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Why Ads are Hard to Make

And What You Can Do About It
Brett Friedman

Making a good ad is hard. You need to produce an image/word combo that takes an uninterested, possibly anti-ad media consumer from unaware of your company to grabbing their wallet for payment in minutes, if not seconds. Not to mention, you have a budget, a timeline, and a goal often set by a board, investors, or teammates with unrelentingly high expectations.

We asked twenty advertisers where they struggled in their ad creation processes and highlighted ten of their responses to get closer to the core of this problem.


Chane Steiner, CEO, Crediful

"In my opinion the hardest part is getting the copy just right. You need it to grab the attention of the reader, to make them identify with what it describes, and motivate them to click through to the site."

Sean Nguyen, Director, Internet Advisor

"The number one challenge to making an ad: Besides the production challenges that come with making your own ad, probably the most difficult thing to do is to come across as authentic. Until you make a few ads, you have no idea how things such as lighting, camera angle, zoom, etc. affect the impression people get after watching your ad. My advice is to try and keep things simple in the beginning to avoid coming off as cheesy or insincere. Then, as you get better at making ads, you can adopt some more advanced filmmaking techniques and create ads without sacrificing the authenticity you need to connect with your audience and inspire action."

Julie Bonner, Marketing Director, FreeFall Aerospace

"I find that the hardest thing when creating an ad is developing concise messaging that is intriguing enough for your audience to act on."

Zach Boyette, Founder, Galactic Fed

"The biggest challenge about making ads is combining the best practices for creating ads, with something that is truly unique. Especially on social channels like Facebook and Instagram, the BEST performing ads out there are funny, clever, and genuinely interesting with a specific point of view and clear concept. But all of the blogs and how-to articles about creating ads just focus on using the right colors, text, or imagery. You’re competing with thousands of other ads that the user will see in a single day, so you need to do more than choose the right font to be memorable."

Morgan Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer, LetMeBank

"I find the biggest challenge isn’t anything technical, it’s getting that spark of an idea that can become a great campaign."

Krista Ek, Paid Social Media Specialist, Stryde

"I think my biggest challenge when building an ad is how much information to provide in the ad itself. I don't want to overwhelm the viewer with too much information that they don't need or care about at that moment, but I don't want to miss an opportunity to answer a question or solve a problem that they might have.

It's tricky to find the balance between keeping the ad simple and digestible, while also providing value to the viewer.

You can't put everything in the ad creative because then it's often unpleasant to look at or hard to understand, but you can't always put everything in the ad copy because a lot of people don't really read it (and they especially won't read it if the creative doesn't peak their interest)."

Jessica Rose, CEO, Copper H2O

"For us, the hardest part about creating ads is knowing what will resonate with our audience. This requires making decisions about what will motivate consumers and what will help differentiate our offering from others.

Quincy Smith, Founder, ESL Authority

"Making it look good - I can usually get the title and copy to body to read well with help from my team (or by looking at competitors) but the design aspect is really hard for us.  We don’t have a designer on staff and for platforms like Facebook that require something super visual it’s hard to justify the time to make it look professional OR determine when it’s worth paying our designer.  Even copying other ads only gets you so far as it needs to be on brand and related to YOUR message."

Authenticity, novelty, design, copy, information density... there are dozens of components that make up a good ad and all of them cause problems for advertisers. Some teams have great designers but struggle with copy, others have award-winning copywriters, but struggle with design. Different companies have trouble with idiosyncratic parts of the ad building process. One thing is clear: the core challenge of making a good ad is the ability to effectively use diverse skills for a single goal. With so many parts of the ad system, there are just as many points to get wrong.

Matthew Rogers, Editor & Researcher at Mango Matter, says it well

"There are so many variables that make or break an ad... It's not just the copywriting that attracts attention, visuals matter, as does the formatting, as well as the strategy.

Fortunately, there's a solution applicable to any team: testing. Matthew continues,

" I think the hardest part is getting over the initial hurdle of spending the money required to get first-hand data. Without testing, any advertising and marketing recommendation is theory. Therefore, a healthy budget is required to collect data for further analysis in order to produce a winning ad for a particular audience."

Jessica adds,

"While this process is informed by existing knowledge and research about our audience, sometimes it needs to go through various data-informed iterations before we get it right. It can be time consuming, but if done diligently it can be worth it."

Tisha Shelley, Director of Paid Traffic at Conklin Media reiterates,

"I find holding your nerve when it comes to copy combined with testing multiple variations over and over and relying on that data to help you improve your success rate is the only way to see consistent results."

If you can afford the emotional buffer to invest money into testing until you get results, you can build a stronger framework for consistently good ads. If you're great at design, test copy. If you're great at copy, test design. Rather than wasting time making decisions on how an ad is best composed, run small tests to find out for sure what works and what doesn't. Then scale what works.

As an added bonus, creative data you collect from testing informs your next tests, compounding your successes and de-risking you from your failures. Plus it makes you better at your current weaknesses, and gives you an advantage over a substantial portion of your competition who continue to struggle with marketing (since most companies have not discovered creative data yet).

If that all sounds interesting to you, download our guide for an easy to implement, in-depth walk-through of multivariate testing. To automate the whole process, sign up for Marpipe's beta!

For all twenty full responses, hit Sources!

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"Each type of ad has its own set of challenges. Facebook ads and Google search ads both post two very different situations. For Google search ads, the biggest challenge I would say is finding the right wording that makes sense and will make your ad stand out from the other competitor's ads. You may be spending money and have an ad that gets a minimal amount of clicks due to the competition. As for Facebook, I would say the biggest challenge when creating an ad would be finding on that is going to make people want to act on it. You have to be compelling, emotional and informative very quickly or else they will continue scrolling." - Zach Passarella, Marketing Director, Supplement Manufacturing Partners Inc.

"In my experience the hardest aspect is understanding the customer psychology and where they are in the buying process. Not only do you need to get inside the thought process of a potential buyer, you also need to make sure all steps of the funnel support that thought pattern. Creating ads to users who are much higher in the buying funnel is a lot different than those further down the funnel." -Joshua Eberly, COO, Conklin Media

"I feel the biggest challenge in creating ads is effective targeting. We rely on the data that Facebook or Google collects from users but there are complications. For example, as a marketing agency owner, sometimes I need to do research within my client's industries. Let's say I'm searching and browsing for cat toys. Facebook/Google likely now assumes I'm a cat owner (which I'm not!)." - Andrea Moxham, Founder, Horseshoe Co

“My biggest challenge when creating an ad is choosing the right ad copy. I want to appeal to customers, get my message across, but not have it sound like a sales pitch,” for lack of better terms. Analytics from past ads helps me make an informed decision, but it still feels like a guessing game.” - Darryl Smith, Founding Partner, Florida Car Accident Lawyers

"I co-founded our residential real estate investment company. My role is marketing to prospective home sellers. I chose to keep this process in-house so we could become experts over time, and benefit from that experience. The biggest challenge I face is simply finding the right message that resonates with our target audience, as we're in a niche market. So we try to make our ads more towards adding value and information versus direct selling." - Brandon Dale, Marketing, House Buyers Atlanta

“My biggest challenge when building an ad is finding the right people to target. Gaining qualified leads is a specialization that takes years to master, and targeting the right people for your ad is one of the most important aspects of marketing. We use Google Analytics to help us get our ads to the right people, but you can’t help but feel there is always room for improvement in your targeting strategy.” - Michael Nemeroff, Founder, Rush Order Tees

"The biggest challenge with building an ad is understanding that for it to be successful it needs to start with the brand's identity. Most business owners want it done fast and cheap while expecting leads to come knocking on their doors.

Navy Seal's have a saying that goes, 'slow is smooth, smooth is fast'. If you don't understand it at first glance, it means if you slow down and do something thoughtfully it's going to save you a ton of time in rework you'll be doing if you were to rush through it the first time. Advertising is no different.

Ads must be built on the foundation of a company's brand identity. This isn't your logo, it's the drive and the purpose for your business existing. If your business isn't just about making money then you don't have a compelling reason for people to buy from you.

Next, you must have unique operational processes that set you apart from the competition and solve your client's pain they suffer from not having your product or service.

Finally, you need to consider the audiences that are most likely to buy from you. Once you have defined your audiences you need to find places to advertise that are most likely to be displayed to that audience. For example, if you are selling video games that skew 13-18 then you might want to look into advertising on Tik Tok. If you're selling to 35 to 50-year-old moms, Facebook and Instagram might be better channels for you.

Once you have these pieces in place, you are no longer shooting in the dark for convincing copy instead you have a foundation for a specific message
that overcomes a prospect's pain while discussing why you over any of your competitors. Writing good copy becomes much easier and ads begin to convert much better." - Adam Carbonneau, Managing Director, Take the Stairs

"We have used a number of ads and campaigns in the past with our e-commerce platforms and indeed one of the most difficult part of the add is indeed the keywords. We feel that an ad may cost the business significantly if the keywords the ad targets are incorrect. The keywords can change from time to time depending on the product you go ahead and target." - Rizwan Girach, Founder, Chessgammon

"In my opinion the hardest part is getting the copy just right. You need it to grab the attention of the reader, to make them identify with what it describes, and motivate them to click through to the site. The other way of doing it is just bombarding test groups with ads until you get something worth funding, but that is a very poor strategy by comparison." - Chane Steiner, CEO, Crediful

"The biggest challenge when building an ad is choosing the right audience for your ad. You can have the best ad in the world, but if you show it to someone who does not need or want your product or service, they will shrug it off and not care. You need to carefully pick and target your ad's audience before showing them the ad, and this can be difficult to narrow down and nail correctly." - Stacy Caprio, Founder, Accelerated Growth Marketing

"I find that the hardest thing when creating an ad is developing concise messaging that is intriguing enough for your audience to act on. With a background in graphic design and business, the visual side of creating an ad comes very easy. Finessing the message seems to be the harder part in my opinion." - Julie Bonner, Marketing Director, Free Fall Aerospace

"The biggest challenge about making ads is combining the best practices for creating ads, with something that is truly unique. Especially on social channels like Facebook and Instagram, the BEST performing ads out there are funny, clever, and genuinely interesting with a specific point of view and clear concept. But all of the blogs and how-to articles about creating ads just focus on using the right colors, text, or imagery. You’re competing with thousands of other ads that the user will see in a single day, so you need to do more than choose the right font to be memorable." - Zach Boyette, Co-Founder, Galactic Fed

"Finding the sweet spot of communicating value, writing for conversions and finding that personal connection with clients is the biggest challenge to building ads. Brand reputation is often forfeited for instant results which makes long term growth slow! I find holding your nerve when it comes to copy combined with testing multiple variations over and over and relying on that data to help you improve your success rate is the only way to see consistent results." - Tisha Shelley, Director of Paid Traffic, Conklin Media

"I find the biggest challenge isn’t anything technical, it’s getting that spark of an idea that can become a great campaign. Writing the sales copy, designing graphics, that’s all easy. It’s the idea that grabs your target market, that’s the hard bit." - Morgan Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer, Let Me Bank

"I think my biggest challenge when building an ad is how much information to provide in the ad itself. I don't want to overwhelm the viewer with too much information that they don't need or care about at that moment, but I don't want to miss an opportunity to answer a question or solve a problem that they might have.

It's tricky to find the balance between keeping the ad simple and digestible, while also providing value to the viewer.

You can't put everything in the ad creative because then it's often unpleasant to look at or hard to understand, but you can't always put everything in the ad copy because a lot of people don't really read it (and they especially won't read it if the creative doesn't peak their interest).

We usually have to give a little bit of information in the creative, like adding text overlay that says Free Shipping or 20% Off or highlights the main benefit of the product, and then let the copy do the rest of the explaining. Or if the product is very new and needs a lot of explanation for people to understand how it works or why it's necessary, then a demonstration video is usually a good way to go, but that can also get tricky with deciding what information to include in the video and how long to make it.

You have to provide just the right amount of information in an ad for your audience or else you can overwhelm them, lose their interest, or even confuse them." - Krista Ek, Paid Social, Stryde

"We are a 100% female run e-commerce company in the health and wellness space. For us, the hardest part about creating ads is knowing what will resonate with our audience. This requires making decisions about what will motivate consumers and what will help differentiate our offering from others. While this process is informed by existing knowledge and research about our audience, sometimes it needs to go through various data-informed iterations before we get it right. It can be time consuming, but if done diligently it can be worth it." - Jessica Rose, CEO, Copper H2O

"2 challenges comes to mind:

(1) Making it look good - I can usually get the title and copy to body to read well with help from my team (or by looking at competitors) but the design aspect is really hard for us.  We don’t have a designer on staff and for platforms like Facebook that require something super visual it’s hard to justify the time to make it look professional OR determine when it’s worth paying our designer.  Even copying other ads only gets you so far as it needs to be on brand and related to YOUR message.

(2) Determining when to hire a pro or outsource - semi related to your question but something we’ve been considering lately.  When is the right time to bring in a professional?  I firmly believe I need to learn how to do it first (at least enough to be dangerous) but when is it worth paying a pro to turn out quicker and better looking results?  Right now our ads aren’t profitable so we’d start with a loss but would a pro be able to help us recoup that faster?" - Quincy Smith, Founder, ESL Authority

"There are so many variables that make or break an ad.

Each advertising platform has its own nuances. For example, interruption ad platforms on most social media channels are very different to intent-based
advertising platforms such as Google Ads. It's not just the copywriting that attracts attention, visuals matter, as does the formatting, as well as the strategy. I think the hardest part is getting over the initial hurdle of spending the money required to get first-hand data. Without testing, any advertising and marketing recommendation is theory. Therefore, a healthy budget is required to collect data for further analysis in order to produce a winning ad for a particular audience.

Getting marketing collateral is difficult and often costly.

Video tends to work best for interruption-based ads. But video production is resource intensive and getting management buy-in for something that may flop is challenging in the best of times.

Explaining to decision makers that an ad is just one single touchpoint among many.

According to a 2019 Google study an online consumer requires 20 to 500 touchpoints before making a purchasing decision. A single ad will rarely convert by itself. The most effective ads I have run have been integrated with an extensive sales funnel that covers the entire marketing mix." - Matthew Rogers, Senior Editor, Mango Matter Media

"Besides the production challenges that come with making your own ad, probably the most difficult thing to do is to come across as authentic. Until you make a few ads, you have no idea how things such as lighting, camera angle, zoom, etc. affect the impression people get after watching your ad. My advice is to try and keep things simple in the beginning to avoid coming off as cheesy or insincere. Then, as you get better at making ads, you can adopt some more advanced filmmaking techniques and create ads without sacrificing the authenticity you need to connect with your audience and inspire action." - Sean Nguyen, Director, Internet Advisor

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