A Crash Course in Making Good Ads

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For a small business, making good ads isn’t about hiring Cindy Crawford and buying a Times Square billboard.

We have to be – dare I say it – better than that.

Our ads will be in trade magazines, directories and social media feeds. We have to keep it simple and effective to maximise our modest budgets.

Here’s how.

5 rules for making good ads

1. Simplicity is always best

Your audience won’t notice if an ad has a very simple message, because they’re not looking to you for philosophy and art. They also won’t notice if your ad is too complicated – because they’ll skip straight over it.

When we’re making ads, we often think we’re not being clever enough. But considering the split-second your target audience will spare your ad, you’re almost certainly being too clever.

It’s OK to say what you do and how good it is. We’re not aiming to win a Cannes Lion; we just want to make money.

2. Emotions rule us

Marketing is mostly about trying to sell to people who weren’t necessarily trying to buy.

That means we have to get to a person’s subconscious rather than appealing to their reason.

Making someone want a product because they feel like it’ll make their life better is more powerful than setting out the bare facts and letting them make the decision.

Benefits over features!

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3. The fewer words, the better

Not always true, because long-form ads can be incredibly effective. But for a small business, it’s likely you’ll be doing small-format ads, so space is at a premium.

For fast comprehension, you can’t beat imagery. Words are nearly always needed, too, but keep this in mind: words get in the way of us understanding things. We have to work to understand words. And effort = bad news.

Making good ads is about restraint. It can feel like you need lots of words to explain your product or service but if that’s true, your concept is too complicated. Edit CRUELLY.

4. Contrast makes you stand out

Oooh, that long social media feed. Chock-full of ads pulling your target audience hither and thither. It’s hard to get attention.

One thing that’s guaranteed to get you lost in the mix is being samey. We need something a little different, eye-catching or surprising. That could be in your visuals, but it could be a brave headline.

Put it this way: would you rather play it safe and make no sales…or get loads of attention but put a few people off? Your bank account says go for it. Stand out and cash in.

5. Your own emotion matters

Making good ads is easiest when you have genuine feelings about what you’re selling.

Being angry on behalf of your potential customers, or passionately believing you can help solve their burning problem – these emotions write ads.

If you can get far enough inside your customers’ heads, you’ll know what they need to hear.

Now, go make an ad.