STAND Lesson 8: Create An Ad

"Perhaps the reason creativity is so popular in advertising is because there is so little of it. Creativity is in short supply because we persist in regarding it as an isolated phenomenon."

--Howard Gossage, Communication Arts, 1961, reprinted in CA, 1995


The creative team in an advertising agency consists of the writer and the artist. They both work together to think of appropriate words and pictures to communicate the goal according to the specifications of the strategy. Like other creative processes, the path that different writers and artists use is unpredictable, but spending together time talking, thinking, writing and drawing is important to the task. Creative ideas have to be more than just creative-- your ideas must get across your persuasive goal.  Here's what the process entails:

It's important to use brainstorming in the creative process. Brainstorming is the process of creative collaboration, where people build on each other's ideas through free association and playful imaginative thinking. A good brainstorming session usually involves some informal rules and processes.. no evaluating each other's ideas-- criticism stops the playfulness that's needed to get people's imagination going and somebody needs to document the ideas that get talked about-- without this, some good ideas get presented and forgotten

In selecting the best idea from the brainstorm, consider how the idea matches the strategy you developed earlier. Plenty of money has been wasted on advertising campaigns that are cute, funny or attention-getting, but that do not work toward the advertiser's persuasive goal.

  Use the guidelines in designing ads for each of the four formats: print, TV, radio, and web communications.

Guidelines for designing a print ad

Print is very effective in conveying information and facts, and less effective in generating strong emotional responses. Use words to describe the specific benefits that the reader gets when adopting your persuasive goal.

But recognize that pictures carry multiple meanings and are likely to create less resistance among readers than words.

1. Consider the rule of thirds in designing your ad. 1/3 of your ad should be graphic elements (drawing, photograph, etc.) 1/3 of your ad should be written elements (headline, copy body) 1/3 of your ad should be white space
2. Make sure that each of the different elements of the ad support each other. Select a typeface that reflects the target audience, tone and goal of your ad. Think about how the headline and the artwork work together. Will your message be clear for readers who just glance at the ad?
3. Don't try to say too much in a print ad. A print ad needs to grab the reader's attention and should communicate one clear idea.
4. Make use of a "visual signature" to present your organization's name. In print ads, readers expect to have the author of the ad included in the message, usually with an address and phone number.

Guidelines for designing a video ad

Television is terrific at storytelling, and humor is an effective device for getting people's attention. Television is very effective in generating feelings and illustrating actions and behaviors, and not so strong in communicating specific facts.

1. Find a way to get the viewer's attention within the first 2-5 seconds.
2. Make your ad visually exciting. Viewers watch TV for the visual stimulation.
3. The need to condense messages often makes it necessary to use stereotypes and metaphors drawn from the world of everyday life.
4. Use no more than 65 words for a 30-second ad. A 30-second ad has only 28 seconds of audio.
5. Without a script, individuals may interpret your plan for visuals differently. Prepare a storyboard for your ad before going into   production. Use a 4 x 3 rectangle for your frames and use as many frames as needed to convey the main visual ideas of the ad.
6. The number of scenes should be planned carefully. You don't want too many scenes because this tends to confuse the viewer.

Guidelines for designing a radio ad

Radio is a very effective medium for conveying emotions and feelings, and not so strong on getting across factual information.

1. Consider the lingering impression the ad will make on the listener -- the sound of the voices, the music or sound effects, the imagination and humor-- are all important elements.
2. Consider using a jingle, a short song that contains your persuasive theme.
3. Mention your organization's name three times in a 30 second spot.
4. Script should be no longer than 65 words for a 30 second ad, or use the counting device of timing a script devised by radio station KABC in Los Angeles: five syllables equals one second.
5. Select your voices carefully. As far as your listeners are concerned, you are speaking only to them. Voices should use personal tones to convey warmth and a sense of rapport with the listener.
6. A sense of urgency is often used in radio advertising. The first two to four seconds of a radio ad are critical in capturing the listener's attention.
7. Popular music is protected by copyright and cannot be used without paying (often costly) fees. It's better to create original music for a student produced PSA.

Guidelines for designing a web ad

1.  A strong call to action and a strong message are the most important elements of an effective web ad.
2. If you want to reach the maximum size audience, it's best to keep your site quite simple, since most users don't have a fast enough connection to handle advanced graphics and movies and sound.
3. Build in opportunities for interaction. People like to access pictures and information and a web ad can have layers of 'stuff' for readers-- but try and make the stuff interesting and relevant to the user.

Sample script for an anti-drug PSA:

Script #1 "DOG"   
VISUAL: From dog's perspective. Looking at lazy boy sitting on couch smoking pot and watching TV.

AUDIO DOG: Monkey, monkey come down from your tree.

Oh look, it's Mr. Motivation. Mr. "I'm too busy to play fetch."

Sure, blow smoke in my face. Treat me like a cat. You're probably too stoned to know that I'm your dog anyway.

Man, you're so pathetic. Lying around all day, smoking pot and watching these stupid reruns.

Loser! At least I got off my butt earlier and chased a stinking cat. Ah, that's better! 


Produce The Ad 
"The production team is usually organized somewhat hierarchically. To work together effectively, a production team should also be cooperatively organized, so that individual specialists function collectively as a team." 
--Gorham Kindem, The Moving Image, 1987 

This stage of the process is where all the elements come together, and you complete the project. It's important to recognize that the process of production may change some elements of your original plan.