It has been said that half of all advertising spending is wasted money. The problem is nobody knows which half. If you are looking for ways to make your ad spending more effective, improving the quality of the ad itself is a good place to start. So what are the elements of an effective ad? How do you get the response you are looking for? Well, it might sound simplistic, but the best place to start is with the headline.

The Hook

The key to effective copywriting is putting the most powerful statement into the fewest words. More words dilutes the power of your message. This is why politicians, large corporations and major retail brands all have slogans that are at most four to six words long.

The headline for your ad should be as similar as possible to these slogans. Your headline is your hook. It is the part of your ad that is designed to get attention from potential buyers of your products or services. If it doesn’t get attention, it doesn’t matter what the rest of your ad says.

A good headline has few words. Most ask a compelling question. Some will challenge the potential customer in some way. All of them will produce an emotional reaction. This is key. Without an emotional reaction, good or bad, your headline will fail.

 The Story

Human beings react to stories far more than they react to facts. Putting a long list of statistics, prices or features in an ad isn’t going to get the results you want. The reason for this is the same reason people respond to compelling headlines. You have to make an emotional connection if you want to get results.

The best way to get a quick emotional response from a story is to make the reader curious. You can either pose a question or you can “end on a cliffhanger” and try to get the reader of the ad interested enough to look for more information. With limited space, you have to be careful not to get too elaborate. People have very limited attention spans, so get right to the point as fast as you can.

The Call to Action

To avoid having your ad become a really good headline combined with a really short and interesting story that generates no sales, you’re going to need a call to action. This is where you encourage the reader of the ad to do something: Click on a link, make a phone call, order more information and so forth.

This is vitally important, because otherwise your ad isn’t going to do anything that can measurably help your business. The call to action is how you determine if your ad is successful, because readers who take that action can be measured.

Conversion Rate

The effectiveness of an ad is expressed by a conversion rate. This is the total number of people to do your call to action divided by the total number of people who saw the ad. Generally speaking, a one percent conversion is considered a success. Three percent is a home run. If you are planning to place an ad, it is very important you measure success, otherwise you’ll have no way of knowing what your advertising costs you and no way to know if subsequent changes improve your effectiveness or not.

Good advertising practices are some of the hardest things in business to master. It is easy to make mistakes. It takes a great deal of time, patience and dedication to get things right, but once you do, your ads will be very rewarding for your business and finances.