written by: J. Edward Casteele•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 5/23/2011
Designing effective ads requires knowledge of the basics of ad design to better get your point across. Drawing in your audience's attention and placing ad components in the right order will help your ads to be noticed, making readers and viewers more interested in your product, service, or website.
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The purpose of advertisements is to draw in the attention of readers and viewers, increasing the likelihood that they will purchase the advertised product or visit the advertised website. For ads to be effective, they need to be designed in such a way that they appeal to their intended audience. It's important that you understand the basics of ad design if you wish to create effective advertisements, since this will help you to design ads that really grab the attention of your audience and compel them to find out more. The most basic advertising design concept is known as the Ogilvy method, named for the design principles set forth by David Ogilvy. He stated that advertisements need to be designed based on the order in which viewers notice parts of the ad, with each part of the design drawing them in a bit more so that they will be interested enough in the ad to read all of it.
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The image that accompanies an ad is the first thing that viewers will notice, so careful attention should go into making sure that the image will appeal to your target audience and draw them in. The most common method of displaying an image in an advertisement is to place it at the top of an ad so that it spans the width of the page it appears on, but images can appear in the sides or corners of an ad as well. The placement of an image isn't quite as important as its presentation; the image should be sharp and clear so that it's easy for those who see it to recognize what it is. You can vary the size of images in your ads, but make sure that smaller images are impressive enough that they will grab the attention of your target audience. If the image that accompanies an advertisement doesn't interest the reader then there is very little chance that they'll look at anything else in the ad.
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Once a viewer's eyes are drawn to the picture in your ad, the next thing that they'll look for is a caption or explanation of the picture. The caption can be either a description of the image itself or a witty snippet of text, just so long as it's interesting and relates to the picture in some way. Readers will look for a caption to explain an interesting advertisement image, and if they find the caption interesting then they'll be much more likely to read the rest of the ad. Some ads may not use captions, relying on the headline of the advertisement to draw readers in; this can be dangerous if the headline isn't highly appealing because it won't hold the viewer's attention and give them a reason to do more than just look at the ad's image. This is why creating strong captions is one of the basics of ad design, even though it seems at first like a relatively minor point.
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When it comes to the basics of ad design, the headline is one of the most important aspects aside from the picture. The headline of your advertisement is the next focal point for the reader if they've already viewed your image and caption, and it will determine whether or not they decide to read the rest of the ad. If you don't have pictures to go with your ad (such as if you are advertising via Google AdWords or a similar text ad host) then the headline will have to pull them in all on its own. A good headline needs to be catchy and sum up your advertisement in just a few words; you need to use it to make the viewer interested in doing more than just looking at a picture and moving on.
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Ad Copy and Content
Advertising copy makes up the bulk of most ads, but it is actually one of the last things that readers and viewers will look at. This doesn't mean that an ad's content isn't important, of course; it simply means that you have to get your audience interested in what you have to say before you actually start to say it. By using the other concepts in the basics of ad design you draw readers in, getting them interested enough to read your ad and see what it has to say. Once they reach this point, it's up to your copy to wow them and make them interested in actually purchasing your product or visiting your website. Use crisp prose and speak to your intended audience in an intelligent manner without using confusing words or sentence structure. Include humor if it's appropriate to the topic, but avoid including things that might offend or put off your readers. Your ad copy is supposed to sell them on a product, service, or idea without being pushy, so keep that in mind as you write it.
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Your ad's signature is the last thing that readers will look at and is typically placed in the lower right corner of an ad, though some ad designs will use different positions. The signature contains the contact information and name of the company, service, or website that has taken out the ad. If the ad viewer has become interested in the ad copy and other ad content then they will want to use this information to purchase the product or visit the website they have just finished reading about. Including a logo in the signature will help to draw the reader's eye to it (much as including an image in the ad helped to draw their attention in the first place.) Keep the signature unobtrusive, since you don't want it to distract from the rest of the ad before the viewer has finished reading its content.