How to Advertise Effectively

Three simple rules

  1. First of all, stop any advertising that isn’t working.
    That may sound obvious but many companies pay for advertising because that’s what their business has always done and they don’t know if it is working, or not.
  2. Secondly, you won’t know whether the ads are working unless you test and measure all of your advertising.
    It is important not to just allocate a certain amount of money to an advertising budget within your marketing campaign, but to understand why you, and if, you need to advertise and where this best works for you. If your ads are working, you want to roll them out on a larger scale. If they’re not, STOP and use the money on an alternative form of marketing.
  3. The third stage in effective advertising is only relevant if the purpose behind you advertising is to increase sales (not increase awareness). This stage is to only run ads that are going to produce a response. This is known as direct response advertising.
    Blue Chip organisations such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s engage in awareness raising advertising to create brand loyalty and increase product awareness.
    If you’re in a small or medium sized business, brand advertising is almost certainly a huge waste of money as, no doubt, you want to see a return on your investment.
    Unless you’re a global, multinational company, the purpose of your advertising, whether it is posters, banners, online adverts, billboards, brochures or flyers, they must produce a response. Smart marketers are ruthless in only creating and paying for adverts that produce a response – a profitable response (and not just profitable in monetary terms).


When designing and producing an advert the most important element is the headline. The headline is either the heading that goes at the top of the advert or if there’s no heading, it’s the first few words.

The headline needs to grab peoples’ attention. The headline should never include your company name, it should be no more than 8 words (preferably 6) that summarises the product (not the organisation) and it’s benefits to the consumer. Think of Tesco’s ‘every little helps’ or Nike- ‘Just do it’; they engage the consumer and encourage them to find out more, you would not find an advert that just read their organisations name, this is likely to be small or hidden. See below for an example where only the logo is used, the name of the organisation is not used at all:

nike advert

Example of using good headlines in adverts

Marketing is a channel to communicate a message to your target audience. If you think of an advert in a newspaper or magazine as a tool to communicate to the individual reading it, it needs to be about them, otherwise the message will not be effectively told. It needs to address their needs, desires and fears and it needs to constantly communicate the benefits of what you are offering. At the end of evert advert you need a call to action. The person needs an specific action point, they need to know what they need to do to follow through and make it easy for them to do so. This could be to fill out a form, direct them to your website or offer them contact details.

Fundamentals of advertising

  1. Don’t advertise on a left hand page. This has been tested again and again. When you read a publication, your eyes are drawn to the right hand page as you flick through, so statistically more people will see your ad if it’s on the right hand page.
  2. Never pay the full rate for advertising. Most advertising rate cards are far too high and you can always negotiate. If you’re a small business or community group, remember that large companies who use ad agencies are buying based on the readership or audience levels rather than the rate-card – so haggle and negotiate. If you can pay 20 or 30% less for your advertising it can sometimes turn an unprofitable ad campaign into a successful one.
  3. One of the biggest mistakes people make is advertising in publications just because their competitors are in them. Don’t for a minute think that all your competitors are there because their adverts are producing great results. They’re more likely to be there because everyone else is and most of them won’t have a clue whether their ads are working. The only reason you should replace an advert in any publication is if the advert produces positive results for you.

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