How to make ads that work

Advertising is critical to the success of your campaign and brand. How do you create ads that work?

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Joe Piperni

how to make ads that work

Running ads is an integral part of your business. Without ads, people won’t be able to find out about your products, which means they won’t back your campaign or purchase from your eCommerce store. Ads are vital to your success, which is why we’ve written this guide to help you create ads that work.

Before you start creating…

Every part of your ad should be intentional. That makes thinking through the whole process the first step of making ads that work.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make a single image or write one word of copy:

  • What is your ad communicating? (Probably a USP)
  • What clips will best visually communicate this?
  • Who are you communicating this to?
  • What will be their strongest objection/rebuttal to your point?
  • What is your call to action?
  • Why do they need to take that action now?

Additionally, think about what is important to the customer. This may be different from what’s important to the brand. Think about a product made from recycled materials. The brand will probably be very focused on the sustainability factor, but the customer is going to primarily care about the product and its utility and quality. Therefore, closing on the sustainability selling point will be much more effective than starting with it. It’s great that the product is sustainable, but people won’t buy it unless you convince them that they already want it.

How to get attention

When it comes to grabbing attention, there are a handful of tried-and-true methods! Follow these tips to create ads that work for your target audience.

  • Break it down: The average American reads at a 5th grade level. Fancy words are confusing and hard to read. Use simpler language to make your ads more accessible.
  • Slim it down: Shorter is better, easier to read, and easier to understand. Long paragraphs look like hard work and get skipped.
  • Mix it up: If your ad gets boring, you’ve lost your audience. Boring can mean redundancy, slow transitions, or confusing messaging. You’ll know an ad is good if you want to watch it several times. If you don’t want to watch it a few times, nobody else will either.
  • Clean it up: Simplify your messaging, subtitles, and captions. The easiest way to lose someone is to confuse someone.
  • Wrap it up: Just focus on just trying to get attention. The point of an ad is to get people to click to the website out of curiosity, interest, or emotion. You don’t need to talk about every feature to get someone to click. Ads are just a tease.

4 types of ads for cold audiences

Cold audiences are made up of people who haven’t come into contact with your brand before. They’re new to you, so they don’t know whether or not they can trust you. You’ll have to do more work to convince cold audiences to interact with you, but this is where you draw new customers from.

Let’s look at four kinds of ads that work with cold audiences. Since it’s easier to grasp concepts when there are examples to go along with the theories, we’ll pretend we’re going to launch ads for a product called Bowstring Fitness, a new kind of workout machine that promises amazing results.

Emotional story

An emotional story is a blurb that lets people relate to the storyteller in some way. Usually, these stories are about how the product improved the user’s life.

“I had given up on being able to exercise. The pain was too intense to force it. I was looking at gel injections and happy about it. Along came Bowstring Fitness and I have noticed a marked difference in my pain level. The only thing that has changed is I now use Bowstring Fitness. I look forward to continued and improved success. I also love that it is helping my daughter who has a painful autoimmune disease. That fact that it is so compact is also a plus!”

Topical news

A topical news ad has headline-style copy that emulates a story you’d see in a newspaper. Don’t think of these as a stolid press release; topical news-style ads purposely position the product in a way that makes viewers feel that it’s newsworthy. Consider ads like the following:

  • Major Gyms File Bankruptcy as Bowstring Fitness gains popularity
  • What is the New “Bowstringer” Trend All Over Social Media?


Curiosity ads tempt your viewers into learning more by making a clear, easily understood claim and promising more information if they click through. Think of things like:

  • “Bowstring” away your joint pain. (Do this daily)
  • This self-care hack is life-changing!
  • The best (and easiest) way to strengthen your joints


A contrarian ad takes a strong position and dares the viewer to learn more about it. These are strong declarations that evoke a response from the viewer (whether they agree or disagree with what you’re saying).

  • AVOID workouts, until you read this
  • I tried Bowstring Fitness for 90 days and I’m NEVER going back

3 types of ads for warm audiences

Unlike cold audiences, warm audiences are already familiar with your brand. This means you don’t have to do as much work telling them about who you are; you just have to convince them to purchase your product. Your goal is to overcome any objections that they have.

Here are three ways to convert warm audiences into buyers or backers.


It’s common for people to be on the fence about a product because of its price. Offering a discount or promotional price overcomes these objections:

  • It’s too expensive.
  • I’m not sure if I will love it, so I don’t want to buy it.
  • I never pay full price!

Social proof

Part of convincing someone to purchase your product is making them feel like you’re a company worth dealing with. Sharing testimonials or reviews can help overcome these objections:

  • Are other people happy they purchased this?
  • Is the customer service good?
  • Do I trust this company?

Alternate uses/options

Sometimes, showing that your product isn’t one-size-fits-all will help sway someone’s decision. You’ll be addressing these objections:

  • Do you have different versions (colors, sizes)?
  • Can I use this in a modified way?

Check Your Perspective

One of the most important things to remember when you’re creating your ads is that you are not your audience. You know your product inside and out; you know why people should buy it. Your audience, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of that knowledge. Here are some ways to help you take a step back:

  1. Decide where in the funnel this will be placed.
  2. Create customer avatars to understand who you are trying to reach.
  3. Show your work to a friend (similar to your avatar) who you haven’t spoken to about your product before. Don’t give them any context beside what’s in your ad.
  4. Run the project by fresh eyes as often as possible.
  5. Listen to the feedback without any attachment to your assumptions.

Basic ad specs

Facebook and Instagram’s top priorities are to keep users on the app as long as possible and to get them to come back as frequently as possible. If you want to create ads that work, it’s important to keep both platform and user preferences in mind.


Although Facebook and Instagram ads can be run in a variety of dimensions, they do have preferred formats. If you run 1:1 or 9:16 ads, Facebook will generally charge you less for delivery. Lower delivery costs = lower cost per click = lower cost per acquisition = more profit.

Target audience

Facebook leans towards older audiences who are willing to read more (and expect to do so). In-feed videos, which are the most common Facebook ad placement, can be up to an hour long. Facebook Stories have very little use. Most Facebook users are on mobile devices, but some are on desktop as well.

Instagram leans towards younger audiences who are much less likely to read. Videos in the feed are limited to 59 seconds and Instagram Stories are limited to 15 seconds. Keep in mind: Instagram Stories show 3 5-second slides that people are likely to tap through. This means that at the 0-, 5-, and 10-second marks, you have the chance to re-capture a viewer. These users are always on their phones, never a desktop computer.

Facebook tends to be older readers, while Instagram tends to be younger watchers. Design your ads accordingly!

The devil is in the details

Once you’ve thought about the basics of your ad, it’s time to dig in deeper. Don’t skip the details if you really want to make ads that work!

Are you adding text or subtitles?

  • How will they animate to stay interesting without being confusing or difficult to read?
  • What colors and fonts are you choosing for your text, highlight, and background? Is it easy to read?
  • How can you keep the copy short, sweet, and simple?

Your audience should determine your ad’s:

  • Length
  • Format
  • Placements
  • Copy style

Choosing clips and copy

Think of clips and copy as a recipe. There are ingredients and measurements. If you made a cake with randomly assigned proportions to the ingredients, chances are your cake won’t turn out so well.

It’s the same with clips and copy. Not only do the length of your clips need to match the length of your copy, they also need to tell the same story. Oh, and they need to complement each other by “tagging” your visual point, rather than overwhelming the viewer with information. If it sounds challenging… that’s because it is!

Here are some process questions to help:

  • What clips visually illustrate your message without any copy at all?
  • Is the chosen clip the best one to illustrate the message or story?
  • Would copy support your message or distract from it?
  • How can you make your copy as simple as possible? (4 words max/screen)
  • Are the clip and copy simple enough that a viewer can soak in both at the same time?
  • Are there any clips that do not serve your ad? Any clip that is not essential is unnecessary.

Putting your ad together

Now that you have all the components ready to go, it’s time to put your ad together! This is the step of the process where you finalize the order of your clips and copy to captivate your audience and sell your product.

Grab their attention

You have 2 seconds to grab someone’s attention before they scroll past your ad. If your ad doesn’t instantly stand out, nothing else you do will matter because you’ve lost their attention.


Give viewers a reason to keep watching. Use psychological and storytelling tactics such as wanting to see how it ends, emotion, curiosity, or surprise to keep their attention focused on your ad. Ask: how do I generate emotion, suspense, curiosity, and surprise in my video?


Tell them what to do next and why. Clearly state what’s in it for them and why this requires them to click right now.

Ad secrets revealed

There are a lot of tips and tricks out there when it comes to making ads that work. Here are a few from our experience that you won’t find in most articles.

  • Stop the music

Do you scroll social media with the sound on? You probably don’t, and neither do other users. If the viewer doesn’t have sound on, music is a moot point. If they do accidentally have sound on, they’ll quickly scroll past your ad to stop the music. We’ve seen CTR increase by 30%-50% just by removing the music.

  • Organic/raw walkthrough

The hardest part of online shopping (especially with a new product that requires customer education) is that you can’t pick it up, touch it, and try it for yourself. Give viewers that experience with an organic walkthrough. Polish it too much and it seems contrived.

  • WIIFM & now what?

Everything you create needs to answer the questions what’s in it for me and now what? People “care” about small businesses but order from big box stores because it’s better (short term) for them. If you don’t tell them what’s in it for them now, they will go somewhere else.

  • Research

Read reviews and learn your audience’s vernacular. Speak about their pain points the way they do. Mirror your customers in your ads and copy. Find out what your competitors’ customers biggest complaints are and solve them first. Research everything you can. Read everything you can. Test anything you’ve always done the same way.

  • It works like magic…

Start writing your copy with the impact line from the end of the story. It’s one of the best and easiest ways to hook someone and keep them reading. Seriously, it works like magic!

Final thoughts on making ads that work

Prioritize visuals over copy. Your ad should stand alone without copy. Copy can add to an ad, but only use it if the visual could stand alone.

“Not boring” may not mean more or faster cuts. It means more engaging, which can be done in different ways.

Creating effective ads can be challenging, but if you follow the tips in this article, you should see an increase in clicks and a decrease in cost per lead in no time! Keep in mind that testing new and innovative ideas for ads is always a good plan, and things that you think will crush it may not be your best performers. If you want help making ads that work, apply to work with us today and let us bring our advertising expertise to your product!

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