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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: PPC Ads Deconstructed

Whether it’s bad ads, good ads, sad ads, glad ads, real or fake ads – we at AdHawk are always here to talk about ads. More specifically, things that make a good digital ad.

Today, we’re going to put our Co-Founders Dan Pratt and Todd Saunders to the test in a new episode of Hawk Talks. Watch and find out if Dan can distinguish a real ad from a fake one (and try and decide for yourself before you hear the answer!):

Now let’s break down those ads one by one and see how what they did well and, more importantly, how they could be improved.

Ad #1: The Latest on Dental Implants


What this ad does well:

We found this Yahoo ad on the text-heavy platform, Reddit. That only means one thing: a high-resolution, colorful, and eye-catching ads like this one will steal the show.

On top of that, Yahoo does a good job with a clear “visit site” call-to-action at the bottom, encouraging the Reddit audience to take further action beyond the ad. However, there’s a ton of room for improvement.

What this ad could have done better:

What the heck does this have to do with dental implants? As much as I love the epic beard and trendy hairstyle on the guy, this stock image isn’t relevant one bit, which ultimately weakens the call-to-action.

I also have to point out that this is an ad that asks you to go to a different website just to make a search, which is overall a very confusing and poor conversion metric. The copy does not indicate why a search on Yahoo would be better than Bing’s competitors.

Unless this is a brand awareness campaign to tell some old folks to make Yahoo their primary search engine, this ad isn’t compelling enough to warrant a search.

Tips and Takeaways:

  • Use high-quality, unique, and relevant imagery
  • Create a single, clear, and direct Call-to-Action
  • Understand the context of the platform
  • Present a compelling offer that provides enough value to drive a conversion

Ad #2: Largest Wolf Pack of Gamers


Although this is one way to grab your attention, this ad is unfortunately fake. Were you fooled?

What this ad does well:

I’m sure you’ve seen ads just as bad, if not worse as this one. This banner ad took some photoshopping, but possesses visuals that are sure to capture the attention of anyone who sees it. I mean, a rabid dog is kinda hard to miss, so I give myself a pat on the back for this one. The bright green “Join” CTA button is clear and concise, standing out against the dark background color. Also, the ad copy is pretty solid, because it speaks directly to the viewer. And unlike the Yahoo ad, the image of the wolf is related to the copy that goes along with it.

What this ad could have done better:

The design choices that were made to create this ad were… not great. Contrasting colors are necessary to make the ad copy clear, but there should always be a holistic theme that ties the design together. Between the blue text, green CTA button, and red “X” in the top right, the ad looks more like one that would give your computer a virus rather than presenting a trustworthy community of like-minded gamers.

The company logo in the upper left-hand corner stands out, and not in a good way. Whenever you’re branding an ad, be sure to use a .png file with a transparent background, which will help you avoid the headache of dealing with a white box around the image. A valiant effort, but we wouldn’t click on this ad.

Tips and Takeaways:

  • Make sure users can trace your ad back to your brand by making either your logo or brand name apparent.
  • Utilize copy that attracts attention and is also relevant to any visuals you use in your ad.
  • Think about the colors you’re using and make sure they complement one another without being overwhelming.

Ad #3: Lazy Man’s Guide to Targeting


What this ad does well:

I have to give it up to these guys, this is one fantastic ad. The first thing that stands out is their use of emojis, which serve as a universal language that allows you to connect with an audience in a way anyone can understand. They also have a simple, yet clear CTA with the “sign up” button on the bottom right, and no one can deny that a man eating spaghetti with any utensils while laying on his back is going to get you to pause and see what the context is.

Finally, they know where to place their ads. Since they’re in the business of Facebook advertising, and they’re trying to market their “Lazy Man’s Guide to Facebook Advertising” it makes sense that they themselves create a paid, targeted Facebook Ad so they can showcase what they’re claiming to be experts on. Well done.

What this ad could have done better:

My one complaint is that if I took away all the text, the image doesn’t have anything to do with the product being advertised. Facebook recommends tying your words to the visuals, writing “Your copy and image should individually tell your story, but also complement each other.”

Honestly, there’s not much else to criticize here. Maybe they can check out our 6 Design Principles of Effective Facebook Ads to get some inspiration for their next Facebook Ad campaign to make it even better.

Tips and Takeaways:

  • As Facebook continues to favor organic content in user’s newsfeeds, making sure your paid ad stands out is critical to your company’s digital advertising success.
  • Use an image that provides shock value or pique a user’s curiosity.
  • Fully utilize the targeting features that Facebook offers.

Ad #4: OptiAnswers


Unlike the Lazy Man’s Guide, this Facebook ad is fake. (But it looks pretty real, doesn’t it?)

What this ad does well:

To reemphasize, it’s important that your ad copy and images are in sync with one another so that your message is clear and concise. Right off the bat, I get the sense that the woman in the ad is on the phone and frustrated by the look on her face. Her eyes are looking upwards, which causes my eyes to do the same and read the copy that I might have otherwise scrolled right past. After reading, I can imagine she’s on the phone with her mother, who doesn’t appear to be saying anything super helpful.

The people who you serve your ad must see the value in what you’re offering right away. We’ve achieved that in the description, pointing out that their website is not only quick, but free and easy too.

What this ad could have done better:

It’s important to remember that Facebook’s entire newsfeed is filled with blue and white, so it’s best to throw in bold, contrasting in your ads to stand out. While it’s attempting to be funny, the claim will undoubtedly be met with skepticism, because who can honestly give you better advice than your mother?

Side note: We’re not too sure if comparing an online question-and-answer website to a mother’s loving and learned experiences is the best message to associate their brand. It’s a bold tactic that we say needs some testing.

Tips and Takeaways:

  • Understand the color scheme of the platform your ad will show on and design accordingly.
  • Be tasteful with your ad copy. When in doubt, test.

Ad #5: Sleeping Infant to Mighty Giant


What this ad does well:

This real banner ad uses powerful buzzwords like transform, mighty, and giant. An effective banner ad always aims to create buzz as it can push the viewer to take action, and this is a solid attempt at that. The “Mighty Giant” featured above does a nice job of staring into our soul capturing our attention, meeting our gaze and then pushing us to read the copy above his eye level.

What this ad could have done better:

Whether or not the ad copy was purposely funny, they fail to build trust between the brand and the viewer. It claims it can “transform your search marketing” but doesn’t offer any proof, besides two low-resolution images of two gorillas.

According to our friends at Hubspot, 54% of users don’t click on banner ads because they don’t trust them. A good place to start building trust is to include your brand’s name or website somewhere on the ad, so users who are interested can do their research before taking any next steps. Also, there’s no prominent CTA to persuade the user to click on the ad or take any next steps. If you’re not encouraging your audience to take any action, then you’re wasting precious dollars and it’s a lose-lose situation.

Tips and Takeaways:

  • Use bold, buzzwords in your banner ads.
  • Communicate a level of trust in your ad.
  • Always always always have some type of CTA that contributes to the goal of the ad. (Clicks, lead generations, sign-ups, etc)

What do you think?

Were you able to tell if these ads were real or fake? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us anytime @AdHawk – we reply to every tweet! Thanks for reading and stick around for more digital advertising tips, techniques, and videos!

What to read next: 6 Design Principles of Effective Facebook Ads

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About the Author

Journeyman of the wild wild west of Digital Advertising. Also doubling as an unofficial Taco Bell ambassador. Tweet at me @JonJmPark