Advertising Effectively - 6 Steps to Effective Advertising

When we think about advertising we are really thinking about media consumption.

That’s the marketing terminology used to express how people are using (consuming) the various communication media that are available.

In the old days newspapers and radio were most important. Then along came TV. Then along came FM radio stations. Then came cable TV to break up media habits even further. Then came the Internet, email, online video, social networking, podcasts, online news, and the list goes on. Now we even have in-flight TV to compete with the traditional in-flight magazine for passenger attention.

It’s easy to see how peoples media consumption has been split, fractured and fragmented. Essentially, we still have 24 hours per day. But we now have multiple forms of communication vying for our readership, listenership, or participation.

What this means for you – as an advertiser – is that you need to be very careful about who you are advertising to, and which media to use.

Many people, including some experienced marketers, make lazy decisions about advertising. They choose what comes first to mind; or from the media rep that pesters them the most; or what they have done before; or the option that gives them the best incentive or reward.

And sometimes people jump straight to ‘how’ their ad will look. That is, they design the ad before knowing what they will be doing with it. Design can be fun. But it can also be premature.

So, what should you do to create effective advertising?

1. Choose your audience.

Firstly, start with your audience. Who do you want to communicate to? This may not be as straightforward as it first looks.

For example, one lady at the seminar had a massage therapy business. She offers personal therapeutic massages, and also offers ‘corporate’ massages where she visits the workplace and administers individual massages for staff.

Therefore her audience is split. Personal clients have different expectations than corporate clients. The decision makers in each category are driven by different motives. That means each category requires a different marketing message. And decision makers from each category would be reading different media, and looking for information from different sources than the other category of client.

Because it can often require more thought, this is one of the steps that lazy marketers overlook.

2. Find the most effective media.

Based on your choice of audience (Step 1) you can then do some research and find out the best way to get a message in front of your prospects.

Are your decision makers business managers reading industry specific magazines or journals? Are they members of a professional organisation, reading publications from their association? Are they general consumers searching for information online? Are they people at work, who may be listening to the radio?

Marketers looking for a quick decision also overlook this step. Why? Because it often takes extra time to check data from these advertising options and evaluate which one is really the best choice.

3. Develop a high-impact headline.

Choose words, topics, emotions, and issues that will attract the attention of your audience. It’s been quoted that 80% of the overall effectiveness of your ad is based on the headline.

Think of your headline as they gateway to your ad. If people don’t read it, they don’t get through the gate to read your ad.

Choose a headline that has direct appeal to your audience. Don’t try and be too clever, as you run the risk of the headline not being immediately understood.

4. Use relevant images.

If you are going to include a picture or image – which can be a good idea – make sure it is relevant. The idea of ‘relevance’ may be a bit subjective, so you might consider testing a few options with selected members of your target group.

Images of products in use are common. Or use an evocative, aspirational image of the end result your clients will achieve. Try to avoid images with negative connotations.

Also, check what competitors are doing - especially larger nationals or multi-nationals. They usually have the budget to test and research their advertising. So it may be safe to assume what they are doing is on the right track. But never believe it 100%. Many multi-nationals have created advertising that misses the mark. Be open to new ideas, but don’t completely ignore your own gut feel, which should be based on your industry experience. Don’t guess.

By the way, your logo should be positioned at the bottom of your ad, not the top. The exception to this rule is if your logo is already well known by your audience. In this case it will add credibility and 'instant recognition' (like using a household brand name).

5. Write body copy to involve and create desire.

The body of the ad should draw the reader or listener in. It should focus on emotional issues. It should create desire to achieve an outcome related to using your product or service.

In the case of business-to-business services, focus the copy on benefits for the business – saving money; competitive advantage; increased efficiency.

For complex products or services, where the prospect will not make an immediate decision to buy from reading the ad, maybe you could offer some information as the next logical step for them to take.

6. Include a clear call to action.

For most SME’s (small-medium enterprises), and in fact any company that is not a major well-known brand name, the ad should include a clear call-to-action. This means you should tell the audience what to do next. Through your ad you have captured their attention, created desire for your service, and now need to explain clearly what to do next.

The call-to-action could be:

Call now to get…

Phone this number for…

Complete your details below and fax the form to…

Visit our website and…

Send an email to…

Visit your local distributor at…

Follow these six steps and you will certainly improve your ability to create effective advertising. Also, remember that to maximise your results you also need to test various aspects of your ad such as headline, offer, position on page, size, colour, and frequency. Practice makes perfect!


Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart's popular newsletter, visit his web site at

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