What Makes For a Great Ad?

Readers took a profound interest in our recent post asking the question: “What’s the most important quality of an advertisement?”

We didn’t necessarily mean to be asking them (although we welcome their input); we were using the forum to reveal some compelling results of our soon-to-be-released study on The State of Creativity in Today’s Advertising.

Much of the response we got came from discussions within the LinkedIn advertising groups we frequent.  Of these, many centered on the ultimate objectives of the client, and we wholeheartedly endorse the importance of this line of thinking.

Ads should not be about provoking a feeling as much as inciting an action that accomplishes that objective. Said John Bagwell of Bagwell Marketing in Dallas, “You can be funny, you can be informative—but if there is no reason for the person to buy, your ad is really useless. Nearly everything I do is for direct response. I want people to remember me or my client, sure, but I also want them to buy from me—if not right now, at some time in the future. Feeling good about me doesn't put money in the bank.”

A common theme was communicating an answer to the popular consumer question: “Why should I care?” That’s a great place to start any war room discussion when it comes to creative collaboration. “In this age of information overload, an ad needs to differentiate itself and quickly engage its target audience,” said Stephen Bernstein of Kanet Advertising in Cincinnati. “If you are not addressing a pain point that hits home with your audience and directly solves a problem, then why should they care?”

Creative simply for creative’s sake leads you nowhere, and even marvelous creative can’t override specified business goals. “I can recall loads of great commercials, but haven’t a clue what they were for,” said Kelly Limbach of Joliet Herald News in Chicago. “And you need a call to action—why you need this product and why you need it now.”

Then, of course, there are the great ads that perfectly align with business objectives but are placed where their chances of being heard are slim. We see this a lot with radio ads, which might play in the fourth or fifth slot of a commercial stop set and thus lose many listeners. What a waste!

Here are some other thoughts on what qualities are important to ad creative:

“Relevant, compelling, simplicity.” – David Jeffery, Maclaine Jeffery Cherison

“It’s back to basics. AIDA: Grab attention, keep interest, create a desire, and call to action. Simple.” – Paul James Furlong, Producer, Liverpool  

“The most important thing is desire. Know your audience and make them drool.” – Stephen Guzman, Oral Roberts, Tulsa

“Hyper-targeting. Now that we have 1-to-1 targeting, a.k.a. the ‘holy grail’ of online advertising, you’ll be successful if you’re targeting the right audience, provided you are using the basics of an ad clearly stating your brand, message, and call to action.” – Patrick Carleton, El Toro, St. Louis

Thanks to everyone who has kept this conversation alive. At CRN we live and breathe creative content and what our clients have set out to accomplish, so we love the dialogue! Stay tuned for the results of our full study on ad creativity. I’m sure it will provide much more food for thought.


Jim Alkon 
Marketing Director