Creating an effective online ad

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Your online ad will perform better with high-quality creative, your target audience in your sights, testing your content, and by tracking your results

Online ad for your band

In my last post, “Should you advertise online?,” I explored the topic of advertising for musicians, breaking down several types of advertising, when to best use ads in your promotion cycle, and things you can do to optimize your online advertising efforts.

In this post, I discuss how to actually dive into the nitty gritty of setting up that first ad to promote your band, your music, or your tour.

As mentioned in the last post, advertising can be an effective way to spread awareness for a brand or product and/or to cause an action or conversion (i.e. selling albums and tickets, increasing subscribers to a premium fan club, etc.). To create effecive ads and an effective campaign, it is important to define your goals for your ad: are you trying to build your name or make a CD sale?

Once you’ve determined the purpose of your ad, the best budget, the target audience, and key performance indicators (KPIs – e.g. email list growth, ticket sales), you now need to actually put your online ad together and set it up. The following will help you to navigate this set-up process to ensure the money you spend is worthwhile.

Elements needed for your ad

While there are several different types of ads, most include four common elements.

1. Creative. If scrolling down your Facebook news feed is any indication (and it is), high quality images and videos are both compelling and engaging. Well-crafted creative, be it an eye catching photo or an emotionally charged video, is often the centerpiece of an effective advertisement. It provides the foot in the door for people to consider what your ad has to say.

You have to be careful here though, as poor creative can have the opposite effect. If your graphic looks bad or the video is of low quality, it may not just be ignored, but it may actually have a negative impact on you and your brand. Producing quality creative is key to effective advertising.

2. Copy. The key to effective ad copy is to keep it short and focused. You need to ask yourself one very important question: What are you trying to say with your ad?

Are you trying to associate your sound with bigger artists within your genre? Are you using the add to let people know you are performing in their area and that tickets are on sale? Is your new album is out and you want people who have visited your website to know about it?

Whatever the message is, you need it to get across to your audience in the most direct way possible. Try to keep your copy to a few sentences at most; rework the copy and remove the bloat until it is tight and direct.

3. Call to action. You’ve sucked people in with the creative, got your message across with the copy, now it’s time to close. Your ad must have one (and only one!) strong call to action. The key here is using a verb: “Buy tickets now!” “Pre-order our new album.” “Subscribe today.”

4. Destination link. The key to conversion is making it as easy as possible for people to do what you want them to do (there’s a reason Amazon offers a one-click purchase option). If someone has gotten to a point where they are ready to click through your ad, they should land on the page where they can buy your product, sign up, watch the video, etc. Don’t force people to jump through hoops after clicking through your ad as each additional step will cause you to lose people.

Target your audience

No matter how eye-catching your ad may be, your conversion rates are likely to be slim if you don’t set effective targeting. The following are a few different ways you can target fans.

1. Keywords. Keyword targeting gives you the opportunity to find others online who are talking about, searching, or have expressed interest in topics – either broad, or very specific to your niche. Broad keywords, such as ‘music’, may be inexpensive, but may not be targeted enough to actually connect with your target audience. On the other hand, the more specific your keywords are, such as ‘frat rap’ or ‘glam rock’, the more expensive they become, but again, the more likely they will be to connect with your audience.

2. Location. Particularly important when you are trying to connect with fans for live events, targeting via location will ensure that only fans who have the capacity to take action (i.e. attend your event) receive your ad. In other words, by using location-based targeting (also called geo-location targeting), you don’t waste money on targeting fans in Chicago for a show in Los Angeles.

3. Demographics. This is where your understanding of your existing fan base will come into play. Take a look at your Facebook Insights or any other form of analytics you use to gauge the effectiveness of your social media efforts, and determine what gender your fans are, how old they are, etc.

With this data, you can use demographic targeting to ensure your ad is served to those who match the sweet spot of your fan base. In other words, don’t waste your money serving ads to 45-year-old men when your target audience is 22-year-old women.

Testing for effectiveness

Once you have established your target, you should now optimize your ad for effectiveness through testing.

1. A/B testing. This method can be used to test several aspects of your advertisement, though be cautious to only test one element at a time. From testing different images, to messaging to the call to action, A/B testing allows you to take a small percentage (10-20%) of your total list, and send one version of your ad to half the test group and the other ad to the second half. Once you can determine which ad version garnered the stronger results, you can then send the remaining 80-90% of your winning ad. This requires you to segment your list and track your results accordingly.

2. Using test budgets. Let’s make something clear; advertising is a numbers game. No matter how effective your ad, only a certain percentage will be likely to open the message, or click through, or take some sort of action. These percentages differ among the different ad types, so it’s important for you to do some research and understand what sort of results you are likely to expect. And even then, you’re always best off when you can compare your ads to your previous efforts to the same group. Once you establish a history of numbers and responses can you really gauge your own effectiverness.

Once you understand what sort of percentage you can expect to convert from your ad, you can set some test budgets to help you to determine if your creative and/ or targeting is effective. Far too often, I’ve seen musicians attempting to use $20 budgets to see how effective their display ad would be to driving traffic back to their website. Given the small percentage of direct clicks resulting from display ads, a $20 test budget isn’t going to be enough to produce numbers you can use to truly test the effectiveness of your ad.

Tracking ROI

The only way to know how effective your ad truly is is to track the return on investment (ROI). There are several ways to do this:

1. Metrics via advertising platform. Most ad platforms will deliver results once the ad has been served and the budget has been depleted. Depending on the form of advertisement, you may receive a total number of:

  • impressions
  • clicks
  • sign ups
  • open rate
  • click thru rate
  • reach

Referring back to my previous post, you should have established which KPIs (key performance indicators) will best serve you to understand how effective (or ineffective) your advertisement was towards helping you to accomplish your goals.

2. Metrics via destination. Not all people will click directly through your ad. In fact, quite often you may find that your ad serves to increase traffic or conversions over a long term, and not all traffic will come directly from your ad. It’s a good idea to track the results from your campaign directly at the destination, looking at results that are both directly driven from your ad as well as overall results compared to the days preceeding your advertisement. If you notice a big spike in traffic, that’s a pretty good indicator that your ad was effective. If you notice sales or sign ups stay steadily above average in the days and weeks following your ad campaign, even if not directly attributable to your ad, it’s a good indication that your advertisement was effective.

How did your first advertisement work out?
Over these last two articles, you should have enough understanding to get yourself set up with your first online advertisement. We’d love to hear from you – tell us about your experiences, successes, and failures. Share your insights in the form of a comment below!

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Jon Ostrow is a digital PR specialist and regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog. Follow him on Twitter @jon_ostrow.

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