What Makes Ads Successful?

When designing advertising campaigns, we often look for hooks that will attract our target audiences and drive home our messages. But today, consumers are inundated with the constant noise of commercial messages. As a result, they start filtering information by ignoring anything ordinary or unremarkable. With that in mind, how do you design your messages to get noticed? Our efforts to reach audiences are wasted unless our ads break through the clutter. Here are some important tips that will make a difference in the performance of your ads.

Simple messages:

Save the speeches for industry events, as potential customers have short attention spans. The first step in your ad designs is to stick to clear, concise headlines—the shorter, the better! Here are some ads that use brief and crisp headlines to get immediate attention and deliver the messages effectively.

Nike ad 1

Das Auto drive carefully ad

Choose the right ad styles:

The right styles can prevent your ads from being skipped by your potential consumers. One of the most successful design techniques is contrast. This occurs when two elements in a design are different. Our brains are trained to categorize everything. That’s why we notice when “one of these things is not like the others.” For example, it could be different colors for the text and the background color. Or it could be a difference in font styles, between a large graphic and a small graphic or between a rough against a smooth texture. The main idea behind this approach is that our eye like contrast.

iPod ads use contrast effectively to focus the viewers’ attention on the music player. The iPod and earphones appear in white and stand out clearly against the silhouettes and colored backgrounds.

iPod ad

Offer incentives:

The next step in developing great ads is to offer incentives. Admit it, we all love and have fallen for them. A study by KN Dimestore and SocialVibe notes that incentivized advertising works to drive active attention to brand messages and significantly improved brand perception and purchase intent. According to the study, more than 90 percent of people pay attention to brand messages when interacting with incentivized engagements and brand perceptions rise to an average of 38 percent after completing engagements.

For example, regular football nights could become even better with pitchers of beer and snacks as offered in this ad:

promotional ad

A survey conducted by Luth Research confirmed that this tactic works in mobile ad formats as well. As a result, hitting consumers with offers that cater to their interests and for which they’ve opted in are far more effective than trying to find magical formulas for targeting them with unsolicited messages at the right place and time.

This Expedia ad presents an enticing price offer for travelers planning a trip to New York:

 Expedia ad

Use images as weapons:

Powerful images can add quite a punch to your ads by making them come alive. The right images create immediate impressions and generate connections to your company. Design with the aim of telling your story with images that reduce the need to explain in words. Images should work together with the headlines to provide clear understanding to prospective buyers about the kind of deal they are getting.

The image in this ad illustrates the extreme comfort experienced by those who wear Nike Air Socks such that they forget they are wearing any shoes at all.

Nike ad 2

AT&T has done a series of advertisements using interesting images of painted human hands to promote their brand in different countries.

AT&T ad

Build curiosity:

Most of our actions are governed by the urge to learn more. When your ads provoke questions, they definitely engage the brain receptors of readers who want to know more. The tactic brings novelty into play as well. And, frankly, the more playful energy ads have, the more connection and involvement they can generate.

This ad by The Economist captures the essence of staying young by being curious:

The Economist ad

Issue clear calls-to-action:

All the fun, action and drama would be a waste if your ads do not state clear calls to action for readers. If you are not showing a channel for the interested audience to reach you, then what is the point of interacting? Even if they are brand ads, never forget to provide your contact details or your website address. Be clear on your goals and make it obvious for readers how to reap maximum results from your ad campaigns.

This outdoor ad by Denver Water delivers the message with a simple design.

Denver water

Here is another ad which playfully adds a sense of urgency among the readers.

McFloat ad

Think big:

When you take risks, you are going to come closer to fresh perspectives or breakthrough ideas. You can always scale back a really big idea but it’s next to impossible to scale up a small idea. Many marketers who think of crazy concepts end up with some of the greatest ads!

Here is a clever way to find out how Hoover’s vacuum cleaners really work.

Hoovers vacuum cleaner ad

The Danish AIDS charity chose this campaign to use an air bubble to make society think about the prejudice toward people affected with AIDS and social isolation being one of the worst effects of this disease.

World Aids Day ad

Megastar Media emphasized how a smaller screen can spoil your movie experience:

megastar media ad 1

Do you think curiosity is the first step towards building interest and encouraging interaction that will finally result in sales? How do you design your campaigns to draw maximum attention and engagement? We’d love to see some of your favorite ads and designs.

About Kriti Adlakha
I have been working in the field of marketing and brand development for more than eight years. My experience ranges from hospitality to media and IT products to outsourced services. During my journey, I have worked with print and new-age media and have enjoyed developing content. I have also learnt and worked on marketing tools like adwords marketing, analytics, CRM and the list is steadily growing. Having acquired post-graduate diploma in business management from IIM, Calcutta, I love new challenges and learn from each experience. In my blog, I share marketing strategies that enable small and medium businesses to market in a small budget. I also discuss how to use different online tools that can help businesses to monitor returns of their marketing investments. Above all, I love to hear back from my readers!

4 Responses to What Makes Ads Successful?

  1. Nancy T. says:

    Very interesting article! I do think the peppy music or jingle can make a world of difference. Visuals are definitely the most powerful tool.

    • Kriti Adlakha says:

      Hi Tina

      Yes, I agree music is a strong emotional trigger. I’d say it’s a powerful tool and can influence buying behavior if the type of music relates in a way to what you’re selling.
      Thanks for sharing your inputs! Shall look forward to have you coming back to our blog.


  2. kundan sharma says:


    Sometimes we see lots of ads that is not much concern with the target audience but its only concern with the attention of consumers, he doesn’t stick to particular group as firm’s r only concern to sell more n more products to earn profits….. though also it also create awareness……
    and even today’s world people don’t have much time to learn ad’s he just have a look on company name, logo, image & just the Tag lines, if product is interesting then he goes on to find content matters……….which he relates…. otherwise he just go on…..

    However to make ur AD interesting basically you should know ur product n target audience & the medium u choose to create awareness of the ad…..

    Visuals are having great influence than words. A picture is worth a thousand words.

    Kundan sharma

  3. Kashif Sayed says:

    Great and useful article for marketers. Visuals are more powerful than words but right visuals! It’s really necessary to take care about size of image/text in reaching out to right consumers/customers. Traditional billboards should depict right size while digital billboards should follow right speed and contrast of visauls and texts.

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