Advertising techniques – A quick guide to creating effective advertisements

advertising techniques - A quick guide to building effective advertisements

The past few weeks I’ve seen a varying degree of advertising failure to success. I’ve already written a brief read about how design is nothing more than visual communication. To create an effective advertisement you must identify what the core message is. The process for creating product advertising might be different than the technique and process behind say, a cancer awareness advertisement but, in the end it is the exact same thing. Make the message clear and as easily digestible as possible. Today, I thought I’d walk through my techniques of creating effective product advertising.

In an ideal world you’d be working with a minimum amount of products, an ad size/dimensions perfect for the product and an ample space to do it in. However back here on Earth every single person is doing their best to stretch a dollar into $100. Let’s say for this automobile advertisement our client wants 4 vehicles in a 3 column (5.416” at The Richfield Reaper) by 10.5”. A very common format for us at The Reaper. We’ll pretend that it’s in full color today.

Heading and Theme

advertising techniques - heading and theme
advertising techniques – heading and theme

We’ll start with a good heading. Since we have no real predefined theme I’ll use one of my own images from This will help define the theme as spectacular summer sale. Identifying the font will be a deal maker for your headings as it will help tie the entire advertisement together. Using the .eps (the most common format for vector graphics on stock websites) and Adobe Illustrator we can pull apart the pieces we want to use for other parts of the advertisement. I saved the sun separately from the frame so that we can use it throughout. Cooper is going to be a little silly but that’s one of the things that you should pay attention to when getting a heading and stuff, font choice will have a lot to do with the look and feel of your advertisement.


adverising techniques - branding
adverising techniques – branding

Jumping back over to InDesign, place your frame onto your new document. Most every business will have a logo, as well as their own nuances for how it, the phone/address and other information should be displayed. Even when stylistically it doesn’t make any sense, most of the time you’ll want to follow that. Even the best advertisement is going into the garbage if the client doesn’t like the way information is displayed. This beautiful logo uses a very common Helvetica and now that we have the business information we have three font choices here, and probably shouldn’t get any more. Try to not use more than 3 on any advertisement.

Making a grid

The grid is the backbone in any design even when highlighting only one product or service, take the time to find where on the advertisement is center, or centered away from other information. Break your advertisement into pieces and find out the priority that information needs to be displayed. The main idea should be prioritized to take up more room and/or be visually heavier than anything else. I usually use text boxes, columns and frames to set up the guides. This is going to help also to show approximately how much of the advertisement is graphic. A good rule of thumb is that at least 50% of the ad should be graphic or whitespace.

Isolate, make the message as clear as possible

Now the fun really starts, remember that beautiful grid we just made? Let’s break it, By taking the main idea, and presenting it in abnormal ways, it will pop out even more. By making the car fall just over the border, you want that damn sports car. I wrote a couple weeks ago about having fun with borders it is an amazing way to put life into your ads. I decided a little drop shadow looked good here but, I don’t often use one so use your judgment. Isolating your images is key. When there is clutter behind your products, it takes away from the white space and makes the product less recognizable. The same will go with any message you’re trying to convey. Make it simple enough that the target audience knows what it’s about without even reading the information. Car, $000.00, even with the other information there, you know exactly what this is about before even looking at it. I borrowed a car from, isolated it using the pen tool and we’re coming right along.

Prices, consumers decide to purchase by determining value vs. cost

We go through life making a constant need/cost analysis. Hungry? Well, I don’t have a Snickers and making a sandwich takes energy and time, I don’t feel like I have that to contribute right now … So I’ll wait. That’s where the value of convenience comes in, at a relatively cheap cost, you can get something that kind of resembles food on almost any corner in almost every city. For this we’ll make them the same font and color as the header, which should help tie this together a bit. Make your dollar signs and cents superscript (they aren’t the most important part here). The price should be almost as visually heavy as the product, It is the second most important thing on the page.






One thing that I hate is messing up. When someone else messes up everyone can point and giggle at the mistake. By taking a little bit of time to look over your work when done (and using spell check) you can save yourself from headaches later. At work we have a proofreader, at home I read, read, then reread twice, and then I make the wife read. Of course, errors are going to slip by, you aren’t a robot, don’t beat yourself up for them, learn from them and grow. The best part about making mistakes is that you will gain a new perspective on where you can improve your work and your product. I’ll steal a quote here.

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space. -Johnny Cash

Image Size, and color space

advertising techniques - A quick guide to building effective advertisements
advertising techniques – A quick guide to building effective advertisements

As we finish up this design I always take a minute to look at the image size and color space. Open up your links window and click the little drop down, check the box next to color space. This is a type of proofing that I use to help keep file size in check as well as take a few extra minutes to adjust each photograph (paying special attention to color, and contrast at this stage) before throwing my advertisement to the wolves. For this we need it to be cmyk and I’m going to round up to 5″ wide on the photo. I know that in InDesign you can change what resolution to sample down to when exporting but, that’s a pain and this gives me one last way to check my images.

Anyhow, that’s basically the process that I use on every single design that I do. I appreciate you reading, if you found this article helpful please share it. Also, add me for more little tips and updates.

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