How to Make an Ad: A 15-Step Guide [+Expert Tips]

How to Create Powerful Ads That Drive Results: The Ultimate Guide for 2024

Advertising is more critical than ever for businesses looking to cut through the noise and reach their target customers. Global digital ad spend is projected to surpass $681 billion by 2025, as brands shift more dollars away from traditional channels.

But with greater competition and endless online distractions, simply throwing money at digital ads is not enough. Marketers must master the art and science of crafting ads that command attention, resonate emotionally, and inspire action in today‘s landscape.

Whether you‘re a small business owner managing your own campaigns or an agency professional, this in-depth guide will equip you with everything you need to know to create powerful, high-converting ads in 2024 and beyond. We‘ve gathered insights from top industry experts and analyzed the latest trends to bring you a step-by-step framework for ad success.

  1. Know Your Audience Inside and Out

The foundation of any effective ad is a deep understanding of who you are trying to reach. Skipping this crucial step is like shooting arrows in the dark.

"The biggest mistake I see businesses make with their ads is not properly defining their target audience," says Sarah Johnson, PPC Director at TopShop Marketing. "You need to go beyond basic demographics and really get inside the heads of your ideal customers."

Some questions to consider:

  • What are their biggest pain points, challenges and aspirations?
  • Where do they spend time online and offline?
  • What type of messaging resonates with them emotionally?
  • Who do they trust and what influences their purchasing decisions?

Invest time upfront gathering audience intel through market research, customer surveys, interviews, focus groups, social listening and competitor analysis. Develop detailed buyer personas that paint a vivid picture of your target customers. The deeper your audience insights, the more precise you can get with your ad targeting and messaging.

  1. Choose the Right Mix of Ad Platforms

The digital advertising landscape is vast and ever-evolving. Popular platforms include:

  • Google (search, display, video, shopping)
  • Meta (Facebook, Instagram)
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • TikTok
  • Amazon
  • Programmatic display
  • Connected TV/OTT

Rather than spreading your budget thin across every channel, focus on the platforms where your audience is most active and engaged. Look at demographic data and case studies for each ad platform to see which are the best fit.

Also consider the strengths of each channel and what campaign goals they are best suited for. For example:

  • Search ads are great for reaching bottom-of-funnel prospects who are actively researching a product or solution
  • Social ads excel at targeting very specific audiences to build awareness and interest
  • Programmatic display allows you to reach people across the web as they consume content
  • Connected TV is ideal for delivering immersive video ad experiences

"We‘re seeing a lot of B2B brands having success with LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms for driving qualified leads," notes Matt Hertzes, Senior Account Strategist at Red Branch Media. "Meanwhile, many DTC ecommerce brands are doubling down on Instagram Stories and Reels to create thumb-stopping product ads."

Think holistically about how different ad types and platforms can work together in an integrated campaign. Use attribution reporting to understand how each channel contributes to conversions.

  1. Set a Realistic Budget Tied to ROI

Ad budgets will vary widely depending on a variety of factors like business size, industry, customer acquisition costs, and campaign objectives. A good starting point is to aim for an ad budget that is 5-15% of your total revenue, then adjust up or down based on performance.

It‘s crucial to tie ad spend directly to return on investment (ROI) – not just vanity metrics like impressions and clicks. Work backwards from your revenue goals and customer lifetime value to set a profitable cost per acquisition (CPA) target.

Also, factor in additional costs beyond the media spend itself, such as:

  • Creative and production expenses
  • Agency/freelancer fees
  • Ad tech and data tools
  • Landing page development

"One trap I see marketers fall into is only measuring surface-level metrics and ignoring the true ROI of their ad campaigns," warns Shannon Palmer, Director of Demand Generation at RollWorks. "You need to look at revenue, new customers, return on ad spend (ROAS), as well as qualitative measures like brand lift."

Use an ads dashboard tool that can track full-funnel performance and show you how your ads impact business outcomes. Don‘t be afraid to pause or kill underperforming ads/campaigns, and reallocate budget to higher-ROI opportunities.

  1. Craft Thumb-Stopping Creative and Copy

You can target the right audience on the right platform, but it‘s your actual ad creative that will make or break campaign success. The average person is exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day, so your ads need to work extra hard to grab and hold attention.

"The biggest challenge today is getting your ads to stand out in a sea of content," David Milton, Creative Director at Applied Media explains. "You literally have about 2 seconds to hook someone scrolling through a feed before they move on. Your visuals and message need to instantly draw them in."

Some best practices for high-impact ad creative in 2024:

  • Prioritize video and motion wherever possible, as movement naturally attracts the eye
  • Make the first 2-3 seconds as enticing as possible with an intriguing hook
  • Incorporate UGC-style content for greater authenticity and relatability
  • Use contrasting colors, whitespace, and compelling visuals that pop
  • Keep text to a minimum (ideally less than 20% of the image) and make it readable
  • Highlight your unique value props and differentiate from competitors
  • Include a clear, specific call-to-action that creates urgency
  • Localize creative and consider accessibility (e.g. captions)

On the copywriting front, rather than just listing product features, focus on the end benefits and transformation for the customer. Use "you" and "your" language to speak directly to their needs and challenges. Ensure your copywriting aligns with your brand voice and personality.

Don‘t underestimate the massive impact that strong copywriting and design can have on your ad conversions, clicking throughs, and ROI. It‘s well worth investing in professional creative talent or services.

  1. Test, Learn and Optimize Relentlessly

Finally, no ad is perfect right out the gate. High-performing ads are the result of continuous testing, learning, and optimizing based on data. Even small tweaks to elements like headlines, images, or CTAs can lead to dramatic conversion lifts.

"We‘re big believers in always having multiple ad variations running to see what works best," shares Cynthia Ruff, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at ACME Financial. "Sometimes it‘s the ad you least expect that ends up being the winner."

Build a culture of experimentation on your marketing team. Rather than just guessing, come up with data-informed hypotheses for what could improve performance, then run A/B or multivariate tests to get a definitive answer.

Use ads reporting to identify both winning elements to double down on as well as low performers to pause or eliminate. Look for statistically significant results before making decisions. Over time, you‘ll develop a playbook of ad best practices that are unique to your brand and audience.

Also, keep a pulse on industry benchmarks and competitor ads for inspiration and opportunities to test new approaches. Advertising is always evolving, so never stop experimenting and pushing your ads to work harder.

Advertising Mastery Is Within Reach

Armed with these principles and expert insights, you‘re well on your way to creating ads that cut through the clutter and drive meaningful business results. Remember, an amazing ad is rarely the result of one moment of inspiration. It takes dedicated research, strategic media planning, compelling creative, and ongoing optimization.

But when you put in that work, the payoff can be tremendous – lower acquisition costs, greater brand equity, accelerated growth, and a healthier bottom line.

So go forth and create some truly epic, bar-raising ads! Approach each campaign as an opportunity to hone your skills and emerge an even savvier advertising pro. The future is yours for the taking.