Connect with us


Stand-Out Brands Need Stand-Out Ads

Creating a good ad that customers will respond to.

Howard Fox




No one wants to read, watch or listen to your advert. No, really they don’t. Apart from the yellow pages, when last did you see a publication entirely made up of ads, or a radio station that broadcasts no music or talk, just ‘commercial breaks’? You don’t. Okay, there is the shopping channel but even that tries to entertain. So how do you get someone to notice and hopefully be influenced by your advert?

The hook

You need a ‘hook’ to attract readers, listeners or viewers and pull them from the media they intended consuming, into interacting with your advert. This could be an intriguing headline, provocative image, interesting fact or the promise of getting something special.

Basically it’s a trade. You need to give something back in return for interrupting peoples’ viewing or reading pleasure. It could be information, a laugh, art, the-hint-of-sex, a special deal. Get this right and you are likely to get high “liking” for your ads – the basis of building a positive impact on your market.

The type of hook varies with the type of product, or intention of the advert. Information-rich adverts might work well for a new, complicated, just-launched product. Considering buying that new hover-board? You will want to know all about how it works, safety issues and maintenance costs. Buying peri-peri chicken on the other hand? Information about the nutritional value of a hot wing is unlikely to break through the clutter. Perhaps a good laugh would work better – a tactic well used by Nando’s.

Lights, camera, action!

Adverts are premised on the basis that you are trying to get people to do something they otherwise wouldn’t do. It’s called the “call to action” and it’s where a lot of ads go wrong – with either a weak or confusing call to action. Remember without a call to action an advert just becomes a story, which is more in the realm of “PR”.

Having enticed your target into watching, listening to or reading your advert, be clear about what exactly they should do next. It might not be a hard sell to buy right away. It might be to take a test drive or go to a website to get more information. However, not giving any direction leaves readers confused and somewhat annoyed as they think why did I bother?

Get to the point. Stay on point

Having interrupted, it is important to get to the point quickly. Headlines should be short, simple as possible and clear. In the case of billboards, normally read by drivers passing at high speed, I was taught you should have a maximum of seven elements on the billboard’s face. This could for instance be made up of an image, five words and a logo. (Few, however, pass this test.)

Recognise that in print adverts, most readers will glance at the image and headline and not read the rest of the more detailed “body copy”. You still need to make an impact on readers such as this, trying to entice them into reading further, or at a minimum building some awareness of your product or brand.

Adverts work best when they have “a single minded value proposition” – they focus on a single thought or product attribute. It is tempting to add additional concepts into ads to try and make them work harder, but in reality, they just become confusing and reduce in impact.

Batting for the other side

Advertising’s dirty little secret is that often, even if consumers interact with and even like your ad, they may well not correctly remember which supplier it refers to. This is more prevalent in commoditised products which have little perceived differentiation in consumers minds. In the worst-case scenario, consumers see your ad and remember it as referring to a competitor. (Technically called “low brand-linkage”.) How do you prevent this?

1) Ensure you have a differentiated product or brand in the first place. If you don’t it doesn’t really matter what you do in your advert, you are in trouble. You will know you have this problem when your ad agency suggests singing about your product (the old stand-in when there is absolutely nothing worth saying in an ad.)

2) Make the logo bigger. Your creative folk (that would be the flamboyant types in hats) frown upon the crass commercialism of overt branding all over your adverts, because it diminishes their ‘art’. Your shareholders disagree. They want a clearly branded ad, ideally with liberal use of the corporate colour. Think MTN vs Vodacom. If you see yellow, you think…

3) Be consistent in your advertising. Once you have trained the market on what your ads look like, stick with it. Marketers are inclined to have lower attention spans than their target consumers, because marketers see their ads virtually every day. Unless you have the budget of the two teleco’s just mentioned, your audience certainly don’t.

Proof is in the pudding

Recognise that sophisticated markets are cynical about advertisers. They know you have bought the media and can do (within the bounds of law and the Advertising Standards Authority) what you like with it. As a consequence offering proof of what you say offers weight and credibility. Independent tests, testimonials, reference to scientific works, evidence of long history of successful products, help overcome this cynicism. The more sophisticated the market the more subtle such proof should ideally be.

How creative should my ad be?

Like a number of things in marketing, it depends… Marketers love highly creative ads and they can multiply impact significantly, perhaps even ‘going viral’, but in my view some ads are just too creative that they lose their audience.

Remember you are not creating an ad you like, but rather one which effectively communicates to your market. Sometimes (perhaps as a new entrant) an ad, which fulfils all the category norms, might work best by making your product appear ‘established’ and ‘part of the club’. High risk, serious products – hospitals say, or corporate professional services firms might also benefit from tempering overtly creative ads.

Some specifics

Telephone numbers don’t work well on radio, especially during drive time. Listeners just can’t remember them or jot them down.

Context is important. Adverts about erm, male issues, might best be deployed on ‘over urinal’ media.

Avoid offending religious and other interest groups, particularly with frivolous quips. What might seem funny around your boardroom table doesn’t seem so when you are explaining yourself at the ASA.

Humour should be universal and good-natured. Powerful when it is done right, it easily goes wrong as it is culturally, language and age-specific.

Comparative ads aren’t permitted in South Africa(and aren’t always a good idea). However, if it is a strategic fit you can have the same outcome while remaining legal – just think of Steve from Bleep! Bank.

Howard Fox is the marketing director of the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). He has 25 years’ marketing experience. Having started his career as a professional photographer, his experience ranges from marketing commodity chemicals through financial services, to advertising. He is a Chartered Marketer (SA) and sits on the board of the Marketing Association of South Africa. Howard holds a Masters degree in Marketing and an MBA. Linked In: Twitter: Blog:



5 Ways To Market Your Business On A Limited Budget

A very common misperception amongst small business owners is that in order to make their business stand out from the competition, big bucks has to be splashed on advertising.




A very common misperception amongst small business owners is that in order to make their business stand out from the competition, big bucks has to be splashed on advertising.

Not true. Thanks to the ever-developing digital marketing landscape and online tools available, there is a host of creative marketing techniques you can employ to successfully market your business in a cost effective way.

It’s all about content

A great way to drive visitors to your website and acquire new customers is to do content marketing. Content marketing is simply creating and distributing relevant, valuable content that your potential customers want to engage with and share with others.

It is an effective method to generate leads and reach the KPI’s of your business and include things like blogs, videos, podcasts and social media updates etc.

Related: 7 Creative Strategies For Marketing Your Start-up On A Tight Budget

Creating content that your target market will love is important, but driving traffic to that content is equally as important. It’s no use having incredible content, but it’s not reaching the people you want to reach and achieving what it’s supposed to. That’s why having a solid action plan in place for promoting your content is vital. Draw up a calendar that specifies how and when your content is distributed.

For content to be powerful and effective, it needs to be fresh and unique. Something that hasn’t been done before by competitors and that consumers want to bookmark or save as it provides valuable, helpful information.

Powerful content is also tailored content. Tailor your content to your specific target audience, their needs and internet consumption habits. And lastly, creativity is key in content creation.

Deliver your content in meaningful, new ways, using the latest technologies and methods to draw higher engagement.

Get social

If used effectively, social media can contribute greatly to the growth of your business. Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn are great ways to distribute your content and reach your target audience.

Using these channels is cost-effective as it is mostly free to use. However, most of them offer fantastic paid business advertising solutions that allow you to promote your products or services to new customers outside of your own geographic location.

Related: 7 Social Media Marketing Secrets No Marketer Wants To Admit

There are also great free tools available online to schedule your content in advance and monitor and manage the engagement on it. From these social media insights, you are able to understand your user better and improve your marketing strategy accordingly.

You’ll be able to see the number of reach, likes, comments and other engagement your content receives and from this derive which of your content works and which doesn’t, the best times or days of the week to publish, which channels work best, and who to target with your content.

Optimise for the search engine


Another awesome way to spread the word about your brand and products or services, is through Search Engine Optimisation.

SEO, as it’s often referred to, is the effective process through which website content is cleverly optimised in order to rank higher in organic search engine results and consequently increase website traffic.

It allows you to rank high on search engines, like Google and Bing, for popular search terms within your niche, without actually having to pay for an advert.

Related: Basics Of SEO For Businesses And Brands

SEO can get rather technical, but there are many effective SEO tactics you can apply to optimise your website. With a few clever tricks, like installing SEO plugins and using key worded titles and content, you can also optimise your Blog, YouTube channel and other distribution channels.

Not only will SEO enable you to drive traffic to your company website, but increase awareness of your brand, and give you the edge on your competitors when it comes to securing new and potential clients.

Send an email

It’s a myth that email marketing is dead. It is still very much an effective and inexpensive method to promote your business and products to your target audience, and an easy way to reach people on-the-go on their mobile devices.

You also don’t need to be a technical boffin to send out an email marketing campaign. There are great tools, like MailChimp, available online that will help you set up and distribute your email campaigns, and depending on how many emails you want to send, it is either free or very reasonably priced.

Related: 4 Revolutionary Behavioural Email Marketing Ideas

Targeted emails to smaller databases that contain content relevant to its recipients are proven to be more cost-effective yielding better results, than ‘blanket’ emails to large databases of people that are less likely to convert into customers.

Email marketing is great for introducing new products and services to potential clients, upselling existing clients, nurturing possible leads, driving traffic to your website or blog, and promoting special events.

Classifieds and business listings


Classifieds is another great way to market your business on a limited budget. Not only popular for advertising second-hand goods, cars and property, classifieds have fantastic free advertising benefits for businesses as well.

Websites like Junk Mail Classifieds even gives you the option to register a free trader account for your business, and create an online business profile that has the potential to reach thousands of customers and generate daily leads.

Classifieds are known to be very effective, as they are high-traffic websites that allow you to advertise in specific categories, sub-categories and regions. This enables you to target a specific audience with your products or services and makes it easier for people to find and enter into business with you.

So, if marketing your business seems a bit like conquering Mount Everest right now, then take a deep breath and relax, because it really is easier (and cheaper) than you think.

Just take the time to do some research and familiarise yourself with the multitude of helpful tools readily available to help you get the word out about your brand and products, without breaking the bank.

Continue Reading


Why It’s A No Brainer To Attract Clients In Europe

If you’re an advertising entrepreneur, there’s never been a better time to sell your services overseas.

Ben Wren




The creative industry in South Africa is in a good place. We’re delivering quality work at a good price, and while the industry is young, it’s growing fast.

Schools and design studios have emerged teaching the craft, and the Cape Town CBD has been transformed into a creative hub of burgeoning talent, ripe with hungry entrepreneurs embracing a start-up mentality.

Make no mistake: The advertising industry in South Africa is being taken seriously – and it shows.

But if anything, location is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Just because you’re based in South Africa doesn’t mean you should limit yourself, and the power of the internet means you can cultivate relationships – and create work – for clients anywhere in the world.

Related: 7 Creative Strategies For Marketing Your Start-up On A Tight Budget

Thanks to a common language and a favourable time zone, one place in particular stands out: The UK.

What does South Africa offer? Quality work at a good price

As an Englishman living in South Africa, I have worked for clients like Coca Cola, Nike, Toyota, Johnnie Walker, Microsoft and local powerhouses like Sanlam. I began my career in the UK, W+K London and Euro RSCG before moving to Cape Town nine years ago to lend my expertise to agencies like The Jupiter Drawing Room and Isobar South Africa. Earlier this year, I embraced entrepreneurship by starting my own venture: Area 213 Communications.

As a foreigner living in South Africa, this is my observation: the industry is bigger in the UK but not necessarily better. More choice doesn’t equal a superior end product. Clients’ needs are still the same. They want innovative thinking and quality work delivered on time at a good price.

While the industry in South Africa is smaller, we have the tools and expertise to deliver work that’s comparable – if not better – than Europe.

But our number one selling point? We’re cheaper.

The exchange rate presents a value proposition any entrepreneur would be mad to pass up. While we can protect our margins and enjoy living in a beautiful country, we help clients abroad by delivering quality work at a price that makes them happy.

It’s a win-win for both parties.


Geographically, we’re well-positioned

What do clients want? They want to know that you’re taking care of them and producing great work. If there’s an issue, they want to be able to pick up the phone, speak to the agency and leave the call free of stress.

Invariably, brands in the UK and Europe will look to agencies in their own country – and often their own city – for simple peace of mind. If there’s a problem, they know they can get assistance from someone who can pick up the phone and address their concerns right away.

The beauty of South Africa is that clients can do that, only they’re using Google Hangout, Skype, or a landline. There are no tricky time zone differences to navigate. The spoken language is English, and the accent is easy to understand. Culturally, we’re very similar too. In fact, South Africans are naturally hardworking, and the UK appreciates that.

Related: Three Ways To Improve Your Lead Generation

The number one challenge? Boosting our name

So, let’s get this clear. We can deliver great work. We can do it very competitively. And we’re in the same time zone as all major European countries. We’re not four hours ahead like India, or eight hours behind like the Americas. We have a beautiful milieu ripe with creative talent and we’re growing.

So, what’s stopping us? If anything, reputation. Advertising is a results-driven business, but it’s also image-conscious.

At the moment, South Africa is a market unfamiliar to Europe. The trick is cultivating relationships with people who are key stakeholders in brands abroad.

That’s difficult if you’re not familiar with the market, but not insurmountable. South Africa is an attractive proposition, but too few clients know that.

We need to raise the profile of the country abroad, because in the end, it all comes down to the quality of the work you’re delivering. No client in the world will turn down great work at a price that’s lower than they’re expecting to pay – irrespective of geography.

Related: 9 Tips For Creating An Awesome Brand

The key is to remove the barrier to entry and to get over the first hurdles: The small, very human quirks that prompt brands to choose agencies they’re familiar with, rather than agencies that can save them money.

My goal with Area 213 Communications is to nurture an advertising agency with a global approach to business and one that values the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit. I hope many of my peers will follow suit, putting South Africa on the map in the process.

Continue Reading


How You Can Test That Online Ad Before You Spend On It

How do you test online ads and marketing campaigns quickly for best results? You use this rule of thumb and Google Adword’s Google Display Network (GDN).

Perry Marshall




Test the big difference-making stuff first. Go after finer points later. How far down you drill will depend on your patience for this kind of work and, of course, your budget.

“First test forests, then test trees, then test branches, then test leaves.”

In this scenario, the ‘forest’ is two things:

  1. Your headline, hook, call-to-action, offer or guarantee
  2. The overall aesthetic design of your ad: Colour schemes, styles, layout and tone; bold versus subtle, traditional versus modern, serious versus comic, masculine versus feminine, young versus old, and everything in between.

Related: Analytics: See, Hear and then Speak to Your Customers.

Let’s say you plan to test images of people in your ads. Try different ages as well as both genders. Right off the bat, that gives you four variations: Older men, older women, younger women and younger men. Which one will your target market respond to? After a few thousand impressions, you’ll know.

There are so many different things you can test:

  • Image style: High-resolution colour photo, black-and-white classic, hand-drawn picture or even no image at all.
  • Text formatting: Colour, font, size, bold or italic.
  • Dominant colour: Different colours and different levels of light or dark will evoke wildly different moods. If you’re carefully targeting sites on GDN to show your ads, think about what colour schemes will make your ads stand out on the page rather than blending into the background.
  • Call-to-Action: Ideally this should be prominent. Even better if it’s in the form of a button. Your entire ad may be clickable, but if you feature a boldly coloured button, people will click there more than any place else on your image.

Related: Content Marketing Strategies You Can Steal

Continue Reading



Recent Posts

Follow Us

We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.


FREE E-BOOK: How to Build an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Sign up now for Entrepreneur's Daily Newsletters to Download​​