4 Steps to an Effective Ad

How to create an effective ad

Ads. We hate them, we avoid them, we ignore them. Yet for some reason, we still believe they’re an effective way of getting new customers. So how does a business advertise its services these days? I interviewed Chris Beauchamp, former Creative Director at nine10, in search of an answer.

The first thing that Chris pointed out is that we have an outdated idea of how an effective ad works. We rely on what’s called an “appeal to authority” — claiming that our service or product is the best, and that’s why someone should choose it. Did you know that our brains actually tune out repetitive noises over time? The appeal to authority is a repetitive noise. It no longer works. We all know that 9-out-of-10 dentists don’t actually recommend the toothpaste brand.

“If this is true, then how do I advertise my business’s services?” you ask. The answer lies in the content. Create something interesting, functional and beautiful that adds value to the audience. Luke Sullivan’s book Hey Whipple, Squeeze This describes these three goals, which Chris explained to me. Prepare for an approach to advertising that doesn’t seem like advertising at all.

1. Be Interesting

An ad’s content should have inherent value. A great ad will pique the interest of your target audience and keep them waiting for more, instead of feeling like a waste of their time. For example, the video above created by Fuse Realty is pretty entertaining, and though we might not think of it as an ad it is indeed an advertisement of their business. Their video was strategically made to connect with their target audience in a personal way. 

2. Be Functional

Source: Fast Company

Source: Fast Company

In addition to being interesting, make your ad functional. Find a way for it to practically benefit your customer. Ikea’s subway ad isn’t only interesting, but it lets travellers sit down while waiting for the next train. Benjamin Moore, a home paint and stain vendor, created the Color Capture app that allows users to find colour matches through their phone camera. And while these two ads are fantastic examples of functional ads, you can offer function without a large budget. Share knowledge of your field with your customers with tips, tricks, and easy solutions.

3. Be Beautiful

UNICEF clean water ad

Source: UNICEF

Though it may be a narrow target to hit, aim to make ads pleasing to the audience. Whether it be visually or audibly enjoyable, a beautiful ad is a noticeable and remarkable one (worth remarking on). Take Middle of Everywhere, for example. Intended to advocate living and investing in the County of Grande Prairie, the campaign is both interesting and functional. Facts about the region pique the interest of viewers while also providing valuable information to specific industries. Middle of Everywhere is also beautiful. Pictures of the landscape (taken by members of our community), easy to read maps and vivid colours make it an enjoyable experience — something worth sharing itself. When this delicate balance is struck, it can even garner the attention of those who formally recognize great work with awards.
Note: Economic Developers Alberta – Winner for Business & Attraction Attraction category

4. Be Honest

Avis car rentals developed and executed a 50-year campaign around the tagline “We Try Harder”. What’s honest about this? Well, the company was struggling for market share and it was certainly not the preeminent choice for consumers. Their promise, however, was that they would simply try harder to earn and then keep your business. This resonated with consumers as an honest attempt to gain their business. It was an instant hit.

The focus on honesty isn’t from Sullivan’s book, but Chris pointed out its importance. What do you want to say about your company to customers? That you’re reliable, hardworking, trustworthy? Make sure it’s true.

We may realize that the way our company is presented isn’t the way it honestly works. This is when we need to ask what we can be doing differently to be authentic. If that means improving operations of the company, so be it. During his role as creative director, Chris often found that he was not only guiding content development, but also development of a business. People can see through an exaggerated advertisement. Giving honest content to your audience will set you out from the crowd.

In Conclusion

The interesting, functional, beautiful, and honest content you create isn’t just words. It’s also pictures, videos, radio, and anything else you can think of. When Chris creates pictures or videos for a business, he aims to check off each step. Most obviously, each photo he takes is composed to be both beautiful and interesting. Photos can be functional as well — sharing subtle information such as location or capabilities. Photos can also be honest, sharing an authentic view of the company in contrast to creating a deceptive picture.

Content is king. This means that when we can’t create the content our audience deserves, it’s worth hiring a professional to help us get there. To get a good return on your marketing investments, run through the four steps we talked about. And if that’s not quite cutting it, don’t be hesitant to get help from professional content creators (like Chris).

  1. Is it interesting (is it inherently remarkable)?
  2. Does it add functional value to the audience?
  3. Is it aesthetically pleasing?
  4. Last but most importantly, is it honest?

Many thanks to Chris for taking the time to share his insight with our many readers.

About Chris

Chris and his wife Laura own Beauchamp Photography, specializing in environmental portraits and documentary-style photography for clients all over Northern Alberta. In the past, Chris worked as Creative Director at nine10, and continues to contribute his creation expertise to many projects. Chris is an enthusiastic advocate for great content through photography, video and writing. Visit his portfolio to witness firsthand the type of good content we’ve been talking about.