Designing Your AdDos and Don'ts for peaking your prospect's interest

February 1, 2000

6 Min Read
Designing Your AdDos and Don'ts for peaking your prospect's interest

Designing Your Ad

Dos and Don'ts for peaking your prospect's interest

By Kent Davies

Composing advertising artwork using your personal computer's publishing software inconjunction with your laser printer may lull you into a false sense of security. Creatingsuccessful ads requires very specific writing and composing skills--skills you can learnand use in conjunction with your software to create effective, small ads.

Small ads generate more bang for your advertising buck. Just because the space is smalldoes not mean the diligence and forethought used in composing the ad should be similarlymeager. The truth is, small ads require substantial time and creativity to be effective.

To harvest big bucks from small ads consider the following steps:

Grab Your Readers' Attention

If you want your ad read from start to finish, you must first motivate prospects toread beyond the headline. This is crucial, especially if you consider the fact that 70percent to 80 percent of consumers do not read beyond an ad's headline.

Successful headlines present news or promise specific benefits. For example,advertising an upcoming special sale with a headline that reads "Spring CleaningStorage Special" will not motivate prospects as much as an ad promising readers inbold type "Spring Break: One Month Free." The latter headline screams forattention and motivates storage shoppers to learn how to achieve the promised savings.

Keep headlines simple and direct. Do not use language that only confuses readers.Remember: You are not trying to impress them with your vocabulary. Your purpose is togenerate rentals. Always use short, attention-grabbing and easy-to-understand words like"save," "safe," "unconditionally guaranteed,""satisfaction," "you," "bargain" or "new."

Increase your ad's visual impact by emphasizing your headline with appropriate photosor illustrations. This encourages prospects to read further. For example, using a photo ofa barbed fence will reinforce the idea of security.

Titillate Your Prospects' Appetite

After your headline has grabbed a prospect's attention, carefully develop the body ofyour ad. What you want to accomplish here is to clearly and concisely help prospectsunderstand the advantages of responding to your ad. This is especially difficult in smallads, but not impossible. Keep the text of your ad simple and direct, keeping foremost inyour mind the ad's primary purpose.

If your goal is attracting new prospects to your climate-controlled storage facility,keep the climate-control aspect foremost in your mind while developing your ad. Give aphone number to call and/or a second-month-free coupon they can return by a given date.

If your goal is selling your new state-of-the-art security system, your approach wouldbe quite different from advertising your new climate-controlled facility. The body of yourad must clearly reflect this difference. You might use attention-grabbing phrases such as"state-of- the-art security system" or "24-hour on-site security."

Cover the Five Ws

Be specific in your ad. Always cover the basics of who, what, when, where and why. Makesure your ad clearly states what your business is and, if you are having a specific pricebreak, designate just what is on promotion--such as all 8-by-12 storage units are rentingfor a special reduced rate.

Avoid any confusion by clearly indicating the dates your promotion begins and ends.Nothing angers customers more than making a trip to a business and learning the sale wasover yesterday. In addition, include your address and any nearby landmarks, such as ashopping mall, as well as your phone number and business hours. If you are open forextended hours during your promotion, clearly state this in your ad. Finally, clarify whyyou are having this sale, such as a "grand opening."

Be Specific

The more specific your text, the easier it is for its readers to grasp. Do not say"high ceilings." More effective text clearly states, "12-foot ceilingsavailable." If you are advertising security, make sure your ad clearly specifies whatextra security you are offering, such as "lighted, 12-foot, razor-wire fencing."A clear photo of your intimidating fencing reinforces your message.

Use Testimonials

Testimonials or endorsements are attention-grabbers. Nothing attracts prospects likethe endorsement of a distinguished hero or respected celebrity. For example, if you areselling enhanced security, the interest in your ad increases exponentially if it'sendorsed by a well-known and respected former police chief. A direct connection betweenthe endorsement text and celebrity picture dramatically increases your ad's overallimpact.

To be effective, endorsements or testimonials must be believable. Don't overdo it, oryou will lose credibility.

Offer a Guarantee

If you offer guarantees, make one thing clear: If you offer a 30-day full refund tounsatisfied customers, express this prominently in your ad. Prospects always like knowingthere will not be any hassles if problems develop or if they change their minds.

Use Coupons Effectively

A coupon at the bottom of an ad offering 25 percent off the first month for a limitedtime attracts prospects to your business and provides important feedback on which printedads are most effective. Contest coupons for a six-month-free rental also help attractprospects.

Develop coupon code numbers to track your ad's effectiveness. Using a code, such as51BCTS, for example, could identify the coupon's source as the May 1st ad on theBelleville Courier Times sports page. Tracking your media responses increases yourlong-term advertising's overall effectiveness.

Repeat Yourself

On your copy's last lines repeat your ad's primary purpose. A statement such as"Act today. Only seven units left. Don't leave your irreplaceable heirloomsvulnerable to theft..." summarizes your ad's main purpose of attracting security-conscious customers to your facility. The "only seven units left" effectivelymotivates prospects to rent quickly.

Make Your Ad Stand Out

With small ads, you need to remember that, in most publications, you are very likelycompeting in a sea of similar small ads. Therefore, you must use a design strategy thatgrabs a reader's attention.

Your ad's border is important. The more unique the border, the more it will stand out.There is no one answer as to the most effective border to use. A thick, black border maybe more attention-grabbing if adjacent ads do not use similar borders. Consider using adifferent border for your coupon to make it stand out from the rest of your ads.

If you are using a photo or illustration in your ad, be sure that it is a clearportrayal of your primary message without a lot of frills or clutter. By connecting yourtext to your photo or illustration, you will significantly increase your ad's overallvisual impact.

Do not put much faith in the idea that photos of young blondes in bikinis will attractprospects. People may remember the young woman's charms, but not your ad's specifics oryour facility's name.

If you are using a sale or contest coupon, make it large enough for prospects to easilywrite their name, address and phone number. Avoid shading or color that only makes theirhandwriting harder to read.

Reverse Headlines

Attract more attention to your ads by reversing your headlines so that white type is ona black background. This is only effective on short headlines. Long headlines, especiallyin small ads, are more difficult to read when reversed.

Don't Mix Typefaces

Always select a good, readable typeface. Don't mix many different typefaces. Avoidhaving your ad typeset with italic, Gothic or other high-design typefaces. These designsare impressive in old books, but only detract from a small ad's overall appearance. Inaddition, stay away from all upper-case type (capital letters). They are more arduous toread than headlines using both upper- and lower-case letters.

More Bang for the Buck

Small ads deliver more bang for the buck. Do not deny your small ads the attention theydeserve just because they are small. Like the one-minute speech, small ads that attractand hold the attention of their audience are, dollar-for-dollar, more effective than largeads that quickly consume your already meager advertising budget.

Writing effective small ads is challenging. By following these principles anddeveloping an effective feedback system to measure your advertising's effectiveness, youwill significantly increase your overall marketing power.

Kent Davies is a freelance writer.

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