Do You Know The 7 Key Criteria of a Great Advertisement?


Given my career history I am often asked for my opinion on what makes a good advertisement? My usual answer is “business results”. Nothing validates great advertising better than exceeding your business objectives.

However, I appreciate that while valid, the answer may not be very helpful. So, I have compiled a few key characteristics I feel are important to creating great advertising. The list is not a fail-safe formula. But, if your advertisement delivers on these characteristics, there is a very good chance it will help your marketing efforts exceed community capital attraction, retention or expansion objectives as well.


7 Key Characteristics

Reward your target
Investing time to engage with your advertising and learn more about your community is a precious gift. It is important your advertising gives something back to your target so he/she feels the time was not wasted.

Design matters
All elements in your advertising must work synergistically to create a positive impression and experience for your target audience. Copy and visuals should serve to create drama to engage the mind and emotion to capture the heart.

Simplicity is key
The net take-away must be a simple thought. This can be achieved by leveraging simplicity in strategy, idea and drama. Your target audience won’t work too hard to understand your message.

Benefit focus
The advertising idea transforms the strategic benefit into a mind and heart opening executional idea.

You must capture and hold attention and create an emotional reaction.

Clear reinforcement of your place promise

The advertising must reinforce the strategic equity for your brand.

Visualize the benefit
You should use clear, provocative visuals that support the your community’s core promise.

Great advertising is as much art as science, luck as skill. But the above characteristics will help you judge the potential impact of your advertising before you invest too much of your marketing budget in placing it.


What are examples of great place advertisements you feel meet most or all of the above criteria? I doubt the list is comprehensive. Do you have an additional criterion that should be added?  Please leave a comment.

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7 Comments so far

  1. peter malloy

    February 5, 2010


    My compliments on your valuable TIPS!

    After partnering with over 120 cities/states/counties to custom publish their ec dev sections in Forbes…your advice hits the mark. Some exceptional pieces provided powerful (telling) images…with a minimum of Text.

    Best regards,

    Peter Malloy

  2. Ed,

    Note that many “good” ads follow all of those rules — but still are not really effective…

    Why? Because they don’t DIFFERENTIATE their product/service from the other alternatives. That’s the absolutely vital ingredient.

    Without that differentiation, you can create a very nice, professional-looking, but “generic” ad. And many advertisers do precisely that.

  3. […]   […]

  4. […] #1 most frequently read post describes a set of criteria I have used in my career to evaluate whether an advertising concept has […]

  5. Bob Viney

    September 7, 2015

    Ed, great tips! I would add a couple that I learned along the way, one pretty basic and one more insightful, I hope!

    1. The words and pictures must go together … amazing how many ads in TV, print, even digital formats have no tight link between the message in the words and the image in the pictures.

    2. Most importantly, ad strategies, messages and situations need to reflect how the product fits into the everyday lives of target consumers. This depends a lot on culture, and in an ever-increasingly diverse culture in the US, advertisers shouldn’t take it for granted that they themselves, or their agencies, possess this understanding. Targeted research into this aspect of the consumer’s usage experience and brand choice drivers is key to define that aspect of relevance, of relating to the audience.

    Hope these thoughts are helpful!

  6. Edward

    September 7, 2015

    Bob – They are great additions and totally consistent with my experience. Thanks for adding. I hope others add their thoughts as well.

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