Everyone wants to create an ad that sells. One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses making is overloading their ad with too much copy—words aren’t the only way to communicate a message. As a designer, I have a profound respect for visual communication. The power of a “No-Copy” Advertisement cannot be understated.
In this blog, I’ll share five tips to help you create a powerful ad without using any copy.
1. Understand Your Audience
There is not a product in the world that can be sold to everyone. Some people aren’t interested. Some people can’t afford it. Some people have something better. An ad that tries to talk to everyone really talks to no one.
When you’re creating a visual advertisement, it’s crucial to identify your niche. What single person needs your product more than anyone else in the world? What keeps them up at night? What do they want? What do they read? Where do they go shopping?
These are the questions you must ask to create a fully fleshed-out persona. Once you understand who you’re talking to, you can begin to create a powerful ad.
In the ad here, Toyota is targeting a specific type of person. The kind of person who looks at the image above and is exhilarated by the prospect of barreling up a steep mountain cliff and breaking through a barrier to speed onto a road.
The target is the type of person who values power in their vehicles. This advertisement is not going to work for my grandmother, who would have only clutched her heart in terror just from looking at this picture.
This ad works because it talks to a particular person about something only they enjoy and can relate to.
2. Understand Your Brand
In order to communicate to your audience, you need to have a deep understanding of the feelings, values and benefits your brand represents.
In the this ad, Lego has understood the emotions its products inspire. Feelings of wonder, creativity and imagination. Children and adults play with legos because they want to create something.
Lego understands what their brand provides to customers, and they have communicated that without saying a word.
3. Pick One Message
The power of visual advertisements comes from their unexpected simplicity. Trying to communicate multiple messages using images alone will muddle your message, making it indecipherable.
Although it’s tempting to tell your audience everything, stick to one key message.
In the is ad, World Wide Fund for Nature has one message: Elephants are suffering from drought. They’re not talking about zebras, and lions, and crocodiles. They’re not talking about deforestation, and flooding, and landfills. Just elephants and droughts. If the image included every animal on the planet that has suffered from changes in their environment, the image would be so crowded it would be impossible to make out the meaning.
Multiple messages demand multiple ads. Keep your ads simple by saying one thing at a time.
4. Use Context
No-copy ads can be found everywhere. Online, on bus benches, in magazines. The best ads use the context of their medium to their advantage.
Not only does this realistic billboard grab the attention just because it’s striking, it also uses the entire context of the billboard to communicate its message.
The message is clear: our vacuums are so powerful, they can suck this hot air balloon right out of the sky. This ad wouldn’t work in a magazine or online. It works because they understood the “rules” of billboards—and then broke them.
5. Know The Limitations
There is a time and a place for copy. No-copy ads are dramatic and powerful, but they often require a level of attention and interpretation that other mediums don’t. More complicated messages may be more suited for emails, videos and headlines.
Purely visual ads are best suited for overarching brand messages. Things that communicate what your brand is at its core. Its pillars of strength and values.
As in most cases with advertising, you can never be really sure whether or not something will work until you test it. Don’t be afraid to A/B test your ads—a version with copy and a version without.