I was looking through several publications yesterday doing some research for a proposal (a tactic that apparently very few marketers still do, but that’s a different post). I in particular needed to study the ads in there, and what I saw filled me with a series of raw emotions. “Gee, maybe this is why advertising is said to be dying,” for example. Rather than do what a lot of people do and harp on the bad ads, I want to talk about what makes a good ad. But before that, a brief word.
Advertising, as I have written before, is not dying, but it is changing. It is clear, from looking closely at a lot of ads, that some people know that change is happening, but they are reacting in a way that won’t be helpful. They are following the adage (no pun intended) that your ad needs to stick out in some way. So, they are going the way of really out there designs, overly cheesy (er, clever?) headlines, and gimmicks. These methodologies are in turn what turn people off to advertisements. Ads have never been popular, but if you just see a mess or something that is of no interest to you, you’re not even going to take 5.7 milliseconds to find out what the ad is about. Advertising, therefore, perpetuates the stereotype of being a waste of space.
To save advertising, you need to apply the same logic that we talk about in Social Media. You need to make it more about your customer’s perspective. You need to make your point clearly. And the print equivalent of red flashing lights is probably no longer a good idea. So here are some basics that a good ad should cover.
1. Your product should be in the ad somewhere. It doesn’t have to be a typical beauty shot, but I should be able to tell what you are doing or selling. Take Dyson as an example. Everyone knows that they make really high-end vacuum cleaners, and yet the product is shown in every TV ad they do.
2. Have some useful information. Show that you are steeped in the business of your customers. Speak their language. Explain why your product or service is beneficial, not why they should buy it.
3. Make sure your copy is legible. I see several ads that try to use white type against a really crisp, beautiful, dark picture. It doesn’t work. If people have to work to read your copy, you are done.
4. Have a call to action. Customize the call to action for your industry. A highly technical audience will probably not be interested in entering a drawing for a beautiful set of artist’s pencils, for example.
5. Don’t try to be clever. Some of the headlines I saw made me imagine what was going on during that creative meeting. I was not wondering, however, about the product or what it might mean for the industry. Let your product be clever. Cheese, even Swiss, can get in the way of your message.
6. Don’t try to fit your entire website into your ad. When you are trying to represent something really important, you can get a bit…carried away. This is why an outside perspective (like, say, the perspective of an agency) can be helpful. You don’t need to put your entire product line plus your company biography into a half-page ad. You just will create clutter, and people will turn the page.
7. Remember to link your ad to other marketing initiatives. This might not strike the reader of a magazine right away, but if they see your ad, then they go to a trade show, there should be some moment of recollection. “Oh, this is the company whose ad I always see.” It helps you get a foot in the door, or said another way, it lets customers know you door is open and your house is organized.
8. Don’t worry about your competitors. Just like politicians always say that they are going to focus on what they can do, that’s what you need to do in an ad. If you spend a lot of time on the competition, you might direct readers to them, plus, essentially, you’re contributing to their marketing and you’re coming off as defensive. Be confident that your product is worth the reader’s time.
9. Have a clear and consistent sign-off. Let people know where to go to learn more about you and your product. Have some contact info there. And make it legible.
10. Most important – make sure you proof your ad. Proofing doesn’t mean just reading the copy. It means looking at the image, it means looking at how the text is wrapping. All of the little details that you think no one would ever notice can contribute to the overall reception of your ad. One “little” mistake can make you look sloppy.
If you follow these 10 steps, you’ll be on your way to making a better ad, one that is useful for the customers, not just a selling tool for you.
If you want help analyzing your ads or creating a new ad for the coming 2011 campaign, our agency can help you with that.
Image by kamila turton. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/kamila_t