10 Common Advertising Mistakes to Avoid

As a small business owner, making the decision to begin an advertising campaign can often be overwhelming. This is especially true when you’ve never advertised before. You’ll likely have a million questions racing through your head, from what font to use to what publication to publish your ad in. In all that chaos, it’s easy to make mistakes. Luckily, we’re here to stop you from making these 10 common advertising mistakes and help you make the most of your advertisements.

1. Thinking advertising isn’t necessary

Believe it or not, you can make a big mistake before you even start advertising. That mistake is thinking advertisements aren’t necessary. If you have that thought even once, stop yourself and ask: how are shoppers going to find out about your business? If shoppers can’t find your business, and you’re not making any effort to get the word out, you’re not going to sell very much. Advertising is necessary; there’s no question about that.

2. Advertising without researching 

Advertising research

Research your target audience before planning or placing any ads.

Do you know who your target audience is? If you answered ‘no’ to that question, stop your advertising campaign and start researching right now. We’re not kidding. Advertising is great, but it’s not going to do you any good if you’re targeting the wrong audience. In that case, it’s really just a waste of time and money.

Before you even think about placing a single ad, make sure you know who you want to sell to. Is your product for women ages 40-60? Or maybe your target audience in men 18-34? You need to have the answer to this question before advertising. It’s going to determine what your ad looks like, as well as where you place it.

3. Using only one medium 

The best way to reach a wide range of potential shoppers is to use a variety of mediums. Print is great. Digital is awesome. Outdoor offers something larger than life. But if you’re only using one medium, you’re not reaching as many eyes as you could be. Make sure your campaign includes a variety of mediums; don’t get stuck in just one.

4. Using low-resolution images

Now that you’ve done your research and decided on a couple of different mediums, it’s time to talk images.

The number one mistake businesses make when designing an ad is using low-resolution photos. You know, those photos that are grainy, blurry and painful to look at. We know you’ve seen advertisements like this before. Instead of making shoppers want to click and find out more, low-res images make shoppers run in the opposite direction.

If a business can’t even take a clear, quality picture, how can it possibly create a great product? Don’t give your potential customers the chance to ask that question. Even if it means shelling out a little extra cash, it’s worth it in the long run to have a set of great product photos.

5. No copy

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to skip the copy.

A great picture will initially attract shoppers, but your copy is what’s going to seal the deal. When writing copy, remember to keep it short, clear and to the point. Think of your copy as a preview. Explain what your product is and why it’s great. You don’t need paragraphs of information. If shoppers are interested, they can visit your website for more.

Additionally, don’t forget to include a call to action in your copy.

6. Inappropriate color scheme  

Believe it or not, color has the ability to greatly influence shoppers’ attitudes and emotional responses. Before selecting a color scheme for your advertisements, do a little research and find out what different colors can do.


When designing creative for an advertisement, choose your colors wisely.

7. Focusing on your business

This might seem counterintuitive, but hear us out.

Advertisements are meant to attract customers to your product or brand; they are not meant to be an “all about me” page for your business. Shoppers don’t want to read all about you. They’re not interested. That might sound harsh, but it’s true. Shoppers make purchases because they need something. They have a problem, and your product can be the solution.

Don’t sell your business. Instead, focus on selling how your product can solve shoppers’ problems.

8. Selecting the wrong publication

Have you ever flipped through the pages of Cosmopolitan and seen an advertisement for something like men’s hair loss cream? No, probably not. That’s because running an ad like that in a publication like Cosmo would be a complete and total waste of time and money on the part of the advertiser.

Your product is most likely geared toward a specific, target audience. Magazines, websites and television stations are also geared toward specific, target audiences. This means that you can’t just pick any random publication to run your ads in and hope it works. You need to find a publication with an audience that matches that of your product. If you own a women’s fashion boutique, you’re going to want to place ads in magazines like Life & Style Weekly, Elle, Vogue or InStyle, not Men’s Fitness and Fine Cooking. Looking at different media kits is a great way to help you choose a publication that matches your product.

9. Running only one advertisement

This is one of the most common advertising mistakes. Business owners think they’ll place one advertisement and BOOM! sales will go through the roof. We wish that’s the way it worked, but unfortunately, the key to advertising is frequency. One advertisement just isn’t going to change very much.

The key is three. Once a shopper is exposed to your product at least three times, they are then likely to become interested and consider making a purchase. Now that doesn’t mean you should stop advertising after you’ve placed three ads. Advertising is always necessary to keep your brand top-of-mind, build brand loyalty and keep customers coming back for more. Take Coca Cola, for example. It’s one of the largest, most well-known companies on the planet, yet Coca Cola continues to run advertisements regularly. Take a page out of Coca Cola’s book and don’t stop after one ad.

10. Outdated website

At first, your website might not seem directly related to your advertising, but trust us, it is.

When you design an ad, you’ll likely include a link to your website. You want shoppers to be able to easily make a purchase after seeing your product, right? However, if a shopper goes to your website after seeing your ad and is greeted with an outdated, hard-to-navigate mess of text, images and products, you’re going to have a hard time completing that sale. It doesn’t matter if you have the most beautiful advertisements in the world. If a shopper gets to your website and can’t figure out how to make a purchase, has to wait an extended period of time for pages to load, or just doesn’t like the way your website looks, that’s it. It’s over.

Research has shown that 93 percent of consumers consider visual appearance of a website to be the key deciding factor in whether or not they make a purchase; 42 percent of users base their overall opinion of a site on its design alone; and 52 percent of shoppers abandon sites and do not return because the dislike the overall aesthetics. Before spending time and money designing and placing advertisements, make sure your website is ready to handle extra traffic.

Now that you know the most common advertising mistakes, go and do the exact opposite and create some great ads.