The Six (And Only Six) Reasons To Run An Ad

… or any marketing campaign

I want advertisers to stop wasting their money creating weak, ineffective ads. To do that, I’m going to share a secret: there are only six reasons to ever run an ad. Period. If you learn them, you will produce more effective ads. You will ensure that you’re putting the right message in front of the right people. You will be able to select better placement vehicles for your ads. And you can dramatically improve tracking of your ad’s performance.


For nearly 13 years now I’ve been professionally invested in good advertising. For the last two, working in publishing. For more than a decade prior to that, as a writer for ad agencies or individual clients. In all that time, I have only ever found six reasons to run an ad:

1. To increase interest
2. To gather a following
3. To get leads
4. To sell product
5. To capture rabid loyalty
6. To promote referrals


Why These Six?

I used to refer to #1 as “increase awareness,” but awareness is a weak target. It’s easy to accomplish but doesn’t really build momentum or energy toward your business goals. Increasing interest is a much more worthy goal.

But in order to be effective as a marketing tool, any and every ad you create must be to further one (and only one) of these 6 objectives. Because these are, in fact, directly related to the 6 stages of your customer’s evolution. This is your sales funnel. Your ads should be working to positively impact one of these six elements. (Free tip: so should your press releases. And your social media efforts. And your community outreach. And your CEO’s message to shareholders. Everything you do should be with one of these 6 goals in mind).

But when you pick one to focus on, your purpose is clear, therefore your message will be clear. The target audience will be clear, making it easier to decide where to run your ad. What you expect of that audience is clear, so tracking the performance of your ad will be easier and more accurate.

Anything else, and you’re just spinning your wheels.

Before You Begin Concepting Your Ad

Before you sit down to start hashing out words or colors or layout on your ad, begin by answering these five questions, and your ad will be clearer, stronger and more effective.
Which of the six is most critical right now?

What do we want the target to do?

What’s in it for them?

How can we convince them?

How can we make the next step as easy as possible?

And as an added bonus: the last three give you everything you need to create your ad. In fact, if you were just to write out the answers to those three questions as a paragraph and run it as a plain text ⅛ page ad, you’d likely get better response than a full-color ½ page ad that shows your product and lists all the shiny bells and whistles (not that I’m recommending that as a strategy).

When planning any ad or campaign, Decide on the purpose of your efforts first, and let that guide your process to a more coherent, more effective ad.

Danny Thompson is Associate Publisher and Business Marketing Specialist for H&F Media Group’s “Outdoor Lifestyle” family of magazines, Specifically, Gone Outdoors, distributed nationally and Alabama Active, the company’s first regionally targeted publication. If your market includes fit, active, affluent people– either nationwide or locally in and around Alabama– who like to travel, call Danny now. (205) 733-1343