Five Critical Elements of a Killer Ad

We’ve all seen those ads that make you wish you were the one who thought of the idea. They’re memorable, creative and stand out from the rest. Perhaps the Get a Mac campaign by Apple caught your attention, or maybe GE’s recent Childlike Imagination ad speaks to you.

So what do they have in common, and how can you replicate their success? Here is our list of five critical elements for a killer ad campaign. Collect all five and you’ll be off to a great start.

1. The brand is evident. This may seem elementary, but we’re not just talking about slapping your logo in the corner. The Naval Museum billboard not only has the name, logo and website, but the whole look and feel is reminiscent of a naval experience: the colors reflect the steely-gray scheme often found in and on naval equipment, the birds in the corner are a subtle element suggestive of the sea, and the concept of the periscope gives the distinct impression that there’s more than meets the eye. These elements all reflect the brand of a naval museum perfectly. For your airport campaign, connect with your core brand identity for an ad that rings true with viewers and helps them make the connection between the ad they’re seeing and your airport.

2. There’s a clear message. The Apple ads make a clear distinction between two groups of people: Mac people and PC people. The takeaway is clear: PCs are nerdy, clunky and boring, and Macs are hip, versatile, and creative; if you’re not a Mac person, the ad tells you, you’re missing out. When you create your airport ad, give viewers something to think about — a clear message they’ll be able to recall easily.

3. A call-to-action exists. Most of the time, calls-to-action are overt. The Naval billboard has a website address, which invites you to learn more about the museum. The call-to-action is more subtle in each of the other two ads, with Apple inviting the viewer to trade their PC for a Mac, and GE inviting  imaginative thinking. The point is to give your audience an action to take. Your own advertisement should include an invitation to act, whether that means a visit your website, checking fares from your airport before they book a ticket, or another action you’d like them to take.

4. Emotion. Good ads are miniature stories, and the success of a story hinges on its ability to make one feel something. The Naval Museum ad inspires a sense of mystery and gives the viewer a sense of anticipation. The Apple ad might produce feelings of self-pity or embarrassment if you’re a PC, or pride or amusement if you’re a Mac. At the end of the day, you’re not just selling a product or service, you’re giving your customers — your passengers — a feeling. Maybe it’s a feeling of security or pride in their hometown airport. Identify the desired emotion, then design your story to create that emotion in the viewer.

5. It stands out from the noise. Generally speaking, we are presented with several hundred to several thousand ads per day, which means that no matter how well you’ve done on the previous four items, if your ad doesn’t stand out amid all the noise, no one will pay attention to it anyway. This is part of why the Apple ads made such a splash — they looked different, sounded different, felt different. They were the quiet, calm ad in the midst of all the noise (not to mention the clever use of personas to sell the product). The GE ad stands out from the noise too, but in a different way that serves to inspire creativity and capture the viewers attention with unusual images. If everyone around you is doing ads with puppies and kittens, maybe it’s time to use an alligator.

Armed with these five elements, your next ad is off to a great start. At The Quotient Group, we’ve applied these elements to many projects in the past and would be happy to help guide your next ad campaign if you’re looking for strategic and creative support. If this post was helpful to you, tell us about it in the comments! You can also use the comments section to tell us about some of your favorite ads. Which ones do you think should have been included in this post?

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