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Updated Nov 03, 2023

Simplicity Is Key to Effective Online Advertising

Online ads make more of an impact when they are simple and easy for viewers to comprehend.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Verified Check With BorderEditor Reviewed
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Editor Reviewed
This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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The internet is stuffed with advertisements — you might see up to 100 a day without even registering them. In this overwhelming ecosystem, a straightforward advertisement can be the most effective way to keep your business on consumers’ minds. In fact, numerous studies demonstrate the power of simple ads. 

We’ll explain why simple ads work best in today’s complex digital environment and share tips for creating straightforward, effective online messaging.

Why online ads should be simple

Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of simple ads. For example, a study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that online ads that feature a product image reduce consumers’ time to search by 25 percent. In other words, if you focus the audience’s attention on a single product image, consumers will conduct a search for that product more quickly than they would if it were being promoted in a more complicated ad. They’ll also recognize the product faster on online marketplace search listings and be more apt to click its product link.

Another study, published in the journal PLOS One, found that interactive ads — a tech trend that effectively creates the opposite of simple ads — may not be effective. The research found that interactive ads show mixed results in driving consumer recall, comprehension, engagement or awareness of product claims. Combine this conclusion with the results of the Journal of Consumer Research study, and the power of simple ads becomes apparent.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Scientific research has shown strong correlations between uncomplicated ads and stronger customer engagement.

How to create simple-but-effective ads

Simple ads should be effective across various media types. They must carry their message clearly whether they’re on a billboard, TV screen or website. Here are best practices for creating simple-yet-effective ads for your business’s products or services.

1. Determine your target audience.

When striving for simplicity, you must limit the number of items in your visuals. Therefore, it’s of paramount importance to choose the most effective visual components possible, and that starts with knowing your target customer.

For example, suppose you’re advertising your company’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution for increased business cybersecurity. Software platforms aren’t quite tangible, so what image do you center in your ad? If your target audience is business owners who aren’t tech-savvy, an image of an uncluttered, free-flowing system of wires and paths might do the trick. This image evokes a feeling of ease and simplicity — two values your solution offers.

2. Consider multiple advertising channels.

When you think of ads, you might imagine visuals that pop up on news websites or social media feeds. However, these ad types aren’t your only options. You can also run ads that appear at the top of search engine results pages. These ads are entirely text-based, lending them a natural simplicity. 

Choose the right words to showcase your offerings, and carefully craft the best landing pages to include under your ad’s homepage link. You’ll give your target audience all of the starting points they need to engage with your offerings.

3. Write straightforward, compelling ad copy.

There’s only so much space in an ad for words. As such, every word you include in an ad counts. When it comes to simplicity, this seemingly challenging aspect of advertising is actually great news. With natural limits on your word count, you’re all but forced into being straightforward.

To craft concise-yet-compelling ad copy, determine the action you’d like consumers to take after seeing your ad. Simultaneously, determine what you’re trying to tell consumers about your company or product (or service) with your ad. Include a call to action (CTA) that immediately gets people to take the exact steps you had in mind.

4. Create separate ads for brand marketing and product marketing.

Keeping things simple doesn’t have to mean creating just one ad. Instead, you can develop two related campaigns: one that promotes your brand and another that focuses on a specific product or service. These campaigns may make sense to launch simultaneously, but they likely won’t run for the same amount of time. Brand advertising is a long-haul game, whereas product advertising delivers more effective results in the short term.

To effectively advertise your brand, develop uncluttered, uncomplicated ads that tell your company’s story and convey its values. These ads should, in sequence, form a narrative. For product marketing, focus on temporary sales or new offerings. The inherent excitement associated with each offer can, in and of itself, drive consumers to take action.

Did You Know?Did you know
Consumers and brands maintain meaningful relationships — the kind two friends might prioritize. Your brand advertising strategy plays a huge role in cementing these connections.

5. Check that you’ve included all pertinent details.

In your focus on creating visually appealing content, it can be easy to forget the core details. For example, it’s relatively common for advertisers that develop ads promoting holiday sales to completely forget to include the discount percentage. Without that key action-driving factor, the target audience is significantly less likely to take the advertiser’s desired steps. 

6. Set objectives and key results.

Before you launch your ad, determine the benchmarks that make it a success. These are your objectives and key results (OKRs). For example, if you’re advertising a short-term promotion, your objective could be to achieve 500 uses of your promo code among consumers. You’ll later obtain data to show your results through your ad platform, which should come with built-in metrics tools.

FYIDid you know
OKRs are goals tied to numerical outcomes, whereas key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics that reflect the extent of a business initiative's success.

7. Run your ad, and analyze the results.

Launch your ad, and as your campaign progresses, periodically check your metrics platform for key data. Compare the performance you’re seeing to the OKRs you’ve set, and ask yourself whether you’d call your ad a success. If so, repeat the process for your next campaign. If not, look at the numbers to see where things went wrong. Keeping things simple while making corresponding adjustments for your next campaign is vital to future advertising success.

Simple but strong

Research shows that simple ads are more powerful than complex ones. Fortunately, the steps involved in creating uncomplicated ads are straightforward. Plus, you can keep trying until you get it right. After all, simplicity is far from the only factor in a successful ad. Continuing your efforts until you consistently hit the mark makes the most of an unadorned ad.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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