by John Houle

I once was asked to design the “killer ad.” I informed my client that there was no such thing; however, I explained how I could develop an effective advertisement utilizing proven techniques.

There is not an exact formula for an effective ad. If there was one, we would all follow it, and then it would no longer work. But, there are several stylistic attributes and copywriting techniques that will make an ad stand out. While I do not claim to be an expert, I do believe that you are better off to adhere to these advertising elements:

  1. Feature an eye-catching photograph or graphic that explains visually what you are looking to promote.
  2. Always use a compelling headline that specifically targets your prospective customers. Remember that most people do not look past the headline unless you capture their attention.
  3. Include a caption with your photograph; after the headline, people read captions.
  4. Use statistics because it validates your claims, but be sure to include your sources.
  5. In your body copy, include the most important secondary benefits of what you are promoting.
  6. Avoid “industry speak” and use language that people understand. You’re not writing to colleagues but prospects.
  7. Always have a “Call to Action” and make sure it stands out.
  8. Include some sense of urgency. We all have enough to think about and are bombarded with advertising messages. We need to motivate people to act quickly.

There are some other things you should consider in your ads.

Avoid sure signs of amateur advertising. You only need your street address and city – not your zip code, people are not going to send you a letter. Nor are they going to send you a fax. Your address should always be secondary to your phone number and Web site, unless you are asking people to come into your office to receive an offer. Also consider providing a real testimonial and include the person’s full name if you receive permission.

John Houle is the president of JH Communications, LLC and can be reached at 401.831.6123 or at