How to Structure an Ad

Caleb Marsh
December 9, 2022
min read

How to Structure an Ad

Caleb Marsh
December 9, 2022
min read

Business owners and entrepreneurs, this article is for you. If the following sounds about right, do yourself a favor and read through to the end.

  • You don’t like wasting money.
  • You want to learn how to do basic marketing yourself.
  • Nobody gave you a formula for communicating with your audience.
  • You don’t feel like paying $5,000–$500,000 for high quality video production, but you want to get your business to that point.

Does that sound like you? Great. This article is a crash course in what I’ve learned about creating ads over a decade of working in the field. For what it’s worth, most of what I’ve learned is super simple. We need to lay a bit of groundwork with some marketing philosophy, but there’s an easy-to-follow formula for creating an ad at the end of this article if you stick with it.

Let’s jump in. 


As business owners, pretty much anything we put out can be categorized as an ad — a piece of communication designed to drive some sort of outcome for your business. Instagram posts, flyers, and TV ads are obvious examples of ads, but only scratch the surface. If your audience can see it, touch it, hear it, read it — it’s an ad for your business. So how do we create effective ads?

When we are advertising, our job is to influence audience behavior. In order to do that, we need to address all three aspects of human behavior: thinking, feeling, and acting. In general, demanding action without influencing feeling is ineffective and a waste of time, and influencing feeling without informing thinking is immoral and dehumanizing.

In applying this framework of thinking/feeling/acting to business, it can be helpful to frame it as overview, impact, offering.

One definition before explaining overview/impact/offering: I use the word “audience” a lot. I’m talking about our target audience — the people who have the problems that we solve and will genuinely benefit from working with us. If you are trying to sell to people who won’t benefit from working with you, that's terrible business practice and you need Jesus. 

That said, here’s the breakdown of what you need in your ad. 


The overview helps to educate our audience, so we can share common ground as we discover whether we solve a problem they have. They need to know pertinent information about the product/service we are advertising. This includes:

  • The product/service itself (what is it?)
  • The provider of the product/service (who will the customer be dealing with?)
  • The reason to purchase (what problem does it solve?)

Your goal with the overview is to answer any questions the audience may have about what you do. Here’s a rule of thumb: if the audience can’t sum up what you do in their own words, you probably need to be more clear in your overview. 


The impact is all about our audience’s emotions. Our goal when dealing with our audience’s emotions is to build trust. Trust drives sales. A few ways to influence emotions:

  1. Education. Appropriate emotions follow naturally from an informed intellect. 
  2. Artistry. The audience's emotions can be driven by the visual and auditory aspects of the ad — colors, images, music, lighting, etc.
  3. Story. If you can tell a good story about the impact you made on someone, your audience will often empathetically experience the same emotions as the person you impacted.
  4. Imagination. This is pretty much just story/empathy on steroids. Can you get your audience to acknowledge a problem they face, accept that you can help solve the problem, and imagine themselves working with you to solve that problem? Bingo, impact achieved.

HUGE CAVEAT: ethics is critical when dealing with impact. We should not treat our audience as mere emotional machines — that would be treating them as less than human. Humans are first and foremost thinking beings, and the ads we produce should reflect that. We should not try to merely manipulate our audience; rather we should give them a good reason to interact with us in a way that is mutually beneficial.

As business owners, one of the most accessible ways we can ethically influence the emotions of the audience is by diving into the problems we solve. Tell stories that educate your audience on what problems you solve. Be specific. What problem was faced before you came around? Who was facing that problem? How long did it take to solve? How did you solve it? Why do you as the business owner love solving that problem? 


By the time the audience gets to the end of your ad, they should understand what you do, know how they feel about you, and have a desire to work with you to solve their problem. At this point, the audience wants a very clear next step to take. The call to action gives them that.

In an ad, this can be as simple as a basic call to action. "To learn more, go to" or "Call today for a free estimate" can be highly effective if the audience has been properly informed and is in the right emotional state. If you are producing an ad yourself, a simple “Hey, if you want to talk about working together to solve this specific problem then schedule an appointment here” can suffice. 

Want to take your offering to the next level? Give some specific details of what your audience can get (which, in the industry, we conveniently call an “offering”). “Click here to schedule a free 30-minute strategy call” or “Call today to get $50 off a system inspection for the month of October” tell people exactly what they’re getting into and what value they will get out of working with you — and most importantly they clearly tell people what to do. 

Tying it all together

Congratulations, you made it through the philosophy. Before the formula I promised, there is one more piece you need: a hook. This is anything (literally anything) that effectively catches your audience’s attention and transitions them into the rest of your ad. You don’t want to catch attention for the sake of catching attention (e.g. gratuitous images of insufficiently-clothed people at the beginning of an ad for a business consultant), so just make sure you are catching your audience’s attention in a relevant and effective way.

Sample ad formula

This is one of many possible formulas for an ad that implements a hook, overview, impact, and offering. We’ve found that this particular formula tends to work best for blue-collar and trades-based companies, but it has also worked well for our clients in consulting, product sales, engineering, and more.

  1. Hook the audience by acknowledging their pain point (emergency, fear of emergency, need, etc.).
  2. Introduce your company and your mission/philosophy that addresses the pain point and offers a solution.
  3. Give social proof (a customer testimonial, stats about how many customers you have helped over how many years, how many five star reviews you have, etc.).
  4. Inform people of the specific product/service and reinforce confidence in your ability to address the pain point.
  5. Call your audience to action with an offer.

That’s it. Super simple. Use this structure for videos, flyers, commercials, speeches, networking meetings, etc. There is still a lot of work required to turn this formula into an ad, but it should provide a good structure to start.

Speaking of, are you interested in a no-strings-attached brainstorming session to talk about how you can specifically use this formula by yourself for free in your business?

Click here to schedule a free 30-minute strategy call.

Caleb Marsh
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