Principles of Effective Advertising

The first step

An advertising strategy includes four elements:

  1. target audience
  2. product/service concept
  3. communications media
  4. advertising message

Five elements of ads

  1. Attention – the headline should act as a stimulus and cut through the clutter. It must be appropriate, relating to the product or service, the tone of the ad, and the needs or interests of the intended audience.
  2. Interest – keeps the prospects involved as the information becomes more detailed.
  3. Credibility – makes believable claims.
  4. Desire – describes the benefits of the product or service.
  5. Action – motivates people to do something, such as call or visit a website

Principles of design

  1. Use simple layouts.
  2. Headlines are short, powerful, and to the point, and the image tells the story quickly.
  3. Does not use dense, lengthy blocks of ad copy.
  4. Design ads with optimal flow – we read from top to bottom and left to right. Ads that make the reader fight this natural tendency lower comprehension.
  5. Photos are generally most effective compared to illustration.
  6. Whenever possible, show action or a product in use (rather than a static shot).

Writing effective copy

  1. Get to the main point – fast.
  2. Emphasize one major idea simply and clearly.
  3. Be single-minded. Don’t try to do too much. Position the product or service clearly.
  4. Write short sentences. Use easy, familiar words and themes people understand.
  5. Write from the reader’s point of view. Avoid “we,” “us,” “our.”
  6. Use personal pronouns, such as “you” and “your.”
  7. Use vivid language. Stick to the present tense, active voice.
  8. Use contractions.
  9. Don’t overpunctuate.
  10. Never write negative copy – positive copy gets better results.
  11. Humour is tricky and its effectiveness can wear out after two or three exposures. Humour generally does not work with business or professional audiences.
  12. Use technical language sparingly, unless essential to reach your audience.
  13. Use bold subheads and numbered/bulleted lists to break up the sea of type.
  14. Vary sentence length. One-word sentences and sentence fragments are acceptable.
  15. Avoid extremely long lines of type (65 characters per line or more).


Size, colour and positioning


Frequency: How often to advertise in a newspaper. Canadian Newspaper Association.

Factors Influencing Newspaper Advertising Effectiveness, Volume II. Canadian Newspaper Association.

Arens, William F. Contemporary Advertising. Irwin-McGraw-Hill.

Huff, Diana. Effective Print Ads: Tools to Increase Sales. ABC, 2002.

Hallahan, Kirk . Ads, Writing Effective Print Ads. Colorado State University, 1996.