11 Ad Design Tips to Help Your Brand Cut Through the Noise

Before your copy can persuade an audience to buy your product, your design must persuade them to buy your copy. In advertising, your design catches your audience’s eye and points their attention to your copy. Then, it’s your copy’s job to hold your audience’s attention.

To help grab people’s attention in your advertisements, we’ve put together a list of seven ad tips, supported by examples, that’ll help give you ad design ideas to your brand cut through the noise. 

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Advertisement Design Tips

Read on to learn how to craft creatively refreshing ads that will convert your audience into customers.

1. Stand out from the crowd.

In a world where countless brands fight for a limited amount of attention, the only way your advertisement can grab people’s attention is by being original.

As a marketer, though, it can be tempting to leap onto the latest trend that all your competitors have already pounced on. If everyone else is implementing the latest tip or trick, it must work, right? To captivate an audience, though, you must resist this urge.

Cliches repel attention. They sap your advertisement’s creativity and can’t activate the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for experiencing emotions. But how exactly do you create an original advertisement? Consider one of Estée Lauder’s print campaigns from the 1960s.

Back then, Estée Lauder’s main competitors like L’Oréal, Revlon, and Helena Rubinstein all ran vibrant, colorful ads in magazines. Every makeup ad was beautiful and rich. But even though they seemed eye-popping at first glance, audiences became accustomed to these types of ads — they all looked the same. They started blending in with each other.

Realizing that no one could differentiate between the brands running full-color makeup ads flooding magazines during that time period anymore, Estée Lauder did something so controversial it was deemed “radical”, “stupid”, and even “ugly”: they ran their ads in sepia.

Estée Lauder’s print advertising move received its fair share of criticism, but they’re ability to be original helped them immediately stand out from the crowd and rake in 25% more responses than their previous color print campaigns.

2. Focus on benefits and not just features.

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A feature is an attribute or aspect of your business that distinguishes it from others in the space. Features are important for consumers as they compare providers and make purchasing decisions. However, in advertising, you are often marketing to a wide audience, many of whom may not be familiar with your organization or know they have need for your goods or services.

For this reason, advertising features can be ineffective and overly salesy. The benefits of a product, on the other hand, can be far more persuasive and impressionable to a wide audience.

Tide exhibits this idea well with their Superbowl commercial.

They could have demonstrated the features of their product by showing a dirty shirt becoming clean again.

Instead, they focus on the advantage: clean and crisp shirts.

They even use a bit of humor while calling out this approach as #NotaTideAd.

3. Use humor.

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Speaking of humor, it is an effective tool in advertising because it evokes positive emotion.

The best thing advertising can do is make your solutions memorable. The second best thing it can do is associate that memory with positive emotions.

Zola uses this in their wedding website ad. Weddings are already associated with love and happy times, but Zola differentiates their approach by flipping the script on audience expectation with a silly situation.

Instead of imagining somber heartfelt “I dos,” the couple talks through logistics, which Zola can help with.

4. Convey one message — and one message only.

Eco-Drive ad that reads "A watch that never needs a battery" alongside an image of a watchImage Source

Sometimes, marketers think the more benefits and features they include in their ads, the higher their conversion rate will be. But trying to read a jumbled ad requires a lot of thought and energy, so cramming an ad with a bricks of copy doesn’t actually grab people’s attention. It repels it.

To immediately hook people and persuade them to read the rest of your ad, consider conveying one message per ad. Spotlighting your product or service’s main benefit or feature will make it easy for your audience to understand its value and increase the likelihood of doing business with you because they’ll leave your ad remembering only one message: your product’s or service’s main feature will benefit their lives somehow, someway.

For example, in Citizen’s ad for their Eco-Drive watch, they only use a single line of copy and a simple image to convey their product’s value to their audience — a watch that never needs a battery.

5. Make it visual.

When we were babies, we relied on vision to associate objects with behaviors, like a ball meaning play time. Vision was the only way to learn about the world.

That’s why you can understand visual information in 250 milliseconds and why your visual system activates over 50% of your brain. Visual storytelling is the best way for people to grasp concepts and data easily.

For instance, in LEGO’s ad, they only use two images, a simple lego creation and a shadow of a dinosaur, but you can instantly form a concrete understanding of its core idea — with Legos, you can create anything.

6. Know your market.

You can’t hope to capture your audience’s attention if you don’t know who they are.

Pop Fit is a leggings company that makes apparel for all sizes and body shapes. A good portion of their target audience is women who are rarely represented by models, particularly in the health and wellness space, and have difficulty finding athletic wear. For these women, an ad that shows people who look like them is a show stopper.

7. Leverage hyperbole.

Nikol Paper Towels Ad that shows dried grapes, implying it sucked the moisture out of them to turn them into raisins

Image Source

Exaggerating your product’s benefits, in a clever and obvious way, is one of the best methods for slipping some humor into your advertisement, which can capture your audience’s attention and trigger an emotional response from them.

For instance, Nikol’s paper towels obviously can’t turn grapes into raisins, but this ad highlights the product’s absorbent powers in such a clear and artful way, they didn’t need to write a single line of copy.

8. Show, don’t tell.

Showing your audience something is much more engaging and interesting than telling them it. Relying on implication to convey a message is mysterious, making it more fun for your audience to figure out.

For example, in Siemens’ creative ad, they show the benefits of their product by unexpectedly placing their washers and dryers in a library to show you that they’re so quiet, even a librarian wouldn’t need to shush them.

9. Swap connotations.

heinz ad that shows someone holding the ketchup bottle with an oven mittImage Source

In relation to food, the word “hot” has multiple meanings: having a high temperature and being spicy. Heinz brilliantly used the connotation of high temperature to highlight the spiciness of their ketchup, and their creative method of communicating the value of their product helped them instantly attract people’s attention.

10. Be authentic.

Planet Fitness is a brand that has long worked to make fitness less scary and more accessible to people, as evidenced by their “judgment-free zone” policies.

Part of that mission means encouraging people to be themselves. True to form, as many of their facilities open with new sanitizing procedures, they released this video ad announcing their policies. In it, Planet Fitness employees dance with inhibition. This fun and authentic ad supports who Planet Fitness is as a company.

11. Turn your ad into a game.

The brain is wired to predict things. It’s an evolutionary trait that allows us to anticipate what’s going to happen next and quickly react to it. That said, advertisements that are predictable only require a shred of thought to understand, so they’re too easy to grasp and, in turn, too boring to engage anyone.

With this in mind, if you can scrap predictability from your advertisements, you force your audience into a deeper level of thinking to digest your message, compelling them to pay more attention to it.

One of the best ways to ensnare your audience attention and get them to interact with your advertisement is by turning it into a game. By framing your advertisement like a game that can be beat, just like Mazda’s ad, above, your audience has the opportunity to earn an intellectual reward if they spend just the right amount of mental energy playing your brand’s game and grasping your advertisement’s message, which is something most people won’t ever pass up.

1. Canva

Canva is one of the premier free design platforms, available on both desktop and via a robust mobile app.

As an online ad maker, Canva provides a large library of pre-designed templates, 1 million stock images, and drag-and-drop design building. It can also integrate with HubSpot so that you can access Canva directly within the CMS.

2. DesignWizard

DesignWizard is another great option with integration capability. With pre-made templates across multiple sizes and dimensions, you’ll find attractive designs for any need — print and digital. Unlike other online ad makers, Design Wizard also offers free easy resizing so you can quickly create across multiple formats with less hassle.

3. Bannersnack

If you’re creating ads for PPC display campaigns, Bannersnack is a must. Since display ads come in so many shapes and sizes, Bannersnack allows you to create one ad and then generate several more based on the original design but with different dimensions, taking “resizing” features to another level. The only downside is that the free plan limits the number of designs you can create. However, the premium upgrade is reasonably priced.

4. Visme

Step up your social ads game by tapping into Visme’s library of templates for ads and posts for:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Linkedin

Pick from millions of free photos, icons, shapes, and animations to convey what your brand has to say.

5. Snappa

If you’ve ever struggled to remove a background from a brand photo in an expensive photo editor, you’ll be relieved to know that Snappa can do it in one click.

Add this capability to a library of templates, 3 million quality stock photos, 100,000 shapes, and over 200 fonts — you’re on your way to unhampered creativity.

6. Lucidpress

Lucidpress is one of the more versatile platforms on this list, with capabilities ranging from graphic ad design to asset management and direct mail. The free version does limit functionality and the number of designs, though, but Lucidpress’s design environment includes layouts for every type of print and digital use possible from social media ads to flyers and coupons.

7. BannerBoo

BannerBoo is unique in that you can make animated banner ads with their easy-to-use HTML5 ad builder. All ads are responsive, and you can choose from their library of animation effects and transitions. The free plan does contain a watermark, however.

With the inspiration from this list and tools that can help you create amazing ads, there’s nothing stopping you from creating an advertising plan that will help you drive brand awareness and generate revenue for your business.

advertising plan

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Originally published Aug 21, 2020 4:30:00 PM, updated August 22 2020

Topics:

Advertising Best Practices

How to Design Content Remarketing Campaigns That Actually Work

You know content marketing works, so you’ve been plugging away at blog posts, ebooks, and other valuable, educational content for your potential customers.

And people come — they find your content in search results and in their social media feeds. But they may not fill out a form and become a lead right then and there. It’s not always because they’re not interested in your message — so how do you recapture those viewers who left your site?

Recapturing audience attention to turn lookers into leads is an effective marketing tactic, and if you’re not doing it, you’re leaving money on the table.

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Let me outline for you the sections I’m going to cover in this post:

  1. What the Heck is Remarketing?
  2. What Is the Google Display Network?
  3. Remarketing Campaign Examples
  4. How to Set Up a Remarketing Campaign

Remarketing gives you the opportunity to appear in front of people who have already expressed an interest in your website. They could be checking their email, reading the news, watching a YouTube video… and there you are, with something new and awesome to show them. It could be a reminder to complete an action they had started, or a new piece of content to further a buying decision, and so on.

Remarketing provides the opportunity to:

  • Turn bounced website visitors into leads.
  • Increase brand recall (and thus increase branded searches).
  • Increase repeat visitor rates and engagement.
  • Increase the effectiveness of search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing.

a graphic illustrating all the users who visited your website vs. bringing them back to your website

A common stat in the industry is that 96% of people who visit a website leave without completing the action the marketer would have liked them to take. Remarketing gives you a second chance to make that first impression (and even a third, and a fourth). We can’t afford to be forgettable — we have to make our content more sticky.

Alright, so we understand both the problem and the opportunity. Now, let’s dive into the solution. You’re going to learn how to use remarketing strategies with the Google Display Network to dramatically increase the effectiveness of your inbound marketing efforts.

What Is the Google Display Network?

The Google Display Network is a group of websites where your Google display (banner) ads can appear.

More than 2 million sites are in the network, including heavily trafficked ones such as YouTube. Google estimates that the GDN can reach 90% of people on the internet.

Who you reach and how often will depend on your ad targeting (more on that later).

graphic that shows google display network's reach in the US across millions of sites, videos, and devices including LinkedIn, CNN, lastfm, eHow, xe, howstuffworks, The New York Times, YouTube, Blogger, Gmail, Google Finance, and Google maps

Remarking Campaign Examples

To further underscore the opportunity that remarketing has to offer, there are some really cool campaign types that you can dig into.

Online Activity

By far the most common remarketing tactic is creating an audience based on their behavior on your website. Your options here are virtually endless — with parameters such as by number of page views (indicating a high level of interest) or by which pages viewed (indicating intent).

Here are some ideas for using this type of campaign:

Targeting by Buyer’s Journey Stage

Your blog posts are earlier in the buyer’s journey than other pages on your site. That means you’d match their intent with an ad that moves them further down their journey rather than one that sells. Targeting by topic or category-say you run a bakery. Why run general ads to audiences that landed on your wedding-related content? Instead, you’d target them with more personalized ads around wedding cakes and desserts.

Targeting by Intent

Aside from just topic, there’s a lot you can learn from your audience’s site behavior. For example, visiting a product page indicates interest, but not making it to checkout could mean a price objection or other friction. This means you need to sweeten the deal in some way (like a promo or discount).

Past Purchases

You can also target those that did make it through your purchasing process and target them with ads to earn an upsell.

YouTube TrueView

The human race spends billions of hours every month watching YouTube ads. You may have your own YouTube content, but perhaps your viewing metrics aren’t quite as high as you’d like them to be, or perhaps your users have no idea you have interesting video content to share.

Using YouTube TrueView ads, you can target your audiences as they are watching other videos on YouTube.

Take the screenshot below, for example. I’m trying to watch a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle video and it’s showing me an ad for a tourism company in Italy. Why? Because I was planning a trip to Florence at the time I took this screenshot, and they’re remarketing to me.

image ad in youtube video

The cool thing about TrueView videos is that you only pay if people view your video content. There’s no cost if the person clicks on the “skip ad” button. If you’re creating video content, why wouldn’t you pay a few bucks to promote it?

Video Views

Speaking of YouTube, your visitors don’t even need to make it to your website in order for you to retarget them. If you have a solid YouTube presence, you can create an audience based on video views. If someone watched one of your videos, you can create a display campaign that shows them your ads even beyond the YouTube platform.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)

Here’s another interesting but advanced thing you can do. It’s a little complicated, but I promise it’s awesome. It’s called Remarking Lists for Search Ads.

RLSA lets you target people in your audiences with customized ads when they perform searches for specific keywords on Google. 

graphic illustrating RLSA process: users visit your site, get added to your remarketing list, then you show them customized ads when they search on Google

Say, for example, someone visits your site. You tag them, and now they’re in one of your audiences.

That person then searches for a competitor of yours. This probably means they’re doing some comparison shopping.

Using RLSA, you can target that comparison shopper with a specific ad, like a 10% discount code or something similar. Knowing that the person visited specific pages on your site and is now performing specific searches, it’s possible to come up with very specific and compelling ad copy.

Bonus: Remarketing With Facebook

Noticeably absent from the GDN is Facebook, the other big player on the web, and that’s because they have their own remarketing system through Facebook Custom Audiences.

It works in much the same way — the difference being that ads are shown to users within the Facebook platform.

How to Set Up a Remarketing Campaign With Google Ads

Like I said earlier, using the GDN for remarketing gives you a great deal of reach. Generally, you can find your tagged site visitors on the network many times per day, several days per week, and across many different sites. 

1. Define your audience.

One of your first steps in remarketing is to define the specific audience(s) you want to remarket to. For example, you could create an audience for people who visited your blog or for people who visited specific pages on your website, like your pricing page. This will enable you to reach out to just those people with offers and messaging to suit their interests.

To define an audience, create a new remarketing list in Google Ad. Google will take care of setting all of the cookies; all you need to do is specify which website visitors to include or exclude from your audience. 

new remarketing list interface within google ads

Segmenting different lists of users enables you to show different ads, depending on which section of your site they visited.

A secondary benefit is that you can bid more aggressively to get more impressions and higher ad positions, and to get visitors to the higher value sections of your website. For example, your data might show that visitors to your pricing or product page are more valuable than your blog visitors.

Another creative remarketing strategy for content marketers is to define audience categories in Google Ads based on the different post categories in your blog. If you already have a ton of blog content that is classified by topic, leverage those existing classifications in your remarketing audience definition strategy.

3. Set audience membership duration.

In remarketing, the audience membership duration is the number of days that you follow a user around with your ads. For example, if I set my audience membership duration to 60 days, then users who visit my site will see my ads for 60 days. You can test and tweak this number to see what’s right for your audience.

Ad fatigue is a real thing in every industry and across every medium: TV, radio, print … and, yes, display ads. 

Now, I’d like to address a concern I’ve heard from some fellow marketers: that overly aggressive remarketing will make your prospective customer feel uncomfortable. Let’s look at a few facts and see just how “creepy” remarketing really is.

According to Kenshoo, retargeting can lift ad engagement rates up to 400%, 60% of consumers are neutral about the topic of retargeting ads, and 25% say they actually like them. Wishpond reports that the average click-through rate for retargeted ads is 10 times that of a regular display ad, and retargeting can lead to a 726% lift in site visitation after four weeks of exposure.

So, be bold! People visited your site for a reason, and past browsing history is among the strongest predictors of future purchasing intent. It’s worth testing out remarketing with relatively higher impression caps and membership durations and seeing what happens. As long as your offers and messaging are on target and you’re providing value, it’s not creepy. I would suggest:

  • Try setting your audience membership duration to an amount equal to 3x your average sale cycle length.
  • If it typically takes an average of one week to go from first touch to sale, set the audience membership duration to three weeks.
  • Don’t worry too much about impression caps. (Remember, more impressions means higher conversion rates. Consider rotating though multiple ads per campaign to combat ad fatigue.)

3. Create a killer ad.

Now that we’ve talked about defining an audience to remarket to, let’s focus on how to create killer remarketing ads.

Understand Ad Formats on the GDN

There are several different display ad formats on the Google Display Network, some of which are shown below.

examples of google display ads responsive formatsImage Source

Type Dimensions
Mobile 300×250, 320×50, 320×100, 250×250, 200×200
Desktop 300×250, 336×280, 728×90, 300×600, 160×600, 970×90, 468×60

Ad formats matter to marketers because of how the ad auction works. Different ad formats do not compete against each other for positioning, as shown in this screenshot:

example webpage with multiple display ads: shows that different ad formats do not compete against each other but same format ads still do

Write Copy That Resonates Emotionally

According to neurosciencemarketing.com, an emotional approach in advertising is nearly twice as effective as a rational approach. The same emotions that draw people to your content will drive people to click on your ads. 

The key here is to create ads that resonate with users on an emotional level. Stay away from boring, plain, informational ads that look the same as every other ad out there. Instead, create ads that appeal to your audience on an emotional level.

Content marketers are uniquely qualified to become fabulous PPC marketers. Why? Because so much of the success and failure of PPC marketing relies on the creativity of your ads.

For example, look at these ads for a search of “Big Data Solutions” — the ads are essentially all the same:

ads for "big data solutions" where none of the competing advertisers have unique ad headlines

Content marketers, on the other hand, tend to have a few creative bones in their bodies. I call this a Google Ads Jackpot because it reminds me of hitting a row of lucky 7s in Vegas — I just hit a Big Data Solutions jackpot! If you can come up with an emotionally charged, totally different and stand-out ad, you can blow away the competition.

4. Perform ongoing CTR optimization.

Google doesn’t make money by showing ads no one clicks on, so it makes sense for them to show ads that are more likely to get clicks. They use an algorithm called Quality Score to determine which ads to show, what position each will display in, and how much to charge the advertiser for each ad click.

To provide an incentive for advertisers to create great ads, they give out huge discounts for ads with high clickthrough rates… and dish out huge penalties for ads with low clickthrough rates.

This all sounds good in theory, but how do you create an ad with high clickthrough rate?

1. Send people to your high-value offers. 

What should you be featuring in your image ads? The most common tactic is to simply promote your highest value offers, like a free trial of your product, a request for a demo, etc. This is my top-performing ad: 

remarketing ad from wordstream with a puppy on it that says "my dog ate my ppc! no more excuses for poor results"

Of course it has a cute puppy. How could it not? Make people love your ads, not dread them.

2. Do a conversion path analysis.

The goal here is to figure out which pages on your site, if visited during a user’s session, result in a much higher probability of the user converting to a lead or a sale. For example, the highest converting page on your site could be your product overview page. Come up with a list like this one and target those pages in your remarketing audience.

excel spreadsheet showing different pages and their conversion rates, indicating the top converting pages are ideal for remarketing

3. Send people to your best content.

Check out this ad from my colleague Marty Weintraub at AimClear, which sends anyone who clicks to his PPC analyses.

remarketing ad at the top of a page that says "10 kevlar ppc analyses and process for a bulletproof account"

But how do you know what content to feature in your ads?

4. Analyze social shares on your blog content.

If you analyze your blog content, what you’ll usually find is that around 5% of your pages generate half of the shares on social media.

For example, I analyzed all of the articles on one business blog over the last year and found that on average, a typical article gets several hundred shares on social media. However, the top 5% of articles gets tens of thousands of social shares. Not surprisingly, we found that the same stories that work well on social media also tend to do very well as featured content within ads.

5. Get strategic with bid management.

Now that you have remarketing audiences and ads down to a science, let’s turn our attention to bid management strategies. 

Remember, in PPC marketing, you have to pay for each click. The advertiser specifies a maximum cost per click that they’re willing to pay, but the key here is not to buy every possible click. Rather, you want to be super picky and just cherry-pick the clicks that are the most relevant to your business. The way to do this is through bid management.

It doesn’t make any sense to remarket ads to everyone in your audience. Why? Because not everyone who visits your website is a qualified buyer.

With Google Ads, you can overlay user demographic information on top of your remarketing audiences to find the needles in the haystack. For example, someone from Zimbabwe could visit your site — but they can’t convert if you can’t ship there.

Here’s when it comes in handy to know a thing or two about your target customer persona.

  • What are the ages?
  • Parental status?
  • Where do they live?
  • Gender?
  • What time do they search for your products?
  • What is their income?

You can be very picky, and just bid for the people in your audience who also meet your demographic filters.

You’ve done your research, you know your topic, you have something interesting and entertaining to say — but sometimes you need that extra push. As individuals and brands have become publishers, the game has been upped big time. Competition is fierce.

With remarketing, we at WordStream increased our repeat visitors by 50%, tripled our average time on site, and saw a huge increase in direct visits to our site.

In short, content remarketing enabled us to maximize the value of every piece of content we put out. We were able to get each piece in front of the audience with the most intent, at the right time, and via the right channels.

You can achieve this kind of success too with a killer remarketing campaign and the right advertising plan.

advertising plan

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Originally published Aug 14, 2020 4:30:00 PM, updated August 14 2020

Topics:

Advertising Best Practices