For the Love of Advertising: 5 Step Checklist to Creating an Effective Advertising Strategy

Before wasting money on an advertisement that readers will just toss into the garbage and soullessly neglect, run your ad through this checklist to ensure it has everything needed to sweep customers off their feet.

A study from the Wharton School of Business was backed with more than a million dollars by companies such as Pepsi and Frito Lay to discover more about the return on investment companies received from advertisements. One of the key conclusions of the study was that the message of an ad had a larger impact on the rate of return than the amount of money put into the ad campaigns, or the form of media the campaigns were distributed through[1].

With that being the case you need to be sure your advertisements are carrying an effective message rather than just getting in peoples’ way. Here’s how to tell if your ad has an effective message:

It grabs the audience’s attention

Your advertisement is wasted money if it doesn’t catch anybody’s eye. In order for your message to have an impact on someone the person has to decide to read your ad in the first place. This is harder to do than ever now that people are bombarded with advertisements everywhere and in all forms, so you need to do it right.

Your advertisement has to make the individual want to read your ad. More often than not, this comes in the form of an effective headline. Your ad has to have a headline that proves more interesting than anything else going on in your reader’s mind at the moment[2 ].

A rule of thumb to judge the quality of a headline by is to see how well it applies to the “four U’s[3]”. Those being:

  1. Make it Unique: This makes your headline catch your reader’s eye and grabs their attention. Your headline will be less likely to get filtered as “more background noise,” and instead as something interesting to investigate.

2.  Be Ultra-Specific: This informs the reader how the advertisement is relevant to their interests or needs. Rather than making a witty but vague headline such as, “Art you glad to shop with us???” which could be about almost anything, it should inform the reader why it is relevant to them. A better headline for the art store would be, “Save money on art supplies with our new Art Aficionado loyalty program!” The reader now knows they have an opportunity to save money, and that it’s through a loyalty program that they can take advantage of.

3.  Convey a sense of Urgency: By creating urgency the reader will be more likely to read your advertisement right away rather than brush it off for another time which may never come. A way to do this would be to include in the headline that the deal you are promoting is only available for a limited time, or that the product you are selling is getting closer and closer to becoming sold out.

4.  Be Useful: The reader will be compelled to read the ad if they see what your product or service can do for them. By showing them what they can gain the audience now has a reason to continue reading your advertisement.

A headline doesn’t need to contain all four of these qualities, but if it does well at least one or two of them you can be assured your headline is going to attract readers, and in turn customers[3].

It presents an irresistible offer

Copyblogger makes the bold claim that nothing matters more in an advertisement than the offer it presents. They say the success of an advertisement almost entirely lies on creating an irresistible offer[4].

There are some telltale signs of an irresistible offer to look for. First off, it will include a clear expression of how the reader will benefit from the offer. Your advertisement shouldn’t require its audience to connect a bunch of dots and jump through seven mental hoops to find out why they would want the product[5].

Next, the benefits of the offer should outweigh its costs. Either financially or emotionally the audience should have the idea that they will be better off by taking part in the offer[5].

Finally, by adding urgency to the offer, and by adding social proof through testimonials, your potential customers will be practically begging you to accept their money [5].

It describes benefits, not features

It’s important your advertisements take into account the audience’s point of view. Let’s say you’re selling a new budgeting app to help people better keep track of their finances. If the creator of the app wrote an advertisement for the app and was excited to share all the ways she made it perfect, it may go something along the lines of:

“Nothing beats our new app Budgy! Our state of the art algorithm has been worked from the ground up to monitor your finances and calculate the rates at which they fluctuate, informing you on your spending habits while also reporting the balances of your accounts! Our infographic even updates every 5 minutes to keep you up to date at all times! No other app on the market has financial monitoring software of this sophistication!”

You can’t tell me that didn’t make you zone out almost instantly! The problem with this ad is that it is focused on the product, not the reader. To really get the reader interested the ad should talk about how the algorithms and calculations will impact the reader’s life. This would look more like:

“No other app paints a clearer picture of your spending habits and finances than Budgy! Budgy removes the stress of fumbling through receipts and logging in and out of your multiple bank accounts, all of which you can barely remember the passwords for. It does this by presenting a comprehensive, real time infographic that informs you of where your money goes, and where you have it stored away, allowing you to make smart and responsible decisions with your money.”

Notice how the second ad informs the reader on how the app’s features work to improve the reader’s day to day life. The ad also describes the pain point of the reader solved by the app (the stress involved in budgeting), and how the app’s features work to remove this pain point.

Your advertisements should be focused on informing your potential customers how exactly your product gives them a better life.

It shows that you’re unique

To make your advertisement and business stand out your ad should touch on why your product or business is unique. Whether your products are more affordable, or your expertise is unrivaled, your advertisement will work best if it describes why the readers should come to YOU, rather than any other business.

It has a clear call to action

Last, but certainly not least, be sure there is a clear call to action in your advertisement. Whether you want your potential customers to give you a call to make an appointment, or to click on a link to make a purchase, make sure your potential customers have a clear and easy course of action to follow. This makes sure that any of the audience that is at least a little bit interested in what you’re selling won’t be turned off by having to search in depth on how to give you their money.


By making sure your advertisement meets all of these criteria you can be assured that your advertisement isn’t shrugged off and left on the street with nobody to read it or care about it.

Be sure to make an appointment with us at All Things Advertising if you would like an experienced team of marketers to craft an advertisement or marketing campaign specifically catered to your audience and business. Book a free consultation now!


  1. “Selecting the most effective advertising media”
  2. “Making your advertising message stand out”
  3. “Headline writing 101: how to write attention grabbing headlines that convert”
  4. “Get this marketing cornerstone right… or go home
  5. “The seven rules of an irresistible offer”