Advertising is one of the key marketing communication strategies that can significantly reduce your overall marketing costs and increase sales — if it’s developed, placed, and scheduled properly.

What does it take to make your advertising successful? Ask yourself these questions: What is it that stops me long enough to read an ad? What TV commercials do I watch and why? What direct mail do I open? And what are the common elements that they all possess?


If you can’t define those elements, start paying closer attention. They’ll probably incorporate these 6 main elements:


The six main elements to effective advertising.


  1. A headline is the most essential element of an ad.

You’ve got a second or two to get the attention of a prospect. The message in, and treatment of, your headline will account for up to 70% of the readership of your advertisements. Yet, if you examine the advertising you see in yournewspapers and magazines, you’ll find many ads that have no headline. All too often they start off with the advertiser’s name or logo — something the reader cares little about. The best advertising emphasizes the service, not the source.


  1. Headlines and body copy should appeal to the reader’s self interest.

In other words, learn to think, write and speak benefits to your market! Check over your copy. Are you telling the reader how your product or service can help them? Do you use the personal pronoun “you” frequently? Or does yourcopy talk about “we can do…” “We’re the best at…”, etc. The latter are considered ego advertising and will not serve you well.


  1. Use subheads.

Most people skim while they read. That’s why it’s important to use big bold headlines and strong, benefit oriented subheads in your copy. If you hook your prospect with the headline, they’ll next skim the body copy looking for areason to read on. If you give it to them quickly and concisely through subheads, the reader will read as much more as you give them. In other words, long copy generally sells more than short copy, so don’t be afraid to tell a complete story in all your ads.


  1. Urge action.

Always tell the reader what you want … “Order today”, “Call for a free appointment”, “return the reply card now”, “come to our store by Nov. 15 to take advantage of this discount”, etc. Never assume that the reader knows what action you want, and always be sure you make response as easy as possible. If appropriate, provide several response vehicles like a reply card and 800 number.


  1. Use visuals that have a high degree of stopping power.

Photos are always better than illustrations in stopping power. Photos of babies, animals, odd situations or odd images are all good.


  1. Use images that help tell your story.

Product photos, photos of your products in use, or any other photos are good — if you can use them to relate a logical story about your company or product.


But there are other factors as well that will determine whether your advertising is effective.


Identify your target market. Before you decide where to run your advertising, you must understand your target market. Do you know the demographics and psychographics of your target market? Those are the age, education, income, sex, and lifestyle characteristics of your customers or clients. Without a precise picture of who your target market is, you’ll waste valuable time and advertising dollars.


Knowing your target arms you to make good media selections based on how well that media delivers a qualified audience. And, you’ll be able to evaluate that media’s ability to get you in touch with your market at a competitive cost per contact.


Develop Communications Strategies to help you combine and incorporate the best media mix, frequency and message necessary to influence more prospects to purchase from you. Frequency is one of the key ingredients to the success of your communications program.


Studies point to the necessity of creating an exposure frequency of at least 9 impressions in order to influence your prospects to action. These “impressions” can be a combination of advertising and public relations activity, and willeffect sales more quickly if they are highly targeted. You should note, however, that only every third media mention or ad is usually seen by your prospects. Thus a schedule of 27 exposures or more will bring optimum results.


Observe other advertising if you really want to get good at the development and placement of your own. Watch TV commercials. Can you identify the demographics and psychographics of the audience they’re trying to reach? Look atprint advertisements in newspapers and other publications. Use your six point check list above to evaluate the copy.


Was it an effective ad? Read all of your direct mail. Note which pieces you would normally open and which you’re only opening because you read this article. What was it that made you want to open the package?


If you become an educated observer, you’ll find that the most effective advertising always shares the key elements mentioned on the right side of this page.