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Making Advertising More Effective

Many academics writing about the marketing discipline make a distinction between (a) “image” ads focused on creating visibility and goodwill and (b) “informational” (or “reason why”) ads designed to motivate readers to buy a product or service. This school of thought contradicts two major principles of our advertising philosophy, namely:

  • All ads are image ads. The objective of every ad is to enhance the company’s marketplace recognition and credibility through the consistent use of visual and verbal brand elements such as logo, tagline, color, graphics and key marketing messages.
  • Advertising doesn’t sell products and services—people do. Advertising’s main role is to connect with prospects, shape their perceptions of a company, product or service, and motivate them to take the next step toward becoming a client.

Tips for Developing Effective Advertising

We have, over time, developed a few guidelines that can help facilitate the development of effective advertising.

Tip #1: Focus on the objective of moving the prospect to the next step. The objective could be as simple as motivating the reader to send for an informational brochure, log-on to the company’s Web site or visit their booth at an upcoming convention. Effective advertising should always help precondition prospects so that sales calls or convention activities meet less sales resistance.

Tip #2: Don’t ignore the existing customer base. Advertising can be extremely effective in helping a company reinforce the loyalty of their customers. Advertising effectiveness testing by one auto maker revealed that almost 70% of those who thoroughly read their ads were individuals who had recently purchased their product and wanted to validate that decision.

Tip #3: Don’t indulge in creative concepts at the expense of brand clarity. In today’s information age, consumers are constantly bombarded with advertising from a wide range of media. In an effort to develop advertising that will not get lost in the clutter, many creative people focus on producing “innovative” advertising that does not connect with the marketplace. The unfortunate result is a recurring corporate tragedy that unfolds as follows: an organization develops an effective communication strategy, provides it to the creative types for advertising execution, and then—poof—sees it disappear, beyond recognition, in a cloud of creativity. What remains is “artistic” advertising that has no relevance to the brand, the target market or the original objective.

Tip #4: “Productive divergence” balances innovation and brand clarity. Productive advertising sends the right messages and actively contributes to a brand’s welfare. A productively divergent format, consistently used, can become the company’s advertising signature and part of its brand imagery. In time, readers will develop a feeling of familiarity with the format and the company. Familiarity, derived from the same root as the word family, connotes something in which people can comfortably place their confidence and trust. Opposing the powerful force of the familiar leads many advertisers to make a big mistake—killing a campaign long before it has lost its effectiveness with the target audience.

Tip #5: Make sure the words and graphics work together. The goal is to provide enough graphic interest to catch the eye, and then deliver a succinct and poignant message.

When appropriate, graphics that provide visual irony can be very effective. Color is a key element that, when properly exploited, can make a significant contribution to every ad. But graphics should never lead copy. The entire advertising layout should be created so that one thing is accomplished—the first sentence is read. That should start the reader on a path of increasing interest. Well designed ads control the way a reader looks at an ad, guiding the eye to the elements to be seen first, second, etc. Many ads are too cluttered, failing to heed the KISS principle.

Songs have rhythm, so does copy. Ad copy should have a melodic flow, and be clear, simple and to the point. Since language is the currency of the mind, words become the triggers to emotions and desires. Effective copy recognizes that people buy expectations, not products or services, and offers the promise of something better.

The Bottom Line

The nice thing about advertising is that there really are few real rules. In fact, many of the exemplars are those ads that break the few rules that do exist. A guiding principle for getting the most from advertising: “Evaluate what your advertising is capable of accomplishing for your company—and then make it do just that!”