Regardless of which advertising medium you select, the words you use to deliver the message are critical to meeting the following three objectives:
To promote awareness of your business.
To stimulate sales.
To create your firm’s market niche.
The advertising message must play an integral part in the overall marketing plan. The message’s primary goal – its ultimate purpose – is to grab the public’s attention.
A creative message can change a company’s image, attracting purchasers who might otherwise have never considered buying your product.
There are six basic characteristics all creative messages have:
They are simple and easily understood.
They are truthful.
They are informative.
They are sincere.
They are customer-oriented.
They tell who, what, where, when, why and how.
If your budget is large enough, you can hire an advertising agency to put together your entire advertising campaign, including creative services. If you can’t attract an advertising agency or don’t feel you need one, you can hire freelance copywriters and graphic artists to help you develop a solid creative campaign.
An important part of your creative campaign will be developing a memorable slogan or jingle. Ads in a campaign should tie together so that each time someone sees or hears them, they remember your product.
You want to design ads that work effectively in a variety of formats. In your copy, stress your company’s strong points. You need a strong headline or opening, and the body copy should expand on the premise in the headline. End the ad with a “call for action” – encourage your audience to try your product.
Designing the advertisement
No matter what communication vehicle(s) you select to advertise your product or service, good advertising usually follows established rules of form and content.
Of course, rules are made to be changed and broken, and innovators are often successful when they do that; however, as a novice, you should learn to imitate the styles and techniques of successful advertisers before you try to become a non-conformist.
Most big-name advertisers spend millions of dollars analysing their markets. They learn what their customers’ deepest desires and anxieties are by studying psychographic data and using focus groups. The ads these companies come up with appeal to the basic emotions of consumers.
To put together an effective advertisement, you first have to analyse the products or services you want to advertise, your company, and the type of customers you want to appeal to in the ad. Next, you have to design an appeal – that is, something that will benefit the target audience – and incorporate it into ad copy.
Here are some guidelines that will help you create strong ads:
Create a sense of immediacy: Because response diminishes over time, advertising relies on urging people to act immediately. Most people like to be led – particularly when in unfamiliar territory; tell your audience what response you want. At different points throughout the ad, and especially at the conclusion, ask for a response: “Act quickly”, “Limited-time offer”, “Call now”, etc.
Repetition sells: Keep weaving and reweaving the same sales pitch throughout the ad, each time adding a slightly new slant to the significant features and benefits of your product or service.
Repetition sells because the more times someone hears or reads something, the more believable it becomes. Repetition is particularly important in advertising because you normally don’t have the full attention of your audience.
For a lot of people, writing repetitiously is difficult because they were taught in school to avoid redundancy at all cost. When writing ad copy, forget this training and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Hit the “buttons”: Different people will be drawn to different things about your product or service. One person may admire quality, while another might like easy maintenance or the newness or simplicity of an item. Decide what is different and exciting about your product or service, then tell your audience how and why they need what you have to sell.
Sell the sizzle, not the steak: This is an old advertising axiom. It means sell the benefits of using your business, not just the product or service you offer. There’s nothing wrong with talking about the features of your product or service, but unless you spell out how the customers will directly benefit, your ad won’t be as effective as it could be. To excite your audience, you must display and/or describe your product or service in a captivating way.
Use plain, simple English and be straightforward. Keep your ad copy at an understandable level or you’ll lose much of your audience.
Evaluate other ads: Collect all kinds of ads and study them. This is a habit of all good ad-makers. Use their ideas if they’re worthwhile. Don’t be a martyr, trying to create something entirely new because you want to be different. It is certainly essential to put your own imagination to use, but learn to emulate the strengths of others who are successful with their advertising.
For print ads and television, the next element you’ll need to include is the visual art.
The visuals for television advertising will consist of a series of images that tell a story. A good television commercial should be able to convey your advertising message without ad copy.
It should be entertaining and memorable. Use people, colors, animals, or anything that will create images with emotional appeal and sell your product or service at the same time.
If you can afford photography in print ads, use it. Photographs are generally more believable than illustrations, and they’re more professional-looking and easier to remember.
Another way to get attention for small-space advertising involves the layout. Because of the natural tendency of most small-businesses to say everything they possibly can in an advertisement, typical small-space advertising is very crowded and very busy.
What you want to do instead is make your ad as simple as possible. Make it easy for the reader to understand the message you want him to remember. He can’t do that when he has to fight through four different typefaces, screaming banner headlines, or tiny photographs.
You’re better off sticking with one typeface throughout the ad and staying away from a variety of type sizes. The headline should be in one type size and the body copy in another. Forcing the reader to look at a variety of typefaces may annoy him.
One effective way to increase readership of small-space advertising is to use a reverse. That’s when the type appears in white and the background is in black. You’d be amazed at the amount of reader interest such ads generate – but be careful. Sometimes too much reverse body text is hard to read. You might also try using colour advertising if the surrounding advertising is black and white – this makes your ad stand out.
Another effective way to draw attention to your ad in the newspaper or the magazine is to use a border. Borders will set your ad apart from others quite dramatically, but you need to make sure that the border is not the most interesting thing for people to look at.
Using white space
In advertising terminology, “white space” is the blank area surrounding the headline or framing the advertisement and separating it from other advertisements on the page.
Very few small-business people use white space in their advertising effectively, but it can dramatically set off your advertisement from the others.
To add visual impact to a print ad, you can create an ad with a lot of white space if you’re advertising in the newspapers or “yellow space” if you’re advertising in the Yellow Pages.
These types of ads work well because of the dense columns of type used in these publications. Anything that breaks up the pattern stands out.
This is true not only for the design of the print ad, but also for its size. Ads that are different in size from standard formats will stand out in a publication.
For instance, a diagonal ad will break up standard media formats, as will running three ads in rapid succession. Placing an ad that runs across two pages is another widely used method.
How to design good, simple layouts
Here are some hints and tips that will help you design simple and effective layouts for your advertising and promotional material.
Start with the headline. Headlines make ads work.
Use type big enough and bold enough to stand out.
Upper and lower case letters are easier to read.
Use lots of white space.
Use a big picture. Photographs are best.
Small print captions under the pictures are well read.
Set lines of long copy eight or nine words wide.
Set long text justified, i.e. lined up flush left and right.
Don’t print black type over grey shading. Don’t overprint type on pictures.
Reverse body copy text is hard to read.
Establish a consistent image
People want to know what your shop or business looks like. Your layout, use of pictures, typestyle and white space gives your ad a personal look.
Your logo or signature also establishes your identity. It is important that you pick a style and stick with it, so that each time you run your ad, it will appeal to readers or viewers who know and like you.
When you find a typeface that fits your style, use it in all your regular ads. At sale time you might want to give your ads a different look, and that calls for a typeface change.
If your usual typestyle is calm and dignified, then sale ads should have a bold, brash look. Afterward, go back to your regular typestyle.
If you decide to use a photograph, try to put one in every ad. Whatever style art you use, photographs or illustrations, it should be repeated throughout the year.
Your style and format should be as well known as your face. It should give you instant recognition. Once you develop your look, stick with it. That raises the question of your face. Do you want your picture in every ad? Some advertisers do that. It makes sense if your face is part of the important benefit in your headline. If not, don’t do it.
Stick to the benefits that readers really care about – “what’s in it for me?”