Creating Ads That Work

Advertising is typically the last strategy I recommend to companies.


Because often, it doesn’t work at all. There are simply too many intangible factors that can go awry. These similar principles apply to Social Media, as well.

To work perfectly, advertising must hit the marketing messages dead-on. Businesses usually need a lot of help in selecting the right publication to reach their prospective clients or customers.

The right marketing message, design and copywriting must be expertly handled to promote a business properly, the ad must run often enough to build a brand identity and metrics must be set to accurately track results.


Results We Have Brought Clients

Our experience on television, radio, website, social media, and print ads for some of our clients have generated thousands of dollars on some campaigns. The ads are always part of the overall strategic plan we create for them.


Yes, we’ll show you (below) some tips to make advertising work. But first...
Advertising is a quick “hit.” It doesn’t allow your business to develop relationships with those whose problems can be solved with your services or products. In most cases, there are other marketing strategies that are more effective; at the very least these strategies should be blended into basic outreach advertising to ensure the highest-possible ROI.


Are Your Ads Really Working?
If you ask most companies if their ads work, they’ll tell you they simply don’t know. And why is that?

Because these businesses don’t track their results. Here’s a notable exception: I have a former client, the publisher of Here Comes the Guide, an extraordinary guidebook & website for brides and event producers. This company finds that their wedding/event clients mostly get incredible results. Why? Because the directory is targeted, its ads are handled by an in-house, professional design team, its distribution is huge, AND the publishers track their ad traffic. Plus, the book’s suppliers and providers are pre-qualified before they’re allowed to be included. Check out - it's a really fun website!


How Much Ads Cost
Ad costs can range anywhere from $75 for small, local publications, to $200,000 (per ad!) for large, national magazines like Cosmopolitan. Costs generally depend on the size of the ad, the distribution of the publication, the time of year and the number of times your ad runs.

Social Media ads have different costs depending on the ad type. To choose the correct ad type for your goal, it's best to get experienced help (yes, we offer that). If you're just boosting posts, you're likely not getting serious results. So, be sure to get advising before spending on a full campaign. You may be surprised that a Tic Toc audience pulls more clients/sales for you than Linkedin ads. We'll help you save time and cost.

All of those factors should be evaluated in creating a media plan for a company. Generally, an ad needs to run at least 6-12 times in a small, local publication or website to begin to get noticed. Targeting in social media is different but should be done properly for the ad type to get maximum value. Ads are just a part of a marketing mix, not as successful as stand-alone tactics! Ads are often the lazy person's method of promotion. They don't generate the best ROI for small companies without the groundwork being laid first.

Here’s the good news: Small newsletters or affinity websites/blogs/poccasts can evoke a much larger response than huge, national media. Smaller, local publications or media can help you reach much better-targeted clients for your local business. Social media can often deliver the same result when the campaign is planned correctly.


Test it !
I you have the budget, test your ad in print and online. Submit an ad campaign to your local organization or association’s newsletter and test that response at a very low cost before you purchase more expensive ad space. This often delivers better results from interested callers if you network in the area or organization where your ads are found. Why? Becasue the members will often already know you so your ad might really pull for you there, as opposed to a large national publication where none of the readers have ever heard of your company.

Social media tests can be done more quickly, but the results may not compare to print ads. It all depends on who you're trying to reach, your budget, the correct strategic message and ad type.


More Tips

  • Less is More. This is one of the most common mistakes in ads. Don't believe me? Pick up the local paper and take a look. Don't you find your eyeballs drawn to the ads that are easy to read, have 'teaser' copy that whets your appetite for more information? Your ad should drive traffic to your website or social media where people can get a deeper level of information, learn about your products, services, your organization's mission, your positioning and pricing (if relevant).


Here's a simple, but effective Amnesty International ad with text "Stop the world record of executions".

  • Unless your other marketing outreach is in place, it simply doesn't pay to do advertising, except in very rare cases. Other marketing strategies typically bring in more business faster and lay the groundwork for responding to ad requests. This is developed in a marketing action plan from an expert who can analyze what strategic tactics work best for your unique business.


  • Build your ad with the 7 most important elements listed in order below, making it easy to read and comprehend. If it’s not a great, well-balanced design, your response rate will suffer.

→  compelling title
→  great design
→  photo or graphic
→  caption under photo
→  clear, concise body copy evoking emotional response (bullet points often easier to read)
  contact information, including URL of your website or QR code
  call to action  (i.e.; redeem this coupon, call this extension, special offer, etc.)

  • More Results

Since you’re probably paying a fair amount of money for the ad space itself, it’s well worth investing in a professional marketer with a design team to help. Also, compelling copy is as critical as design. Almost 90% of the time, it’s done wrong. It's very hard to evaluate this and have the right experience and data to choose the right media & message for one's own company. What you pay in advising will usually pay off in greater results.

  • You may wish to set up separate mailboxes for various media. For example, you could direct callers to "extension 101" to track calls from the SF Chronicle, or have your Facebook ad invite visitors to email/message you or click through to a particular landing page so you can determine where responses are actually coming from.

In my experience, most business owners or marketing directors are just guessing or using a hunch about this. But once we set up measurements, they're usually surprised at where people are actually coming from. More importantly, they can then determine which ad is worth the cost and which is not.

Add up the dollar value in sales, and you’ll know exactly where to spend your money—assuming all other creative in the ad is perfect, that is.

  • Have you used a "tracking sheet"? If you can’t establish separate mailboxes to track your calls, you might keep a tracking sheet next to your phone and just ask people how they heard about you. However, my experience is that people are often confused or just can’t recall, so they’ll say “from your website” or “I don’t remember”, so it's not optimal, but may give you an idea.

If you establish an ad that directs prospective clients to your website, but you’ve no idea what generated the original lead, this leads to very inaccurate tracking unless it's a PPC (pay per click) ad. Web stats can give you this info, but you’ll need to know how to read them. Give us a call if you need some guidance with that, as it can help with profitability more than you can even imagine.

  • Don't run an ad just one time! General wisdom says to run an ad 6-12 times (in a monthly publication, like a local newspaper) before you have useful statistics on it's success. It takes at least that many "inclusions" or number of times running the same ad, before people start to notice or recognize it.

Far too many people base ad decisions on a one time test - but that just doesn't work. So, unless you can run an ad at least 6 times, don't waste your money on it. There are a lot of other ads and information competing for our same eyeballs!

  • Facebook ads have different rules, so be sure to get advice from social media experts who've tested those ads to know what works and what doesn't before spending your money. There are a few tips on our social media services page. 


What Makes a Great Ad?
One that works to bring you business, of course!

Here’s an ad we’ve just created for a terrific DVD copy company in San Francisco way back in 2007 (before blu-ray or streaming was common). They told me the products they use are superior, and work in any kind of set-top player. This differs radically from their competitors, whose DVDs often don’t play at all. Imagine submitting a film you’ve worked on for nine months to a festival for an award, and having it rejected because it wouldn't play on the judge’s DVD system. How horrible would that be?

Previous ads for this company just showed images of their DVD cases with bulk-pricing noted—not too imaginative for their very imaginative audience. Here’s what we created to capture the filmmakers’ attention (designed for print, not greatest quality for web, though):

Which one do you think is pulling the best response: price list or the ad?

Here’s another great example of an “emotional” response ad that I found on Pinterest. It’s a great example of a compelling message for a public service announcement, with a great photo, good headline, evokes an emotional response, and excellent design: A photo speaks a thousand words.


Want It Right The First Time?
If you want an analysis or more in-depth suggestions than this article, just contact us. To see a few more ads or other marketing communications our team has created, visit our portfolio page for a sampling.

If you want it done right the first time, saving you aggravation, mistakes, time, and cost - simply send a request so our expert strategic creative direction, writing and design teams can help you. After all, Knowledge is Bliss!