Designing advertisements can be great work for graphic designers. It can mean recurring work, it can be very creatively satisfying, and the final product is often high profile (and let’s admit it, our egos love it when lots of people see our work). The trick is to be good at it. The amount of direction you receive and the degree of creative freedom you’re allowed will depend on the client and the project, but all advertisements have these same four components.
These four components are a promise, a concept, the tone of the ad, and how it is implemented. All of these will be informed by the values that the brand stands for, its target market, and its competitive edge in the marketplace, so be sure to use an effective creative brief.
The promise of the ad is the claim it is making about the product or service being advertised. Every ad needs to make a promise of some sort, whether it’s explicit or implied, and the stronger and more compelling that promise is, the more effective the ad will be. This could be a promise of lower prices, better customer service, higher quality, or anything else that engages the customer.
What emotion and tone are being used to convey the promise of the ad? An ad promising lower prices, for example, could be funny, ernest, absurd, or even shocking. The right tone for a particular ad will depend on the target market it’s trying to reach and the emotions that you’re trying to associate with the brand. A good example is from this specialist insurance broker – with their advertisements cycling through bold keywords such as BOLD, DELIVERED, PREPARED – giving a tone of of authority and trust.
The concept of an ad is the idea that is being used to convey the promise and the tone. For example, the concept behind the famous and often spoofed “Got Milk?” campaign was that we take milk for granted until it’s unavailable. The promise was that milk is a satisfying drink and the tone was fun and humorous, but in this case it was the concept that really made the ad campaign strong.
Likewise it’s possible to use cartoonised/non-realistic design within a professional setting. A great example is Blackstone Oil and Gas Investment logo design – an animated design of an oil well, which contrasts well with the professional and serious nature of resources investment. Contrasting design is certainly possible and can add real value to an advertising concept – it just needs to hit the mark.
Implementation is how you bring the previous three components together and as a designer it’s the part that rest most squarely on your shoulders. You need to create a design that conveys the promise, tone, and concept of the ad in a way that is engaging and understandable to the target market. Many designers only really concern themselves with this part of the process, which is fine as long as the previous three components have all been established and are being taken into account.