Create an Advertisement

Crafting an advertisement that entices potential consumers might seem difficult, but it's simpler than you think. The simpler the better, in fact. An ad sums up everything that is smart, innovative, and distinguished about your brand, and is almost indispensable in today's economic marketplace. Note that in today's digital environment, ads are evolving rapidly. There are many companies using little if any traditional advertising and instead relying Increase-Your-Social-Media-Influence. Although the platforms may change over time, the basic tenants of advertising will continue to apply. To plan, write, design, and test an ad, follow these steps.


Understanding Your Audience

  1. Identify a target customer. Your business or product may appeal to a broad range of consumers, but for the purposes of advertising, it is usually helpful to think only about a specific subset of this potential audience. A single ad cannot appeal to or target every single person - accept this and then consider which consumers are most important for this project.
  2. Describe your target customer. Imagine your target customer in your mind's eye. What approximate age or gender are they? Do they live in a major city or a more rural setting? What is their income range? What other products do they use or enjoy?
    • The more rich description your team can create here, the more targeted (and likely the more effective) your ad will be.
  3. Describe the target customer's relationship to your product. Once you've described your target consumer's basic lifestyle and demographic information, now consider how that person interacts with your specific product. When will they use it and how often? Will they immediately recognize its benefits/functions or will you have to teach them?
  4. Identify the competition. Do other products exist besides yours that perform similar functions? You have hopefully already designed your product with the competition in mind - now consider how your ad might specifically challenge (or complement) your competition's advertising efforts and how they might react to your advertising actions.
  5. Describe the current market. Consider how your product is currently positioned - is it new or old? How can you distinguish your product from other, more established products? Do customers recognize/trust your brand already?
    • Also consider the competitive landscape and the customers who are currently in play. Are you hoping to convert people currently using the competition's product or will you target those without a current solution? Each approach has its own challenges.
  6. Develop a strategy. Based on the information you've now compiled about the audience you're trying to reach and how they might view your product, you're now ready to think about an ad strategy. Your strategy should take into account what are commonly known as the 3 C's: Company (you), Customer (them, your target), and Competition.
    • Strategy is a complex topic, but by focusing on the desires, strengths, and possible future actions of the 3 players on the field (yourself, your customer, and your competition), anyone can build a complex strategy over time.

Writing the Advertisement

  1. Come up with a catchy, snappy tagline. Keep it short and sweet; the average product needs no more than six or seven words. If you say it out loud and it sounds like a mouthful, edit it down. Whatever it is, it should grab the consumer's attention and convince him or her that your product is different from everyone else’s. Consider using:
    • Rhyme – “Do you Yahoo?”
    • Humor – “Dirty mouth? Clean it with Orbit chewing gum!”
    • A play on words – “Every kiss begins with ‘Kay’”
    • Creative imagery – Yellow Pages: “Let your fingers do the walking”
    • Metaphor – “Red Bull gives you wings”
    • Alliteration – “Intel Inside”
    • A personal pledge – Motel 6: “We leave the light on for you”
    • Dry understatement – Carlsberg beer has a big sign in downtown Copenhagen that reads, “Probably the best beer in town”.
  2. Make it memorable. Your message needs to be top of mind at the consumer's point of purchase. The second your ad borrows a familiar advertising phrase (for example, “new and improved,” “guaranteed,” or “free gift” — is there any other kind?), it becomes interchangeable with thousands of others. What’s more, listeners are so used to ad clichés that they don’t even hear them anymore. (Just listen to Tom Waits’s Step Right Up to hear how meaningless clichés sound when strung together.)
    • What matters most is how the consumer feels, not what they think. If they feel good about your brand, you've done your job.
    • Startling the reader into paying attention is especially useful if you have a lot to say. For example, this long, environmentally-oriented announcement wouldn’t turn many heads if it weren’t for the unusual, confrontational tagline; if the reader wants to get the joke, she or he has to read more.
    • Know how to walk the line between controversial and entertaining. Pushing the limits of good taste to help your ad grab attention is common practice, but don't go too far — you want your product to be recognized on its own merits, not because it was tied to a tasteless advertisement.
  3. Use a persuasive technique. Note that persuasion doesn't really mean "convincing." The point is to make the consumers feel better about your product than anyone else's. For most people, how they feel determines what they buy. Here are some tried and true methods that advertisers rely on to make their ads stick. These include:
    • Repetition: Getting your product to stick by repeating key elements. People often have to hear your name many times before they even know that they heard it (Jingles are one way to do this, but can also be annoying). If you go this route, brainstorm a more creative, less obvious repetition technique such as the one that was used in the Budweiser frog commercials (“bud-weis-er-bud-weis-er-bud-weis-er”). people think they hate repetition, but they remember and that's half the battle.
    • Common sense: Challenging the consumer to think of a good reason why not to purchase a product or service.
    • Humor: Making the consumer laugh, thereby making yourself more likeable and memorable. This pairs especially well with refreshing honesty. Not the most successful business in your class? Advertise that your lines are shorter.
    • Exigency: Convincing the customer that time is of the essence. Limited-time only offers, fire sales, and the like are the commonest ways to do this, but again, avoid meaningless phrases that will slip under your customers’ radar.
  4. Know the customer. Even the cleverest ad won’t work if it doesn't appeal to the target audience. Are you looking for a certain age group? Do you want people with a set income level? Or maybe you're looking for a population with a special interest? Continually check back in with the targeted customer you previously outlined - would they respond to this ad or not?
    • Keep your target customer in mind when you're developing the tone and look of your ad. Remember: it needs to appeal to your audience as much as possible and avoid offending or talking down to them. Kids tend to be over-stimulated, meaning you will need to grab their attention on multiple levels (color, sound, imagery). Young adults appreciate humor and tend to respond to trendiness and peer influence. Adults will be more discerning and respond to quality, sophisticated humor, and value.
  5. Find a way to connect the desires of consumers to what you're advertising. Check back in with your strategy here. Make sure you are focusing on the most appealing aspect of your product. Why should it entice people? What sets it apart from other similar products? What do you like best about it? These can all be good starting points for an advertisement.
    • Ask yourself if your product or event is aspirational. Are you selling something that people would buy in order to feel better about their social or economic status? For instance, you might be selling tickets to a benefit gala that is designed to feel elegant and luxurious, even if the ticket price is well below what most wealthy people would be able to pay. If you are selling an inspirational product, try to make your advertisement exude an air of indulgence.
    • Determine whether or not your product is for practical means. If you're selling something like a vacuum cleaner, designed to perform common tasks or make life easier for the consumer, spin it in a different direction. Instead of emphasizing luxury, focus on how the product or event will provide relaxation and peace of mind to your consumer.
    • Is there an unmet desire or need, any frustration in the mind of your consumer, that will create a market for your particular product? Assess the need gap that exists for the product or service
  6. Make sure all the relevant information is included. If your consumer needs to know your location, phone number, or website (or all three) in order to have access to your product, provide this information somewhere in the ad. If you're advertising an event, include the location, date, time and ticket price.
    • The most important element is what's called a "call to action". What should the consumer do immediately after viewing the ad? Be sure to let them know!
  7. Decide where and when to advertise. If you're advertising for an event, start promoting it at least 6 to 8 weeks beforehand if it's going to accommodate more than 100 people; if it's less than that, start advertising 3 to 4 weeks ahead. If you're advertising a product, think about the time of year when people are more apt to buy what you're selling. For instance, if you're promoting a vacuum cleaner, it might sell better in the spring, when people are undertaking spring cleaning.

Designing an Advertisement

  1. Choose a memorable image. Simple but unexpected is often the best route to take. For example, these stark, colorful silhouette ads that barely even show the iPods they’re peddling couldn’t get much more straightforward, but because they don’t look like any other ads, they are instantly recognizable.
  2. Distinguish yourself from your top competitor(s). A burger is a burger is a burger, but if you let yourself think like that, you’ll never make your sale. Use your ad to highlight your product’s advantages over that of your competitors. To avoid lawsuits, keep to statements about your product, not theirs. For example, this Burger King ad mocks the size of the Big Mac while speaking the literal truth: that is a Big Mac box, after all, leaving McDonald's no legal ground from which to retaliate.
  3. Design a business logo (optional). A picture says a thousand words, and if a logo is effective enough, it can render text unnecessary (the backwards Nike checkmark, the Apple bitten apple, the McDonald's arches, the Chevron shell). If you're running a print or television advertisement, try to develop a simple, appealing image that will stick in the minds of viewers. Consider these points:
    • Do you already have a logo? If you can, think of fresh and creative ways of re-imagining it.
    • Do you have a commonly-used color scheme to work with? If your brand is instantly recognizable by the colors in the ad or the logo, use this to your advantage. McDonald's, Google, and Coca-Cola are good examples.
  4. Find a software or technique creating your advertisement. How you create your ad will depend on which medium you're using to advertise. Note that if starting from zero, it takes a long time to acquire skill with a design app, or with design itself. In these cases it may be more helpful (and less frustrating) to browse freelance sites like craigslist and 99designs for design help. If you're looking to try it on your own, here are tech suggestions to get you started:
    • If you're making a small-scale print ad (such as a flyer or magazine advertisement), try using a program such as Adobe InDesign or Photoshop. Or, if you're looking for a free option, you can use GIMP or Pixlr.
    • If you're making a video ad, try working with iMovie, Picasa, or Windows Media Player.
    • For an audio ad, you can work with Audacity or iTunes.
    • For a large-scale print ad (such as a banner or billboard), you'll probably have to contact a print shop to get the work done. Ask which software they recommend using.

Testing an Advertisement

  1. Tell customers to ask for someone by name. If customers have the option of calling your establishment in response to an ad, for example, direct them to “ask for Mike.” On another ad, direct them to “ask for Laura.” It doesn’t matter if Mike or Laura even exist; what does matter is that the person taking these calls records how many people ask for whom. This is a free way to track which ads are bringing people in and which aren’t.
  2. Develop your online data-tracking. If your ad is clickable online, or directs customer to an web address, you'll have immediate insight into how the ad is performing. Many Use-Google-Analytics exist to help you get started.
  3. Direct customers to different URLs on your page. This is a great way to directly compare the performance of two separate ads that may be running simultaneously. Set up your website to have a different landing page for each ad you’re testing, then track how many people go to which. Now you have a simple, unobtrusive way to see which strategies draw the most people.
  4. Offer coupons in different colors. If coupon-ing is part of your ad strategy, make sure each ad has a different color coupon so that you can tally them separately.
  5. Gauge the overall response to your ad. Did sales seem to spike after your ad, or did they drop? Did your ad contribute to the new numbers, or were they due to forces out of your control? Evaluate how well your first effort went and take a lesson for next time.


  • Check, recheck and check your ad copy again.
  • Less is always more. The less a reader has to read, the less a listener has to take in, bodes well for your ad.
  • Ads cost a lot of money, and a good ad takes your dollar a long way. It might be worth paying a professional copywriter for a great ad.
  • Whenever possible, use imperative/action verbs like ’buy now’.
  • Avoid using dull colors or tiny print - they take attention off of your advertisement. Remember that the human eye is usually attracted to things that have the brightest color, and if your advertisement doesn't have sharp colors, then it will not be noticed as much. Make your design a distinguishing feature, not an afterthought.
  • Be sure that your advert is appropriately placed. Your target audience needs to see it.
  • Consider how your advertisement will age. Ads can and should take advantage of modern trends in design, tech and language but you also don't want people looking back at your ad in 10 years and being completely shocked at its (now inappropriate) content.
  • Look back and read your advertisement again, and ask yourself, "Does this persuade me?" or

"Is ,my own product product good enough for ME to buy?".

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