Creating A Great Advertisement For Your Art Business

Lautrec Poster

Developing a great ad is an art!

Each day we are bombarded with literally thousands of sounds and images in the form of advertisements trying to get us to notice a product or idea and then persuade us to take some form of action – like buying a product or supporting an idea or cause.  It takes a great ad to cut through the clutter and get noticed – something which is easier said than done!

In this article I take a look at some ideas on how to create a great advertisement for your art business.  A good place to start is to take a look at advertising (don’t forget other artists) and see what connects with you and what doesn’t.

Develop an “Eye” for advertising

All seeing eye

Develop an “eye” for advertising to see what works and what doesn’t

One of the first steps in creating your own great ad is to look at what others have done.  Take a look at the magazines, websites and other advertising that your prospects and customers are likely to be exposed to.  Start to develop an “eye” for the advertisements that you are exposed to – you should have plenty of opportunities! As you look at these ads be sure to take note of what catches your attention, what moves you and why. Also take notice of the ads you don’t like and figure out what turns you off. If an advertisement is effective for you it will likely be effective for your customers.

Try this experiment

Try to remember an advertisement you have seen in the last day or so. The ad could be on a billboard, television, magazine, newspaper, radio or on the internet. If you can’t remember one you are probably not alone. If you can remember an ad take a moment and think about why you remember it. Here are some reasons you may remember it:

  • It had a great design, message or graphics that caught your attention
  • You are interested in what the ad was saying to you
  • You connect with the product, idea or mood the ad creates
  • The ad touches an emotion, feeling or memory
  • It was so bad and annoying that you couldn’t help notice it and you probably won’t respond in a favorable manner to the advertisement

Connect with your customers with the right message

What connects with you should connect with your customers – after all isn’t that a big part of producing your art is all about? You advertising message may be your first “point of touch” with your prospects before they have a chance to take a look at your art either in person or online.  In other instances your advertising serves to maintain contact with your existing customers by helping them keep you in mind.  If you don’t connect with your customers or prospects they will surely be on to the next thing and your advertisement will have failed.

An advertising message can be relayed using elements like: headlines and advertising copy, graphics and images, sounds, and even smells and tastes.  A bit of testing is in order to find out the right combination of these elements that work best for you.  In any case your advertising message needs to come in loud and clear and grab your audience’s attention.

Elements of a great ad

Plutchik Emotion Wheel

Great ads always touch an emotion!  Which of these emotions can you use in your advertising?

Most great ads have all or some of the following elements in common:

  • The idea or concept behind the advertisement is clear and there is a sense of purpose of what the advertisement is designed to accomplish
  • They get to the core of the benefits of a product, service or idea
  • They fit into the culture of the intended audience
  • They have great design, production and execution
  • They get noticed with great images, catchy phrases and other elements
  • They connect with their audience and communicate to them
  • They make their audience feel something by touching their emotions
  • They may be entertaining but are always impactful
  • They make you want to find out more, pick up a phone or make a purchase or other call to action
  • They support your brand and your brand image
  • They accomplish their objectives in terms of responses, awareness, sales and profit

Putting your advertising message to work

One of the keys to effective marketing is to have advertising messages that are consistent across all of your advertising and marketing efforts.  If you come up with a great ad use it in as many places and ways that you can.  Here are some examples of places that your advertising message can work for you:

  • Advertisements in print, broadcast or other electronic mediums
  • Brochures, flyers and informational pieces
  • Websites and online galleries
  • Signage, banners, and billboards
  • Your public relations efforts
  • Your social media postings and profiles
  • Your “elevator speech” or what you tell others about you and your art
    And don’t forget your business cards are a great place to advertise!

The bottom line(s)…

Creating a great ad is not easy!   It takes knowing your customers and delivering to them a message about your art business.  Think outside the box, do something new that connects with your audience. To quote the legendary adman George Lois, ““I think advertising should be like poison gas. It should grip you by the throat, it should bowl you over, it should knock you on your ass.”  In many ways creating a good advertising is an art.

If you would like to learn more about preparing your own business and marketing plan, building your art business and selling more art I invite you to check out my book – The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox. Good Luck!


Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver where he teaches “Marketing the Arts”.

Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto

2 thoughts on “Creating A Great Advertisement For Your Art Business

  1. david kramer

    Excellent article, and an area that I’ve been involved in for many years! The advertising business has changed radically in the past decade with social media, and all things web pad & smart phone. Many artists need help with advertising, marketing and it’s the younger generation that knows it best! We work with many students from schools such as OTIS, Art Center, Brooks Institute, and they can teach us a few things!

  2. Bill+Swartwout

    Nicely put together set of advertising elements. I agree, and have always paid attention to ads that attract my attention – not so much for the product information but (as you said) what makes them memorable to me.

    I’ve always looked at that type of modelling – not copying – but using ideas in developing my own ads, creatives and sales narrative. Those big companies that can afford TV, glossy print and billboards have spent a ton of money with ad agencies and doing market research. Why not take advantage of their lead, eh?

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