Good vs. Bad Ad Design

We recently put this handy little visual guide together for Santa Cruz Waves and their magazine clients. We’re hoping it help educate local business owners on what makes an effective ad.


Well-designed, focused ad

  • 0.5 – 1 inch “Safe Zone” around edges for copy.
  • Clear headline / call to action, focusing on a single service or benefit.
  • Clean, well-composed photo or image, supporting the tagline / headline / call to action, unifying the ad. Try and keep it to one or two images.
  • Effective contact info.

    Cluttered, unfocused ad

    • Copy is too close to edges, causing unease and tension.
    • No clear one call to action. The more copy you have, the less people will read your ad. Also, note that the copy seems to float around the page, with no real alignment.
    • Too many images, making the piece too complicated and confusing.
    • Too much contact info, becomes overwhelming.

    This was primarily created with print ads in mind, but many of these pointers can be used across many mediums!

    The Only Three Types of Content

    There are only three types of content.

    content sketch

    Sometimes I feel like I am forcing an idea to be something it isn’t, and I get this feeling like my audience really wants to see something from every angle. When I do this I loose sight of the fact that sometimes a very simple idea (like a cute nomBat) is enough to make great content.

    Simple – Content that can be easily shared. This content shouldn’t take any thought on the part of your audience, and should be immediately like/share/retweetable.

    Thoughtful – Content that you thought about, and that your audience can take a moment to appreciate.

    Complex – Content that is well thought out. This type of content also requires the largest investment on the part of your audience.

    Depending on your market, and the audience you are building, you will likely have a mixture of these three types of content. Just remember, your audience has a particular attitude, don’t make them work for something that they don’t want!

    Santa Cruz Waves Magazine: Volume 1.2


    Issue 2 is out now, and we’re so proud! If you can find one in the wild, pick it up, cuz they go fast!

    Spam and Spintax – FAIL

    All Blogs have to deal with some level of spam, whether it is the occasional comment that is well “written” and makes it through your spam filter, or thousands of potential comments if you are running with auto approve comments and no filters.

    I received this comment today and had to smile because this spammer failed so completely at getting their own spam software to work properly.

    spam spintax comment

    A spam blog comment that failed to spin before it submitted.

    What the heck is that gibberish?

    One of the tools that SEO spammers used to use (somewhat effectively) is comment spinning software. The basic format of of the script tells the software to create a unique comment with randomly selected words. As the software reads that script or “SpinTax” it will randomly pick one of the words of phrases within each set of {} brackets.

    What is funny about this comment is that their software completely failed at its job and sent me the entire script, leaving their comment looking even spammier than usual. So kudos to this spammer, thanks for making it easy to hit the “Comment is Spam” button.