, you heard that right. Don’t ask your closest colleagues, because they are the biggest yes-sayers. As good as their intentions are, these are the people that will not want to upset you and therefore will cheer on all of your ideas, no matter their quality. But the harshest critic and those that don't have emotional connections to you as an individual are the ones that will provide you with the most actionable feedback and useful information.

3. Thirdly, ask a group of volunteers. These people should represent the target audience as well as possible - their demographic, age, interests, status. Then, ask the important questions and make them as clear as possible. Don’t try to get all of the available information out of the minds of your focus group, just focus on the things that are most vital to you.

4. Ask your clients. Among the pool of your clients there are always the loyal ones that love your business so much that they will not mind answering a couple of your questions. You can test both how effective ads are (by asking them which one of your marketing methods made them convert) as well as test future ads by asking them if this ad would persuade them to buy and if now, what would they change.

5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. And the best way to test in real-life scenarios is A/B testing. Create different versions of your ad. A few different options for copy, visuals, sizes and colors can be tested to see how your target audience will react. Unfortunately, these metrics can be fully measured only in digital forms of marketing. 

The all-inclusive framework
to make stunning ads:

1. Determine your marketing and sales funnel.

Potential customers are not created equal. Some don’t know about your business, some have seen your ads and others visited your website but just can't seem to buy your product. All of these are parts of the marketing funnel, the funnel that takes a person from being unaware of your business existence to loyal customers. It's logical that people in different parts of the marketing funnel need different types of ads and interactions with the business.

Here is what you need to do as a business owner:

Determine your marketing funnel and its components

Determine the processes that influence people to move down the funnel (your ads, landing pages, demo calls, free trials or any other points of customer-business contact)

How can you optimize this funnel? You can start by asking the following questions: How can the process be made frictionless? What steps can be improved? What steps need to be improved? A brilliant example of a frictionless process is the 1-click-order that Amazon uses which allows to speed up the process and buy as quickly as possible.

2. Who is your audience?

Who are the people that are most likely to buy your product? What kind of people need it the most? Here are some methods of understanding who your audience is. 

Here is what you need to do as a business owner:

Use your logic to try and understand who could get the most use out of the product you are selling.

Look at your current customers. What are they like? Are there any specific characteristics that differentiate them from the rest of the market?

Conduct research. You can either conduct purely theoretical research by using questionnaires or by running for a general audience and seeing which audience segment interacts with the ads the most.

3. Determine the key elements of your product

What are the elements of your product that your current audience enjoys the most? Are all elements of your product understandable to your audience? What elements of the product made your customers click “buy”? By determining these key elements, you know exactly what features to showcase in your advertisement design. In the example below, coffee has a key feature - it gives the person drinking it energy. Many people drink it in the morning to wake up. By understanding this, marketers knew that they could use coffee as a way to wake up, like an alarm clock and made visuals that would highlight that.

Here is what you need to do as a business owner:

4. Consider the format of your ad:

Not all formats are created equal, and an ad that you created for a billboard will not work on instagram targeted ads. There is also the factor of ad layouts, for all of the different formats, the advertisement layout will obviously also be different.  Also, consider what is a typical scenario in which your potential clients see this ad - are they casually scrolling through instagram and stumble upon it? Will they see it when you enter a specific search term? Will they see it during their daily commute, while they are walking past a billboard with your ad? Make sure that the type of ad is perfectly tailored for that experience and ad format!

Here is what you need to do as a business owner:

5. Consider the platform and technicalities: different ad formats are better for different platforms and audience types.

Google Ads are targeting specific keywords, Instagram targets specific audience segments… targeting by demographic, targeting by keywords, targeting by location - there are many ways different platforms allow you to target potential audiences. So it is always a good idea to check if your audience will reach the correct people.

Here are some of the commonly used marketing strategies and techniques:

Here is what you need to do as a business owner:

Scarcity technique - people are more likely to take action quickly if they think that they can lose the opportunity by waiting. Many marketers use this to their advantage in commercial graphic design by including elements that create an illusion of scarcity - telling people that the offer is limited by time, the amount of product is limited etc.

User journey and directions: make the journey from ad to purchase as clear and frictionless as possible. Your product ad design needs to be catchy enough to catch the reader’s attention, but its the job of the infrastructure to actually turn a lead into a customer.

Nowadays, people can view your product and make purchases not only on traditional desktops, but also on phones, tablets… even on their TV! So the “user experience” that you offer should be adapted according to the devices. Below is a funny example of how the ad was adapted to be displayed on a train station

Great ad design - what is it?

Here are some things to keep in mind as part of your ad framework:

1. Stock images

Be careful with the stock images - they worked well when marketers first started using them, but now people are not as receptive to them as they were before

2. Taglines

Taglines should work together with the imagery to get your message across. Short, simple ad design with a meaning that is easy to understand is the way to go.

3. Colors

Be wary of the colors you use and the message that they convey as well as how the elements are laid out on the page. Here is a successful ads layout example:

4. Test

This is a crucial step that many marketers miss, and it's a shame that they do. If you create advertisement design purely based on what you think is a good idea - there is no real guarantee that it will work and your potential customers will respond well to it once it is published. So it's important to test all elements and their combinations. Colors, fonts, imagery, taglines, tagline and visual placement and so many other elements can be combined differently. 

Landing page optimisation:

If your ads are digital, most likely by clicking it, the user will be taken to some of your company infrastructure - a landing page, social media page or anything else. Even if you have an amazing ad, if the infrastructure it leads to is poorly done, you will not get any conversions. 

If we take the example of the landing pages, here are some ways you can optimize them:

Headline: Describe your value proposition in one small sentence, the reader should be able to understand exactly what you sell from that one sentence.

Image: Show your product. Bonus points if you evoke an emotional reaction. But don't go too overboard!

Copy: When you create bigger chunks of written page copy you should go into more detail about what exactly you do, your benefits and why you are better than all of your competitors, persuading the person reading to buy your product.

Social proof: Your future customers need to find other ways to verify that your service is great, in addition to what you tell them. Showcasing testimonials, current and past clients, interviews is a great way to build trust.

If your website includes a lead capture form, make sure that all of the fields you ask to fill in are absolutely necessary, dont overwhelm the user.

CTA button: The CTA button is the logical next step for any user on your website. Make the button visually visible by incorporating interesting colors and outlining where the button will take them.

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