How to Make an Ad: A 15-Step Guide [+Expert Tips]
Advertising is changing — by the end of 2023, companies are on track to spend more than $424.3 billion dollars on digital advertising.
The challenge? Massive variety in the digital advertising market — from differing platforms and ad types to target audiences — can frustrate efforts to capture customer interest and drive ROI.
How do you choose the right medium to promote your platform? What metrics matter? And once you decide, how do you actually make the ad?
Our comprehensive ad-making guide has you covered. Let’s go.
Featured Resource: Advertising Planning Templates & Kit
To make your advertising planning easier, use HubSpot’s free Advertising Planning Kit. Included are templates to help you plan and present your ad pitch, schedule your release dates, and inform your stakeholders. We’ve also thrown in an advertising best practices guide to help you choose the advertising method that works best for your business.
1. Choose Your Target Audience
When making an ad, you’ll first need to decide the audience you’re making the ad for. Target the right market and you’ll find customers naturally inclined to engage with your brand and product. Cast too wide a net and you may find yourself lost in the digital noise.
One way to help your ad find the right audience is to get granular on whom you want to target with your messaging, which will help you incorporate the best messaging and select the best advertising platform. This should be based off of your buyer personas — semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
If you need help building your personas, try using HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool.
2. Conduct Marketing Research
Market research is an essential part of campaign promotion. Feeding into your buyer personas, market research can answer key questions about your target market, such as:
- How old are they?
- What do they spend most of their time doing?
- What social media platforms do they use, if any?
- Do they live in suburban, urban, or rural areas?
Knowing the above information about your target audience can help you answer questions like — TV or YouTube? Instagram or LinkedIn? Billboard or bus? — because you’ll understand more about how to appeal to the right people.
You can use this Market Research Guide and Set of Templates to get started on market research for your ad.
3. Choose Your Platform
Your market research should give you the insight and confidence you need to choose the most effective platform to reach your target audience. You should also do some supplemental research on the costs, ROI, and benefits of certain ad platforms and methods.
You may come to the realization that using multiple ad platforms and methods would be the right move for your campaign – such as social media and search engine ads. This is actually a great strategy, as it casts a wider net and opens up the possibility of reaching even more prospects where they already are.
4. Decide on a Budget
For advertising, you need to spend money to make money.
Getting your budget approved can be difficult, so make it easier to get what you need by clearly outlining:
- The total budget you need
- How the costs are broken down
- A projected ROI (or business impact)
Be sure to come to any budget meeting prepared to answer whatever questions could be thrown at you and to defend the specifics.
For instance, saying “We need $10,000 to run a Google Ads campaign” doesn’t sound nearly as compelling as “We’d like to run a series of ads on Google. Here’s a list of our keywords and negative keywords, their monthly search volume, and our preliminary bids for each. With these projections, we’re expecting to bring in 400 new contacts next month for a total cost of $10,000.”
5. Craft a Message
By this point, you know your target audience and preferred platform, but you’re still unsure what you’re saying. Here’s where you’ll want to think about the broad purpose of your campaign to inspire your ad.
Do you want people to come to your store, or visit your website? Is your immediate goal to drive free signups for your software, or ebook downloads? Think about the message and how that can feed into your ad campaign’s end goal(s).
6. Get People Talking
While your message needs to include your brand purpose and tie in with long-term marketing goals, it also needs to be something people remember.
Mark O’Donnell, one of HubSpot’s own Principal Revenue Marketing Managers, shares the importance of an ad that generates buzz through his own experience,
“The most most impactful ads need to be timely, memorable and provocative.
Specifically on LinkedIn, ads needs to solve a pain point or a need with the audience – at the right time.
It needs to stand out from the competition and a noisy newsfeed. This can be achieved by a true understanding of your ideal customer profile (ICP), and focusing on building relevant audiences and creating urgency. The ask for your audience needs to be clear and the message needs to call them out to take action.
Lastly, test this with multiple ad types, creative and message. The best ads are usually the ones that have been tested, optimised and improved over time.”
Here’s why: As more advertising shifts to social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter, brand marketing needs to get to the point ASAP to drive customer interest and social sharing. If your message — text, images, or videos — can make users stop, look and share with their connections, you have a much better chance of creating organic interaction and driving more traffic to your site.
7. Decide What You’re Building
Ads can build brand awareness and product awareness — but not simultaneously. As a result, it’s worth taking the time to think about your advertising goals for new marketing campaigns.
For example, if brand awareness is the goal, you may want to consider a set of ads that tell a story or help customers learn more about what makes your brand unique. Here, the goal is to engage with customers over a longer period of time to help them engage with your brand from the first time they see your ad to eventual conversion. Ideally, your brand story will help create a long-term, reciprocal customer relationship.
Product awareness ads, meanwhile, are designed to highlight new products or services, call out seasonal specials or help drive specific action from customers. They’re often one-off or a short series of ads that run over a small period of time.
8. Include a CTA
While building awareness is critical for ads to be effective, it’s not enough in isolation.
That’s why all your ads also need a call-to-action (CTA) that provides information for consumers on what to do next. In some cases — such as an ad on your webpage — the CTA may be simple and direct, such as “sign up for our newsletter” or “click here to buy now.”
If you’re advertising on social sites, meanwhile, reaching for an immediate sale or asking for user contact data may actually drive customers away. Here, your CTA needs to be more subtle but no less clear. For example, you might opt for “click here to learn more” or “explore what we have to offer.” In practice, the goal is to avoid presuming what users want — instead, your CTA provides a path to more information if they’re interested. And if you’ve crafted a great ad, they will be.
9. Don’t Forget the Details
They’re small things — the smallest, in some cases — but can have significant impacts for your ad campaign: The details.
Consider an advertisement for a concert or event that your company is hosting. You’ve done the work: Identified the right market, crafted a great message, and created a CTA that will drive customer action.
You’ve forgotten the details. Your ad doesn’t mention where or when the event is happening. Sure, customers could click through and see the specifics on your website, but there’s no guarantee they’ll take this step. Put simply, when it comes to creating a great ad, you have to account for the forest and the trees: You need big-picture advertisements that are visually compelling, content-rich and engaging, but it’s just as critical to double-check that you’re not missing the details.
10. Create Test Ads
Before launching your ad campaign, it’s worth trying your hand at making an advertisement for your brand. Here’s why: Not all ad designs look as great on the screen as they do in your head. By creating basic mock-ups, you can see what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to improve.
One of the most popular options for simple ad creation is Adobe Photoshop. Not sure where to start? Here’s a quick look at how to make an ad in Photoshop.
How to Make an Ad on Photoshop
Let’s say you want to create a Facebook ad on Photoshop. Follow these steps:
- Create a new document in Photoshop.
Open Photoshop, select “File,” and then click “New” from the drop-down menu. You’ll see the screen above. Here, you can select the size of your new ad, along with the color profile you want to use.
- Insert your image.
Next, you’ll want to insert an image to work with. Simply drag-and-drop the image of your choice into the Photoshop workspace and you’re ready to go.
- Add some text.
Next, add some text to your image by selecting the “T” button in the bottom left-hand corner. You can choose vertical or horizontal text, depending on what works best for your image.
- Add a CTA.
Once you’re happy with your text placement, consider adding a CTA. Select one of the shape tools from the left-hand side menu and insert that into your image. Resize as needed, then head back to the text tool and insert your CTA.
- Consider the 20% rule.
Facebook used to have a hard-and-fast 20% rule that stated no more than 20% of your image could contain text. While this is now a strong suggestion rather than an absolute rule, it’s worth keeping your text to a minimum since Facebook rates ads based on their text volume — the more text you have, the lower your chances of getting seen.
- Save your file.
Finally, save your new ad. Head to “File”, then “Save As,” and then “Format.” It’s worth saving it as both a Photoshop document (.psd) and a .png file, which makes uploading to Facebook easier.
11. Develop Creative Assets
Whether it’s copy for a Google Ad or a flashy landing page from your in-house designers, all ads need creative assets. Chances are, most of the ads you run will need one or more of the following:
- Short, promotional copy (for image ads and online ads)
- Long-form copy (for video scripts)
- Photographs (for online ads)
- Custom-designed images and/or animations (for online ads and video ads)
- Video (for…video ads)
- GIFs (for online ads)
All of these assets can be overwhelming, and if you’re thinking “I’m not a videographer/writer/designer/photographer!”, that’s totally fine. If these resources aren’t available to you in-house to help make your ad, consider hiring a team of freelancers or an agency to help you produce these deliverables and make an outstanding advertisement, or use an online marketing design tool like Canva to help streamline the process.
12. Determine Measurements of Success and Set Up Tracking
No matter if your ultimate goal is Page Likes, online purchases, or promo code uses, you should never launch an ad without first being crystal clear on two questions:
- What do we want to see in order to call this ad successful?
- How are we measuring success?
Jonathan Barshop, a HubSpot Sr. Product Growth Manager, shares his determinants of success for ads geared toward podcast listeners,
“When it comes to podcast ads, we’re either trying to drive downloads for shows within our network or page views to HubSpot’s website. On the download side (the side I manage), we mostly gauge success based on the conversion rate of new listeners, meaning if 1,000 listeners hear our ad on X show and 50 of them go and download one of our episodes, that’s considered a strong conversion. The success of most audio ads are predicated on the podcast hosts relationship with your podcast / product — if they genuinely like it, it’ll come across in the ad read and listeners will flock.”
You have to make the expectations of your campaign known by setting up proper goal-setting and ad tracking.
If you’re advertising online, there’s a good chance the platform you’re using — like Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn — has an ad management and tracking platform, allowing you to see how many interactions your ads have had and how much they cost.
However, you’ll also want to take a few extra steps to aid in your analysis down the line:
- Use an automated free ad tracking platform to measure advertising ROI and see how your ads tie into larger marketing projects and campaigns. You can also use this platform to compare ads from different sites; say, if you were running ads on both Instagram and Twitter.
- Set up a custom tracking spreadsheet offline to measure engagements with your ad and other data points like cost, conversion, and advertising ROI, especially if your ad is online.
- Use custom tracking tokens for links promoted in your ad so that you can analyze engagement and conversions on your own website.
13. Launch Your Ad
The stage is set, and you can finally launch your ad for the world to see.
Needless to say, the process of launching an ad on Google is different than on Bing. The same can be said for every social media channel, TV ads, or transportation ads.
Here’s a list of the more detailed, step-by-step process for launching an ad on some of these platforms. Click through to learn more about the platform or platforms that you’re creating an ad for:
- How to Launch a Facebook Ad
- How to Launch a LinkedIn Ad
- How to Launch an Instagram Ad
- How to Launch a Twitter Ad
- How to Launch a YouTube Ad
- How to Launch a Google Ad
- How to Launch a TV Ad
- How to Launch a Billboard Ad
14. Track & Analyze Performance
For campaigns that have a set run time (transportation, television, etc.), determine how the ad’s results performed against expectations. Since it’s difficult to draw a one-to-one comparison for these ad types, you may want to look at general business trends, change in revenue, or even social media/press mentions to gauge success.
For online ads, this process is a bit easier. Results start coming in immediately, so you can see how well your ads are performing instantly, and over time. Take note of the ads bringing in high numbers at low costs and — just as importantly — ads costing a lot but not performing that well.
Remember, you can take the headache out of the manual ad tracking with a free online ads tracking tool.
15. Make Changes, Rinse, and Repeat
Once your ad campaign is over (or if it’s an ongoing online campaign), apply your learnings to your next advertisement.
For instance, maybe you realized your online ads that were wordier performed worse than ads that were more concise, or that YouTube just didn’t work this time around. Lean into what worked (or is working) and abandon what’s not to continue to strengthen your company’s advertising program.
It All Ads Up
And there you have it — our comprehensive guide to planning, creating, launching, and analyzing your new ad.
Looking to streamline the process? Use an advertising planning template to outline your ad campaign, keep all contributors informed, and rally behind the same end goal for your business.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.