How to Beat the Fear of Creating an Ad That Stinks


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There you are, sitting down to draft your quarter page ad for the next run in the local paper, and you hit that proverbial wall that repels creative ideas like Rain-X on a windshield.

small__8269217082The clock is ticking, and for some reason, you just can’t come up with anything that sounds, looks or even smells like an ad a reader would even look twice at. You’re almost ready to throw in the towel and submit last month’s ad, that has already proven to be as effective as water on a grease fire, but then you remember reading this blog post! All of the sudden, and like someone turned the faucet on, ideas start rushing into your head!

You sit back down behind you blank page of yellowed legal paper, and put together an ad that would leave the cast of Mad Men standing in ovation.

OK! Maybe that’s a little over-the-top, but the reality is, we all get stuck coming up with something new to tell the public. Sometimes we feel that we’ve used our best stuff, and there’s nothing amazing left that you can use to lure them in.

I know, because I’ve been there!

Yes. I’ve been subject to many an influx of head poundings on both desks and with fists. I understand the frustration you have. And if you’ve never attempted the task of designing your own ad, then you are seriously missing out!

Advertising is probably one of the coolest things in the world! In all actuality, it ought to be illegal. But the act of doing commerce is what makes the world turn on its axis, so for that reason, the law turns a blind eye to our persuasive copy. The fact that you can string a few words together, slap in an image to two and people absorbed by your store like moths to a flame, well…that’s just insanely cool!

But if it was only that simple.

My life would be less enjoyable if everyone out there shared my same skill-set. I’d be weeded out in a day’s time, and my family would probably starve. I guess I could get another job, but nothing would be as rewarding as watching the glimmer in my client’s eye when they start to notice the spike in their monthly profits. That spike is what fuels my addiction to increasing my advertising knowledge. If you’ve never been in my office, I urge you to stop by and check out my library. I’d love to say that I’ve read every book from cover to cover, but that would be a lie. With such an overwhelming amount of untapped know-how that rests between the creased bindings, I feel that my brain would explode if I tried to consume it all!

However, I recently did skim through a book that imprinted on my cerebral cortex a simple trick to advertising success. It wasn’t anything revolutionary, but simply put the complex task of ad design on a more manageable level.  

The rest of the book was pretty lackluster, but this one thing stood out. The author’s instructions read something like this; when you sit down to create your ad, imagine that you are constructing the layout of a display window along New York’s Time Square. You are about to expose your message to one of the most overcrowded street blocks on the planet! There will be hundreds if not thousands of passersby. Anyone of them could be your next big customer or client. None of them have ever heard or have seen your stuff. They are considered to be blank slates. No form of past impressions, or exposed advertising prior to this exact moment. This is your time to capture their attention!

And you only have 15 minutes to do it!

Now before you get busy allowing your brain to race in a million directions, I want you to go set an egg timer for 15 minutes. As soon as you hit the start button, begin writing feverishly about everything that comes to your mind. How will you design your window display? Will there be moving parts? What colors will be used? Is there text? What benefits or features are being promoted?

Just keep going! Don’t stop writing until the sand has run out, time has stopped and you have nothing left in you.


After you’re done, stop and take a deep breath. Stand-up and leave the table for 30 minutes. Ensure its 30 minutes exactly by setting the timer. Once the buzzer sounds, return to your paper, and review what your brain just regurgitated. Start separating the good from the bad. After you are left with a satisfying list of great ideas, start plucking from those moments of genius, and begin constructing your ad.

And don’t hold back!

Normal is never noticed in an overcrowded market place. Weird is what works!

Andy Sokolovich

P.S. While the show Mad Men is super entertaining, don’t look to it as a learning tool for ad creation. Oh yea! And be sure to checkout our Facebook page. ~Andy “The Marketing Guy”

photo credit: Jeremy Brooks via photopin cc

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