Visual Advertising: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

We’re exposed to ads by the boatload — far more than I think most of us would like. This is why it’s all the more important that, as an advertiser, your design team really explores all the details to make sure your ad doesn’t fall into the bad and especially not the ugly category.

When creating an advertisement for a client, there are dozens of things to consider before firing up your design software. The first big question I ask is “Where will the ad live?” This leads to several subsequent “smaller” questions. Is it going in a magazine? If so, what kind of magazine? Who reads it? Or is it going to be on a specific social media platform or perhaps on a website?

A visually pleasing aesthetic

All of these questions are important to think about because you’d be surprised at how much adjustment can go into moving an ad from one media to another. It is almost never as easy as stretching an existing ad to fit new corners (although most people seem to think this is a breeze). Of course, designing an ad for one audience and then finding out an entirely different audience will see the ad basically forces you to start over.

The next big question I ask is “What is the objective?” There really needs to be one clear objective — not 5 small objectives. The more difficult you make it for someone to act as a result of your ad, the less likely they are to do so. Most often, ads are selling something, but they could also be trying to change the way a brand is perceived, increase brand recognition, or demonstrate a product.

Good ads have:

  • A strong concept
  • A simple and clear message
  • A visually pleasing aesthetic
  • Consistent elements across all platforms

Bad ads:

  • Lack a clear concept
  • Have an unfocused message
  • Create negative controversy
  • Tend to be visually displeasing

Ugly Ads:

  • Have no concept
  • Bad design AND confusing message
  • Use Papyrus font (shudder)
  • Have pixelated images

By: Clark Beggs

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