Designing Ads That Actually Work

Advertising’s history is deeply rooted in imagery; from billboards to labels, modern Western culture has always revolved around display ads. Now those ads have gone digital, popping up along the digital highways we traverse as well as the physical roads we travel upon. In a market oversaturated with commercial imagery, how does one create an effective digital ad?

I sat down with Stephanie Hoare, Art Director, and Brent Tomasino, Digital Marketing Manager, to find out exactly how they manage to create such effective images on a regular basis.

In your opinion, what 2-3 things make an ad effective?

Brent:
A clear, decisive message: it should solve or address a problem or need for the viewer.
A clear call to action: what’s the point of clicking an ad if you don’t know where it is taking you?
Placement: beyond the design itself, presenting an ad alongside relevant content is paramount.

Stephanie:
Leaving a lasting impression: it could be funny, thought-provoking, or even evoke anger – in any of those cases, the ad has done it’s job. In advertising, basically any attention or buzz that the ad creates is evidence of a job well done.
Simplicity: if your audience can’t immediately grasp and relate to the ad, then you have failed.

What's your favorite part of designing an ad?

Brent:
Identifying the true nature of the task at hand and creating a sense of urgency. It’s about making the viewer feel like they can’t miss out on something by not clicking it. I love putting myself in the shoes of an audience member and thinking about what I would click on. It’s a really fun way to look at the process.

Stephanie:
Brainstorming and pushing my creativity to the farthest point possible in order to make an almost “crazy” connection. In advertising, designing the ad is basically just the icing on your crazy, outlandish idea. The real focus is coming up with the idea behind it, and how that idea ties back to the client and their product. Good brainstorming makes you stretch your thinking and try to put ideas together that you never would have considered before – it’s a slightly insane (but fun!) feeling. 

What's the most challenging part of designing an ad?

Brent:
One of the most difficult parts of the design process is transitioning to different sizes once you have the look and feel of your ideal layout. An ad that looks great in one size/format might look terrible in another. Often you will need to sacrifice certain aspects of it in order to meet the ad specs, which can be really frustrating.

Stephanie:
Staying “fresh” can be a challenge. There’s an old saying that I can never shake: Once you think you are good at coming up with ideas and comfortable with your work then it is time to find another job or retire. I will always be on the lookout for ways that I can do things better or reach my audience more creatively.

Why is it important to know your audience demographics?

Brent:
You have to identify the exact target of your ad and make that ad speak specifically to that person. Whether it’s a 45-year-old woman or a 7-year-old boy, the ad needs to address the exact needs they have as a person. If something is tailored towards a specific person and the content is relevant to them, the odds of interaction absolutely skyrocket.

Stephanie:
If you don’t have an solid grasp on your audience you have very little chance in successfully connecting to them and your ad will likely fail to elicit a reaction from them. It is pretty much like building something with one hand tied behind your back, blindfolded, with earplugs in your ears. You can’t possibly create something in that kind of void that would resonate with the people you are aiming to reach.

Explain ad design in less than five words.

Brent:
Goals, creativity, subtlety, layout, patience.

Stephanie:
(Sorry, I can’t stick to five words!) If you can live with failing, then you can accomplish brilliance.

 

- Lindsay Jawor