Good Ad/Bad Ad: Don't Make Your Reader Work Too Hard

Ads that work don't make consumers work hard to get their point. If it takes more than a second or two to figure out, most of us will move on unless we're highly engaged in the topic.

Even if you can't afford a formal research project, you can test for this by running your ad by people (more than one) who know nothing about the topic. Make them do a walk-by and ask them what the ad is for, whether they remember the name, and what they could do if they wanted to buy the product or service (is a call to action evident).

Here are two examples of a similar message—one that's effective, and one that isn't. The first billboard:

  1. Is too busy—impossible to read it all while flying down the freeway—so some key messages will be lost.
  2. Doesn't immediately telegraph the problem that I can relate to—a need to lose weight.
  3. Buries the potentially relevant "judgment free zone" message in fussy, small type.

In the example below, by The Johnson Group, the message is both simple and clear. Most of us can relate to the bulge, and the tipped angle of the board cleverly reinforces the overweight message. A URL might have been a nice addition, if it were available—but fortunately, the fitness center's name is dominant enough to remember—and to search for online later, when one has the chance.