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PROBLEM: "I Don't Know How to Tell If My Ad or Brochure is Any Good"



Analysis is a key part of any marketing plan -- who are your consumers, why do they buy products in your category, which of their particular needs, wants, desires can your product fulfill, etc.?

An advertisement for a product or idea is (or should be) a distillation of the answers to these and many other analysis questions posed by the marketer. The ad, brochure, flyer, etc. should contain elements that meet the requirements of good communication and contain the elements necessary to stimulate the targeted customers.

Analyzing good advertisements can help you in crafting effective marketing plans. Of course, your marketing plans will include an advertising component of some kind.

 More importantly, the analysis which forms the springboard for advertising will also play a major role in the design of the overall marketing plan. Both focus on the key element -- the buyer, that poor soul who often feels like a rabbit on a shooting range.

The average person is surrounded by 3,000 commercial messages a day. We are bombarded with advertising messages in print, on radio and TV, through the mail and over the Internet. We don't pay any attention to 99% of them. Either they don't even attract our attention, or they are perceived and given a very rapid "once over" at a level we barely notice before being rejected. Think about that. An ad which probably took weeks to create and thousands of dollars to reach a customer's mind often gets no more than a second of consideration before being mentally tossed in the wastebasket! You can see how costly bad planning is.

Thus, the first job of any ad is to get the target buyers to pay attention to it -- to make it over the two hurdles noted above. This is usually the job of the headline or picture in a print ad. Radio relies on music, sound effects, key words, or a catchy opening. Television nearly always relies on visuals, its strong suit.

Once the ad has been perceived, it must clear the next hurdle -- does it immediately stimulate one or more "hot button" motivations (a need, want, fear, or desire) of the consumer?

ANALYSIS: Does the ad reach out and GRAB your attention, or is it just ordinary?

Once it has gained the viewer's momentary attention, the ad usually has only two or three seconds to show how it can answer some of the buyer's needs, wants fears or desires (which are called "drives" or "motivations").

Ads often link other drives (other needs, wants, fears or desires) to their product to produce the initial involvement needed to get the viewer to commit more time to the ad. Often these drives are unrelated to the product.

The desire for sexual stimulation is a familiar example. While beautiful women or handsome men have nothing to do with the value of a car or a hamburger, their presence stimulates a pleasure site in the brain. To continue feeling this pleasure, viewers will look at the ad. Humor is another example of this technique, as are mystery and puzzlement.

Of course, the product itself may stimulate the viewer's interest without "add-on" drives if his need is strong.


  • What motivations does the ad use to grab and hold attention?

  • Does the ad first stimulate, then promise to satisfy some strong motivation(s) of the buyer?
  • Are these motivations directly related to the product/service being sold?
  • Does the ad show and/or tell the buyer about the special features of the product which will satisfy those motivations which the ad has stimulated?
  • Does the ad's design do all this quickly, before attention is lost?
  • Does the ad seem to use a "shotgun" approach by trying to stimulate many different drives, or is it a "clean" design which focuses on a few key drives?
  • Does the ad involve the consumers' mind and emotions, or just allow them to be an impartial observer?

These same points are directly applicable to ad messages presented in brochures, flyers, or other types of media. In all cases, the consumer is only willing to give you a very small amount of time to prove your product/service might be valuable. How you do that will determine if your message gets through, or is gone forever.

The ad's design and copy (written or spoken) are important for its overall success. They must help attract attention and viewer involvement; make the ad's key message easy to find and understand; reinforce an image of the product consistent with the ad's key message; and encourage the viewer to act in a way that contributes to the success of the marketing plan.

A cluttered ad which requires the viewer to decipher the message, or even the product, is not often successful. The exception is a design in which the ad creates a mystery which involves the viewer's curiosity about what the product is, such as the Nike or Obsession ads.

The ad's design and copy must recognize and support the mental needs and limitations of the viewer. The viewer generally can't, and doesn't want to, wade through a dense ad to find the answer to the question, "Why should I care?" The viewer generally won't remember more than a few facts or ideas, and will recall pictures far better than words, which must be repeated to help the viewer grasp and learn the idea.

The "look" of the ad contributes to the image of the product. Ads for products appealing to wealthy customers (Cadillac, Lexus) feature design elements which are consistent with that image, such as a "refined" look or layout, cultured voiceovers, conservative typeface, well-dressed actors, rich sets, etc.

The ad plays a front line role in the marketing plan, the first troops to engage the target buyer. It's specific role may be to create brand awareness (prescription drugs), build an image (Hallmark cards), stimulate immediate need satisfaction (pizza), create a decision to look at the product (car ads), produce a buying decision (lettuce on sale), or reinforce brand loyalty (soap powder, soup, cereal).

The design and copy should direct the viewer to take the desired action, now or in the future. Ads are usually not intended to make a sale, but to get the buyer to take the next step. An ad which doesn't clearly encourage the buyer to take that next step is like a salesman who doesn't ask for the order.


  • Does the design of the ad encourage you to read or view it?

  • Does the design and copy help you to quickly find the key message and answer the question "Why should I care?"
  • Does the copy and design clearly show how the product can meet viewers' needs, wants, or desires?
  • Is the design harmonious with the image of the product?
  • Does the amount of copy or its layout require the viewer to work hard, or does it flow simply and easily to the end?
  • Does the ad suggest the viewer do something that furthers the marketing plan?
  • Is the copy interesting and easy to read? A
  • re the pictures clear, relevant, and contribute to the ad's indented goal?
  • Does the design of the ad help promote an image of the product?
  • Does the design and copy encourage the viewer to "like" and own the product?

An ad can be well designed and written, but fail completely if it doesn't seem believable, logical, and honest. Ads which seem trustworthy will help the product's image and reputation.

A good example is the way in which Tylenol addressed the issue of the safety of its bottles. The company was honest with the public about the problem, offered logical methods to identify tampering (broken plastic seals and wrapping), and made a believable argument that the new process guaranteed safety.

A product which makes outlandish claims ("cures ailments from your head to your toes"), or presents arguments which are not logical ("the Yugo performs better than the BMW") will create distrust.

 The buyer's loss of trust in a product is a knife in its heart. ("Try the AbBomber -- exercise just 10 minutes a day and lose 20 pounds in 20 days!")


  • Are the ad's facts and arguments logical?

  • Are the claims it makes believable?
  • Does the ad promote trust in the product and in the company?

>>>> DON'T MISS THIS: These are just a few of the tips and techniques for creating a print ad that gets results. Click HERE to see how you can get several hundred similar tips to help your advertising and brochures bring in more customers. Specially written in practical language for businesses. <<<<

  • Are your current marketing materials your Secret Enemy? Do they contain hidden problems that are losing sales for you? Click HERE to find out what to do.

Read our Three Part Series on Writing Effective Ads:
To read Part One (Writing a Good Headline), click GoTo1
To read Part Two (Selecting a Picture for Your Ad), click GoTo2
To read Part Three (Writing Effective Body Copy), click GoTo3

(c) Gary Witt, 1998

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