How to Write an Advertisement for Your Small Business

We have a look at how to compose and evaluate a great piece of advertising, to help you to better promote your small business

How to Write an Advertisement for Your Small Business

To anyone not equated with the medium, the craft of advertising can seem like a complex one. Much time and effort has been spent on understanding and explaining the various tricks and theories of the trade.

However, the core principals are easy to grasp, and by understanding them you can spot what makes an advert effective – allowing you to judge the work produced for you by an advertising agency, or even to design your own piece.

This guide will help you to plan an advertisement, decide what elements to include and prepare it for productions/dissemination.

What should I do before starting to write an advertisement?

One of the first steps in creating a great advertisement is figuring out your objective. You need to know what consumer demographics or businesses you are targeting, and the objectives you are trying to achieve by advertising to them.

After this you must choose the right media. To reach the target market you are aiming for, you need to advertise through the forms of media they commonly consume. Research your market and any relevant media thoroughly. Consult the readership and user figures for potential media choices to make sure they are suitable for reaching the audience you are targeting. It’s also important to select the right message. The headline and the main body of your advert should work together to convey your message; the former grabbing the attention of the audience, the latter generating interest in and desire for your offering, and finally prompting them to act.

Finally think about the attention-grabbing elements. The main aspects of your advertisement should grab the attention of the audience. A headline is a must. Other aspects such as size, colour, visuals, clear design and audio/graphic elements (for a web advert) can all help arrest and maintain the audience’s attention if executed well.

How should I compost the headline?

When creating an advertisement one of your core objective should be to provoke interest. A good way of doing this is by phrasing the headline in the form of a question that the main body of the advertisement will answer.

You also want your advert to convey a key benefit. This could be value for money, quality of service, convenience, or just your USP – anything that you want it to be, and deliver news, offer or give an endorsement. Phrases such as ‘now available’ or ‘just launched’ imply that the content of the advertisement is newsworthy; whereas ‘Buy one get one free’, or ‘children half price’ are good for examples for offers and something like ‘Recommended by 8/10 veterinarians’ is a good example of an endorsement.

Your headline should do one or more of the above. It should not, however be too complex, hackneyed or clichéd (‘Special offer’ is a good example, being so common that it will fail to grab people’s interest). They should also not be misleading. Your audience will be aggrieved if the promise of the headline is not met in actuality. Making certain false claims is also illegal.

Finally make sure that your advert isn’t redundant, in bad taste – it is easy to cause offence if you are not adept at advertising in such a way – or your name or logo. Your company’s image or reputation alone is not enough to sell an offering to an audience. You need an angle.

How should I write the body copy?

Your body copy should expand on your headline so you could explain in greater detail a claim made or benefit highlighted in the headline, or include a pay-off that relates back to it.

It should also support your message. Many adverts repeat the main offer or claims of the advertisement in the main copy – often up to three times or more.

The body copy can also be used to stress additional benefits and back your claims. Don’t try to cram too many benefits into one advert – highlighting one or two main ones will be more effective than listing four or five. You should include any supporting facts, figures and third-party endorsements. Any figures you include should be precise and easily for the audience to understand.

Finally try to end with a CTA. Make sure your prompt the audience to take tangible action and make it easy for them to do this. Put all your contact details in the advert, including a freephone number or coupon is also a good option. Also give an incentive (like a special offer discount) and stress a deadline.

By including a response mechanism, you can measure the effectiveness of the advert – i.e. by asking respondents to say where they heard about your offering.

What design choices can make my advertisement more effective?

There are no real hard and fast rules as writing an advertisement is a creative task but there are two that are often used. First of make sure to use clear typefaces. Choose your typeface (‘font’) carefully. It should be easy to read, and reflect the image you are trying to project of your company (e.g. a crisp, clean font for a professional company, a sleek, stylish font for a young, innovative company). Highlight important portions of the text by printing them in bold or italics. Avoid ornate typefaces, or mixing too many different fonts in a single advertisement.

Also ensure that there is a good amount of white space. Cramming too much text and too many illustrations into a single advertisement will make it look cluttered and unprofessional. Make sure you have a lot of ‘white’ (empty) space surrounding the other elements of the advertisement.

Remember to check the size and format you must produce the artwork in, and that you carefully check the proof copies before signing off on the advert.

Using an illustration to make your advertisement stand out 

Like headlines, illustrations can grab attention and help (tacitly) communicate your message but make sure to be relevant and that the illustration/image is of a good quality.

A simple and often effective option is to have a photograph of your product in use, with people enthusiastically interacting with it. Line drawings of technical products, or showing cutaways, are also a commonly effective option. And the quality will reflect on the offering you are advertising. Poor quality illustrations will only serve to undermine the message of your advert. If in doubt, employ a professional photographer/illustrator – or elect not to include an illustration at all.

Be aware that including an illustration will add to your costs. You will need to pay someone to execute it, or pay for the use of a stock photograph. Using colour will also increase your spending.

Where can I get help making my advertisement?

There are a number of different places you can look for help. Here’s a few that will help you to understand the laws and procedures when creating an advert.

The Advertising Association
This is the industry body, and is worth checking out or contacting when creating an advertising campaign for your small business. For more, check out its website.

The Committee of Advertising Practice
Provides free advice to ensure your advert meets industry regulations. Here’s a link to its platform.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising
The professional body of advertising agency. Lists current members, and gives free guidance on choosing a suitable agency. Check out the website here.

The Advertising Standards Authority
Independently regulates all advertising in the UK. For more check out the company’s website here.

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