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What Makes an Effective Ad

Brian Austin
Brian Austin Advertising

What's at the heart of an effective advertisement? All the best copywriters commissioned to write smart adverts that deliver on their promises, know that if they don't get this part right, little else in the advertisement stands much of a chance to make any difference to the end result. In fact, some argue, this component actually makes up 90% of the "power" an ad possess.

So what are we referring to here? Answer: the absolutely essential need to create your advertisement headings carefully.

Key tip:

  • If we view an ad, we may also be presented with a relevant picture.
  • We may also scan-read a caption for the image.
  • However usually, only a heading can tell us, or suggest to use what action to take after seeing the ad.

Why Sometimes the Heading is the Ad

Results of recent studies suggest that 60% of folks who read advertisements scan the headings only - ignoring the main text in the ad, UNLESS they detect an immediate and relevant benefit in the heading.

Likewise, in business communications, headings are especially important and can really mean the difference between success and failure of a publication or web page.

No wonder millions of dollars are spent every year on copywriting, from which written messages are tested and perfected to deliver maximum returns.

Why Ads Need That Something Extra To Work Well

Today, the global public is understandibly more cautious, more suspicious, naturally distrustful, and more complex than users only 20 years ago.

The ads that might have worked wonderfully in the 1980s to introduce and promote your product or service, may fail miserably today. 

Why: times change, technology changes, the young generation become middle-aged, then old, and they we die. A new generation emerges. The cycle repeats.

Ad headlines need to provide sufficient reasons (benefits) to compel readers to at least examine the first one or two paragraphs of an ad.

Yet to really win, an ad needs that something extra: originality and high relevancy to the target market.

One reason why our favorite celebrities can often command huge influence is that perhaps those ad viewer like their hero or heroine so much that, for a few moments they can:

  • Feel closer to their star.
  • Feel like they're sharing a little of the lifestyle of their star.
  • Escape their current day-to-day life, which is probably hugely different to the stardom way of life.  

Such moments can create powerful impact in the minds of ad viewers, that last much longer that a few seconds. So some folks are more likely act upon any ads demoed by their favourite star performers.

Key tip: the successful ad is always different in at least one important way to those of its competitors, even if at first glance, it appears to follow the same pattern.

How to Create a Superb Heading for an Ad

An ideal heading should:

  • Contain one clear and simple benefit. Example: "Yes, you really can save money right now. Here's the proof ..."
  • Promise or claim something concrete. Example: "Use your discount coupon today and save 27% instantly!"
  • Avoid cramming in too many words. Instead, choose your words carefully. Make every word count. Sometimes, fewer words have more power. Sometimes, more words win the day. Test different options.
  • Create urgency. Example: "40% off - only until midnight 30th January!"
  • Not try to be clever, appear vague, abstract, or appear to try too hard. Example: "Have we got a surprise for you!!" Why? Overexposure to media advertising from television, newspapers, magazines, radio and the web, mean that buyers today can simply be immune to such tactics and rarely fall for such empty fabrications. Arguably, once most prospects read an empty sentence like the quote above, they've already made a subconscious judgment and "switched off." At this stage, getting them back into the spirit of the ad is probably next to impossible. Such is the power of words!
  • Include only a single excalamation mark, preferably none. Note that in the first line of the last item in the list above, we deliberately included two exclamation marks (!!) to illustrate how irritating and unprofessional "over punctuation" can appear. Moreover, since many email messages now contain multiple exclamation marks, spam filters are routinely set to automatically identify and mark such communications as spam by default. 
  • Think about ad impact. The last result you want, is for your advertisement to resemble some rendition of a snake-oil salesman. People like ads that talk to them in language that makes sense to them. Therefore ...
  • Use normal grammar and let the power of your ad persuade hearts and minds.

If what you are offering is good, worthy of attention, meets the needs of your ad readers, you'll get some positive responses.

If you test and vary your ads, you can better determine what works best, what your readers prefer.