The ultimate goal of an advertisement is to lead to sales of your product or service. In order to do that an ad needs to be designed in a way that attracts attention and then leads the reader through a process that ends with a call to action for the prospect to take the next step.

Following are common elements for a successful advertisement.

Graphics
Graphics, sometimes called artwork, can include just about any kind of visual element including photographs, drawings (illustrations) and assorted graphics (logos, boxes to highlight important elements).

Headlines (and sub-headlines)
Headlines are the workhorse of an ad. They select your audience, get the attention of your target market and draw them into your ad.

Body copy
The body copy is the heart of your ad and goes into greater detail than the headlines to sell your product or service. There are also various copy elements like captions for photographs and illustrations, your offer to the reader and a call to action, which is discussed next.

Call to action
A call to action is a copy element that simply tells the reader what you want them to do as a next step. You might want them to click on a link and visit a web page, call an 800 number or fill out a response card in a direct mail solicitation and return it to you.

The point of designing an ad should never be to draw attention to “creativity,” but to draw attention to the benefits, the offer of the product or service being sold and the call to action. The product is the reason for the ad and should be the star of the show; not the designer.

Many designers want to create something they consider beautiful and unique in order to prove how creative they are; however, the only true sign of creativity for an advertisement is that it successfully sells the product or service being advertised. Avoid any designer that tries to sell you on their brand of creativity if that creativity doesn’t make your sales curve go up. Use proven direct marketing methods, track your ads, measure their profitability and then you’ll know if your ads are creative.

Sometimes you’ll hear designers and copywriters argue about the importance of design vs. copy. Granted, you want your ad to be visually appealing, but the copy (headlines, body copy, the offer and call to action) are what sell your product or service.

The most beautiful design will do nothing if the right words aren’t present to persuade and lead the reader to take action. Ads without any real design (classified ads) have been proven to sell successfully, but design alone has never, and can never, sell a single thing. Focus on the copywriting and let it lead the way for good design. To do it the other way around will be a losing proposition.