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The Art of Prioritizing Ad Design Content

Ashlyn Busse – Senior Graphic Designer

The massive prevalence of ads in our everyday lives can make it easy to forget just how much effort and attention to detail goes into each one. A good ad will capture the audience’s attention without requiring too much of their time, communicate information while being visually appealing and stand out without the brand being unrecognizable. In other words, ad design requires the balance and precision of a tightrope walker.

Arguably, the biggest balancing act of any ad design is finding the sweet spot of how much information to communicate to initiate the desired response. Ads are usually run in a relatively small space, so the content needs to be efficient. However, they still need to explain enough to generate interest. Achieving this balance in advertising is a challenge, but focusing on visual hierarchy and the function of the ad can help inform both strategy and execution.

Visual Hierarchy

Every ad design starts with a goal. In the broadest sense, this usually means creating and reinforcing product or brand awareness, but there are typically more specific outcomes, services or features that the client is looking to bring attention to through their ad. Of all the components that make up the design, elements that highlight these ideas need to make the most visual impact on the viewer. Sometimes that is accomplished through catchy text in a larger font or a big focal image, but it’s usually done through a combination of both.

In addition to whatever idea(s) the specific ad is communicating, branding is another important component in the visual hierarchy. Logos, brand colors, common imagery, recognizable products and even consistent copy and design elements can all be used to ensure anyone looking at your ad will know it’s from you. This has the short-term benefit of giving interested prospects a direction to go for any further information, as well as the long-term benefit of building on your audience’s understanding of your brand and what you offer, also known as brand identity.

Ad Function

Balancing these two major elements and any other supporting content becomes much easier when the ad is put in context of the larger marketing plan. The objective of an ad can vary from campaign to campaign, usually switching between informing, persuading and reminding, depending on the audience’s understanding of and interaction with the brand. Calls to action on each ad will look different, with some directing viewers to order now, while others will direct interested parties to sources like the website to build on their knowledge of the products or services.

Due to the complexity of the products or services in B2B industries and more in-depth decision-making processes, most B2B ads focus on informing the audience. For this kind of ad, the call to action will generally be directing viewers to a source of additional information, such as the website or sales support professional, rather than directly to the point of sale. This also means the ad is not a solo act. You don’t have to overload a single advertisement to communicate all your selling points. Instead, you can focus on those primary messages at the top of the visual hierarchy and how to make them appealing enough to leave viewers wanting more. When they act on this by going to the directed source, they will be able to find additional information at their own pace to ultimately come to a purchasing decision.

We believe that a good designer can fit everything in an ad and a great designer knows what to leave out. Understanding the visual hierarchy of an ad and its place in the overall campaign is critical to achieving that balance of efficient design that still effectively communicates your messages, inspires action and advances your brand.


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