5 top tips for writing an informative advertisement

If, as marketing pioneer John Wanamaker said, half your advertising budget is wasted but you don't know which half, read on to plan your strategy

Getting advertising wrong can be extremely detrimental to a business. If the message you put out there is incorrect you run the risk of alienating potential customers but, when written well, an advertisement can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your overall marketing campaign.

While writing a great advertisement is an art, the key principles of an advertising campaign are easy to understand — helping you to prepare your own advertisement or evaluate the work of an agency or copywriter working for you.

1. Choose the right media

The most important decision is choosing the right media for your target market. There are many options including traditional, online, offline and direct advertising.

For example, offline/traditional advertising could include local, national and trade newspapers and magazines. Or you could invest in a billboard, banner ad or pop-up online.

Whatever your method, getting your channel right is vital. You will need an understanding of your target market and which media will give you access to them. For example, check the readership and user figures for possible media to ensure they match your target market, or the demographic of those attending the event you might be advertising at.

2. Get the basics right

Who are the individuals or businesses that make up your target market? What are you trying to achieve? What are the key benefits you can offer, and how do they set you apart from key competitors?

Answer your target customer’s primary question: ‘What’s in it for me?’

For example, if the advertisement is meant to generate a response, make it easy do so.

Your advertisement will have no effect unless it catches the reader’s attention. A good headline is essential, and including an illustration will add impact. Be mindful of budgets though – big, colourful advertisements will catch the eye, but can be expensive. Good, clear design can also help your advertisement stand out.

After the headline has captured the reader’s attention, most advertisements use the main ‘body copy’ to build up interest, create a desire for the product and ultimately prompt the reader to take action.

Online advertising gives you the greatest flexibility as you can add music, video and graphics at little extra cost. But remember, your advertisement needs to carry the right message.

3. Bring in some helping hands

There may not be enough resource, or the right resource, within your company to design a compelling advert. Don’t accept sub-standard work for the benefit of saving a bit of money, you will lose out on ROI and it might have a detrimental effect on customer’s perception of your brand as a result.

Design and typesetting are often included in the cost of advertising, but the in-house team of your chosen media channel is unlikely to produce outstanding creative work for you.

There are a number of different external resources that are available to lend a ‘helping hand’:

  • An advertising agency can handle all aspects of preparing your advertisement
  • A freelance copywriter can write the headline and body copy
  • A photographer or illustrator can plan and produce an image or illustration
  • A graphic designer can design your advertisement and do the artwork

Whoever you use, remember to brief them fully on what you are trying to achieve.

4. Making the most of design

Remember the key objectives for an advertisement are to make people aware of your product or service, affect a viewer’s attitude towards your product or service and encourage them to act, either by ordering the product or calling up to find out more.

It is vital to take advantage of the freedom of design an advert allows you, to ensure you are utilising this opportunity to capture potential customers effectively.

Ensure you choose a clear typeface that reflects the image you want for your company, and emphasise important text e.g. headline and phone number by using large, bold type.

Lay out your advertisement with plenty of white space. Cramming illustrations and text together creates clutter, which is off-putting. If everything will not fit easily, you probably have too many words anyway.

5. Don’t fall at the last hurdle

Imagine spending all this time and money putting together the perfect advert, and when it’s printed you spot a typo! Make sure you check your copy thoroughly before submitting the final artwork.

Check once, without reading the words, to see what the overall visual effect is. Will the advertisement stand out from other ads appearing on the same page, website or elsewhere in the same publication?

Then, check a second time to make sure there are no typographical errors (e.g. spelling mistakes, missing text, wrong typefaces used).

If you are using an illustration, check that the picture is sharp. If your advertisement will be in colour, check a colour proof. Do not let the finished advertisement go out of the door until you genuinely believe it will be effective.

If there are errors that are not your fault, insist that they are corrected at the publication’s expense. Remember, it is your hard earned money you are using, so don’t be afraid to get the most out of it.

Will Ferguson is the marketing manager of business supplies marketplace Frillo.

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  1. Great article… I’d like to just add that we have a massive advantage over John Wannamaker in terms of the level of tracking that we now have available. I would certainly encourage all advertisers to figure out how to track the effectiveness of their collateral. Using telephone numbers? Get call tracking. Running online ads, promoted posts on facebook or twitter or email blasts? Are tracking query strings to every url. Using QR codes? Tag these too.

    There is absolutely no excuse to not know which half of your advertising spend is being wasted today!