What makes some advertising successful and other ads not so? All other things being equal, it is often what is generally referred to as “the creative” – the layout, the design and the ad copy all of which ideally work together to convey the important message the ad so wants to communicate. The creative is the visual (in print, web and television) and the auditory (in radio and television, sometimes web) expression of the brand idea or the call to action that is the heart of the advertising message. Because advertising is not only communication but persuasion, the message carried by the creative must work well – and not only well, but quickly.
Most efforts at building good creative begin with what is often called a “creative brief” – a written summary of the key idea to be communicated by the advertising along with the primary objective of the advertising. A creative brief helps to focus the team writing the advertising copy on the ad’s mission and to sharpen their eyes and ears for the proper tone and attitude. Whether you are a one person shop or the person chiefly responsible for marketing and advertising in a large travel agency, a good creative brief is an excellent place to begin your efforts at generating effective advertising.
The creative brief should contain at minimum the following:
- Begin with the purpose of the ad. Is the ad designed to build the image of the company, to generate immediate sales or both? Which objective predominates? Then, skip to the end of the process – what action do you want those exposed to the ad to take? Make a call? Click on a link? Send an email? Fill out a form on your site? Think or feel a particular way about your company? This is the all-important “call to action” that no good ad can be without.
- Define your target market. Who is it precisely that you are trying to persuade? What do they look like? How old are they? Where do they live? Where do they hang out? What are their hobbies? Know who you are trying to reach!
- Next, determine what precisely you want to say. What is the most important thing the ad can communicate in order to get the result you are seeking? Then, make a short list of reasons, both emotional and logical, why the target of the communication should respond as you desire. Two important rules here – 1) stay positive, don’t go negative on the client, the competition or anyone else by appealing to fear or by denigrating and 2) stress benefits to the consumer. Find the one, single reason the consumer would want to buy from you and integrate it into the creative.
- Save a space on your creative brief worksheet to write down, each and every time, your brand message. You want to ensure that your advertisement’s message is well synchronized with your brand.
Now, before you begin the work of designing and writing the actual copy for your advertisement, spend some time looking at other advertising. Look through magazines, newspapers and on television to find ads that are close in subject matter to what you are trying to communicate. Obviously you will focus on travel advertising, but also expose yourself to the study of non-travel advertising as well. “Deconstruct” the ad by reverse engineering it: can you vision what the creative brief for any given ad might have looked like at inception? Remember, someone has spent a great deal of time, energy, creative thought and capital on producing the ads you see in magazines. Leverage their investment for yourself by studying their techniques. Determine how they have used color, placement and layout. Study the ad copy. By learning from others, you enhance your understanding of how to best design your own advertising.
If you can afford professional assistance in translating your creative brief into the actual ad, get it. You are literally putting your company on display and making what may be a first impression on a group of viewers. The additional investment in creative assistance is well made. If you cannot afford professional creative, lean heavily on the media company you are using. Most media has a team that will put together your ad using the creative brief you have developed.
Early on, keep your ads very clean and simple. Develop them and walk away for 24 hours and come back to your design with a fresh mind. Don’t clutter them – make good use of white space and use very readable fonts. Make your logo prominent and review the final product against your creative brief.
Advertising sometimes fails for a lack of a clear call to action. Every tactical ad should direct the viewer to do something: pick up the phone, visit your web site or “click here”. In addition however, the ad must give the viewer a good reason to do so. The benefits of immediate action need to be clear. A strong call to action will tell existing and potential customers what to do, why to do it and how to do it. In addition, tactical advertising typically creates a sense of urgency: limited availability or duration of the offer. Without a call to action, the viewer is simply left sitting – most likely not the result for which you are striving.
Finally, make sure your ads display appropriate contact information so the viewer knows how to reach you!
Examine each of your advertising efforts. Clearly articulate their place in your overall marketing strategy. Make sure that your advertising contains strong calls to action that compel the viewer to investigate further.