How to Write an Effective Ad

Dec. 15, 2011 by Elizabeth Olsen


Begin by determining who would be most interested in your product or service. How old are they? Are they male of female? How much do they earn and where do they live? Are they ready to buy?

Then construct a strong message using the following elements:

Benefits: Relate to the customer. “What’s in it for them?” For example, a skin care salon might emphasize six ways a prospect’s skin would improve using their skin care program.

Uniqueness: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak”. A restaurant may choose to emphasize its atmosphere, live entertainment, free drinks after 7:00pm, or the best view in town.

Carefully Selected Words: The benefit headline is crucial. You must arouse curiosity immediately. Use the least amount of words to get the message across. Never describe your whole business, just key points, so that people will want to call for more information. Be sure to list products that are of key interest to your target audience.

Pictures: People see pictures before words and translate them into thoughts immediately. Show action, the product or a person. Put your own picture in the ad if you are providing the service. Studies have shown that when pictures take up 25-75% of the ad space, the ad attracts more readers. Photographs attract more attention than illustrations. Use good photographs, as people interpret from photos. Project quality.

Call to Action: Tell people what you want them to do; when to act (call now), how to connect (phone, email, address, etc), what to request (a free design consultation, a complimentary information package, etc).

Headline: This should fill 25% of your ad space and be compelling. “Why should they buy from you?” Emphasize a benefit or a need they have that you can satisfy.

Sub-headline: This helps to break up a large paragraph, allows people to skim for important points, and can spark interest if the headline didn’t grab them.

Finally check your ad for correct phone numbers and spelling and have it arranged by a professional graphic artist so that it is visually appealing. You may only have a few seconds to grab your prospect’s attention. First impressions are lasting ones.


Elizabeth Olsen, Marketing Consultant, Advertising Representative, Sonoma County Gazette, (707) 573-0543