Advert Design Advice

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How to Design an Advert that Works


This section is all about how you can design an advert which gets results! No offence to many of the brilliant and talented graphic designers out there, or skilled desktop designers, but beautiful artwork doesn’t guarantee results or generate sales.

I have seen a lot of artwork which has cost £1,000s, only to be missing the telephone number or website address!

Advertising, whether in print, email or web is about presenting a special benefit or rich offer to your specific target prospects, clients or customers.

Putting it in plain terms – It’s all about grabbing the attentions of the right people within a nanosecond, giving them an awesome sales pitch, and cohering paying customers to buy from you. Simple! Right?

The days of spending money on “Give it a test”, or “That looks okay,” have been left a long way behind.

Today, EVERY penny counts.

If you have a poor design, then you are wasting your money. A well-designed advert can get attention ranging up to 20 seconds, but generally you only get 10-12 seconds depending on the size of the advert.

Before I talk about the structure of the advert here are some basic things you need to know –

 At least 50% space of your advert needs to be visuals, without it the attention gets lost.

 Adverts are scanned, and viewed rather than read

 Adverts are scanned in a clockwise motion

 One off advertising generally does not work!

 Adverts need to appeal to one person at a time and not to EVERYONE (I’ll explain later)

OK, now, let’s talk about constructing an advert!



Once you have grabbed their attention, hit them again! Use a sub-headline!

The only way you can grab anyone’s attention, is to really understand what problems you are actually solving, and presenting the solution to the person who sees your advert. This way you are identifying with that person and not EVERYONE!

Here is what I mean – Imagine you want to find female customers who have children!

CALLING ALL MUMS: Are you killing your children? – Stop NOW!

If you are a mum, would you read on?

The headline doesn’t need to be so drastic, but a powerful headline grabs the attention and then a sub-headline stops the motion of moving on.  The type of headline all depends on the type of product or service you want the reader to buy.

You can use others like –

HEY MUM! NEED MORE SLEEP? We can help you sleep, EVERY NIGHT!

This one is a classic, because asking a question will grab the attention of all the tired mums, and then indicates that you have a solution.

Remember, you are solving a problem, there is a clear benefit, and it’s about them, not you. If you can use emotion at any point, do it!

Just remember: 

Command your reader’s attention with an effective strong headline.

Keep it short, simple and to the point, and most importantly, make sure it is targeting the audience you want.

Following up with a sub-headline and encourages further attention.

Tips –

 Keep your headline simple. Don’t make it difficult to understand.

 Secondary headline – Point out their problems and how you solve them, or use emotion if you can

 Use a question in either of your headlines is always good

 The position of the headline is as important as having the headline



FACT: Best Carpet cleaner in Europe

This is a bad headline, because I am sure the rest of the advert would indicate they clean carpets, but also it has nothing to do with the customer! No emotion, no clear benefits and who cares? Lastly it’s all about them! Although you might think that your advert is about your business, it’s not!

2. Establish Interest and Generate Desire

So you have their attention, and now the reader needs to know what’s in it for them. Don’t talk about how technical your services is or how cutting edge your latest widget is. I can’t express how important this is point – NOBODY CARES!

You need to be thinking from the customer’s point of view and address a problem. Emphasize the benefits and future outcomes of using your product or services from their angle.

The main triggers of emotion that bring people to buy are:

  • Love – This is a great emotional trigger! People who love a product are loyal!
  • Pride – Everyone feels proud about something! My cleaner, My Car, My House…
  • Guilt – I really should have had that extra glass of wine…
  • Fear – If I don’t buy this, what will happen?
  • Greed – I don’t need this, but I can afford it.

There are many more, and I am sure I will blog about this another time, but I can promise you, people are not buying just because you have been in business for 25 years.

So how do you appeal to the emotions?

Think about what the client is thinking. This is not just true in designing your advert, but also in a sales situation (again a whole different blog). To make this easy, find out why people would need your service and why not call your competitors. So if you provide a service, find out what problems they are having. Find out what they don’t like about the industry, and what you do better than anyone else. Then, create desire for your product or service.

Avoid using a lot of copy here. It is an advert, not an editorial! Keep to bullet points, make it emotional if you can and talk about the reader.
Here is what I mean –

If you are going for copy –

Don’t put copy in like this: We at XYZ Widget repairs are the cheapest in town. We are reliable, and have a friendly service. We have been established for over 25 years and we are good at what we do. If we make a mistake we offer a guarantee.

Put copy like this: Your broken widget will be repaired by a professional with over 25 years of experience, without waiting around for someone to turn up and at a price you can afford. If you are not completely happy with the service you receive then you don’t pay us a penny.

Same points made, but which one would you buy from?

I strongly suggest avoiding bullet points like these:

  • We are cheap
  • We are reliable
  • We are friendly
  • We offer a Guaranteed Service

Instead, go for these:

  • We fit YOUR budget
  • YOU can count on us
  • YOU’LL love our service
  • YOU don’t pay, if you don’t get results!

The last one is always a tricky, as the word GUARANTEED is all that is read, but we will move on to this later!

Don’t be scared to point out problems people face when using someone in your sector! If other companies charge too much money, turn up late, don’t fix things on first visit, turn up dressed in dirty boots, use this to your advantage by telling they won’t get that from you.

3. Enable Conviction –

Anyone who sees an advert must have complete buyer confidence to be able to take the action you require, from looking at your website, calling you or buying something. Make it easier! You need to give solid trust in what you have to offer. You can do this inserting a testimonial, or having logos such as Why not insert any awards or service scores if you have them? If your profession requires a qualification be sure to point this out and include this.

You could do this by simply inserting a photo of you! Nothing shows more conviction in what you are offering than if you are happy putting your name and face to something you are doing. People buy from people.

Offer Guarantee of service!

I promised I would talk about this. Guarantees are an excellent way of showing your potential customers you are serious about how they feel about using your services. (did you notice how I said about how they feel?). Any kind of guarantee gives the person looking at your advert trust, confidence, but more importantly – security. There is no question about the service or product if you are backing it with a guarantee. This makes the buying decision or emotion easier.

Why Testimonials?

If you have a testimonial, make sure it is a genuine one. Keep it short and to the point. (Not too much text, remember). This helps establish trust from a third party.

4. Call to Action

This is the single most overlooked detail. TELL the reader what they need to do next. This is called a call to action. Again, make this step easy! PUT YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER or WEBSITE ADDRESS. Seriously, I have seen so many adverts which have sent in artwork, without a telephone number or website address. Even when a graphic designer has put the artwork together!

For and awesome call to action, why not include a voucher or discount, but make it time sensitive:

“For a LIMITED Time”, “Places Limited” or “For the first 10 people who call”

5. Design Layout

Advert design layout is the last thing you need to complete the finished advert. You need to remember that adverts are scanned, you only have 3 seconds to get their attention. So, headline needs to be seen before your logo our business name.

This is the order of what you want people to see in an advert:

  • Headline
  • Sub-headline
  • Image which relate to what you are offering
  • The rest of your info – Bullet points, what you do for them
  • Your offer
  • Your details
  • Your logo

You need to consider the size of the advert, and then work out the size of the text, and how many words you want to use. Remember here, less is more.

What Font?

Only use Serif for printed work. Serif fonts are basically fonts with curls at the bottom. It is easier to read and recognized quicker than Sans Sarif. Sans Serif are more squared font which is much better for digital and website text.

Last Tips

In marketing you will hear about the three M’s: Message, Medium, Market. Basically, What’s the message you want, going to what market and what medium are you going to use? For any kind of advertising, you need to make sure you make your message is being delivered to the right market. If your medium doesn’t go to the right market, your message won’t be delivered!

Make sure the magazine you are going to advertise in, hits the right target. There is no point in advertising bookkeeping services in a teeny bopper’s mag!

Be constant! The more you advertise the more you will get trust from the reader, don’t ever see advertising as a cost, but as an investment. Whatever you do, please don’t think that placing one advert once will work. IT WONT!

Try and get a great position in the magazine. Usually depending on what you offer, you need to be on the right hand page, and close, if not included within a section or article which can be associated to your profession.

STAND OUT! – use humour…. Be entertaining if possible

Measure, test and be prepared to change! – I know that I have said one off adverts don’t work, but if you are not getting a response after a fixed time, then look at changing the advert. Your business is needed by someone, that’s why you are doing it. Just look at the message or design. Does it reflect the people you want to attract?

If you need any further advice, please feel free to call me for a free consultation.