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Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

Ads Should Be Designed To Increase Sales

Kathy Vass, Marketing Editor

D esigning great ads is hard enough, but before the first headline is written, you need to determine why you’re advertising. You need to know your target audience and what you want your ads to communicate to that audience; otherwise, your ads may be beautiful, clever and even award-winning, but they likely won’t increase sales.

Too many companies take the wrong approach to advertising. Many executives advertise ‘just to keep our name out there.’ Others question whether their advertising really sells their product or service, but they’re afraid to stop because their competitors are advertising.

British industrialist William Lever, founder of Lever Brothers, often is quoted as saying, “I know that half of my advertising is wasted; the problem is, I don’t know which half.”

By setting meaningful, specific and measurable objectives for your advertising, you can greatly increase the return on your investment. By taking a focused, business-like approach to ad design and placement, you can determine what works and what doesn’t so very few, if any, advertising dollars are wasted.

Set Meaningful, Measurable Objectives

The ultimate objective of any advertising campaign is to strengthen sales. If your sales increase when and where your ad runs, you’re meeting this critical objective.

An additional objective may be to generate calls. If the telephone begins ringing off the hook when your ad appears, then the objective is met.

Other measurable goals may include:
• attract upscale buyers;
• recruit new distributors;
• increase your share of the market;
• introduce a new product or service;
• generate responses by e-mail; and
• increase website activity.

So before beginning the creative process, make a list of objectives, then beside each goal list a specific outcome that will allow you to determine whether or not your ad is helping you to achieve that objective. If you see movement in the measure, your ad is working.

The Ad Planning Process

After setting your objectives, it’s time to design your advertising to those objectives. Don’t allow your creative team to spend time developing beautiful ads that don’t correspond with those goals. Author and trainer Alexander Hiam suggests a six-step process for ad design: develop useful objectives; design to those objectives; test market those objectives; redesign (if necessary) based on those tests; maximize the run of the perfected ad; and terminate the ad as soon as it stops achieving the objectives or as soon as the objectives no longer are important.

So what’s the best way to test market your new design? The most efficient way to test any advertisement is to run it by a sample audience representative of your target market. To test a direct mailer, for example, create a mock-up and mail it to a small list of customers or potential customers. If your response is low, try a redesign. If response is high, do a larger mailing.

To test a print ad, buy insertions in a single magazine or newspaper before committing to a year-long schedule in multiple trade and consumer publications or newspapers.

Once you hit on an effective ad campaign, stay the course and don’t abandon it prematurely. Remember, new research shows that in today’s marketplace, where consumers are exposed to more than 3,000 advertising messages daily, buyers must be exposed to a message an average of 27 times before they are comfortable enough to do business with you.

Components Of A Good Layout

A crucial part of good ad design is the headline. Advertising legend David Ogilvy has suggested that, on average, five times as many people read an ad’s headline as read the informative body copy.

“When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar,” Ogilvy said.

It’s true the headline is a key part of the sales message. If the headline does not include a selling message or “hook” to grab the reader’s attention, the ad may never be read. Think about it. As you peruse magazines and newspapers, you scan the headlines to determine the articles you wish to read. The same holds true for advertising.

Another component of good ad layout and design is graphics. Studies conducted by the Newspaper Association of America show that a graphic element that takes up 50 percent or more of the ad space increases readership by as much as 37 percent.

Next comes the body copy, which develops and expands on benefits offered in the headline. The best body copy is written as friendly conversation.

“I don't know the rules of grammar ...,” Ogilvy said. “If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.“

White space is another component of a good layout. Use as much white space as you can afford. It minimizes distraction and draws attention to what matters most — the selling proposition.

Color is another component that can increase the effectiveness of ads. Studies conducted by Readex Ad Perception found four-color ads are 23-percent more attention-getting than black-and-white ads. Color can showcase a product as it truly appears so the reader can more readily relate to it and its use. But adding color does not ensure greater ad effectiveness. Color should be used with creative judgment and execution related to your objectives.

Your company logo is another critical component that should be included in all of your advertising. Your logo is your brand, and it should be used in a consistent manner in all marketing materials — such as ads, brochures, direct mail, e-newsletters and website.

Though it may seem obvious, one final component of a good ad is creativity. Some marketers define creative ads as those that are visually appealing. According to Ogilvy, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” Since the ultimate objective of any ad campaign is to increase sales, Ogilvy’s definition surely is the best one.

September 2005