Make Sure Your Ad Passes the 2-Second Test

By Rebecca Geier | Co-Founder and Brand Strategist

The shift in marketing dollars to online advertising has changed advertising, but there is still a place for traditional print advertising. But it has to pass the 2-second test - the time a user will give to your ad before scrolling past it. 

Here are a few tips to make your ad dollars count, and increase your chance readers will click on your ad. 

 make sure ad passes test


1. Stick to a key call-to-action

g systems ad

Before designing your ad, make sure you create a goal for your ad and select a call-to-action where the ad will lead users.  G System wanted users to promote their latest white paper on managing obsolescence so they created this LinkedIn ad.

  • Direct message tells users to download the white paper today.
  • We visually communicate this message through the image depicting an obsolete control system. 


2. Select a catchy headline


Ad research, and common sense, tells us that headlines - in ads, articles, billboards, you name it - are what our eyes go to first. People spend about 2 seconds to decide if they'll read more or move on, and that decision is almost solely based on their interest from reading the headline

  • You only have 2 seconds - so keep headlines very short and interesting
  • There is no silver bullet to the perfect headline. It can be creative. Straightforward. A play on words. One word. A spec. The key is to know your readership in the magazine where your ad will be placed, know the specific key and 2nd tier messaging of the ad, and then tailor the headline to best engage that readership to communicate that message.


3. Stick to clean, consistent branding

IC2 Display Ad 2

I often find myself looking at ads and trying to figure out who the actual company is who is spending this money trying to get my attention. If I have to look more than 1-2 seconds to find the advertising company, the money is totally wasted.

  • As shown below, cleanly and clearly present the company logo, easy to find and read contact information, and ensure the ad is consistent with other company offline and online marketing.
  • Make sure to have a relevant, targeted call-to-action with the company URL or customized landing page to direct readers to take the next step.


4. Stay on-message, prioritize with cues

Vertech ICS Cyber Security Guide CTA-2

The total word count in this ad, from headline to call-to-action (CTA), is 18 words. Total.

  • Readers can learn every important message with 30 words total – headline and sub-heads, and treated copy in bullets.
  • This copy is prioritized for readers through font treatment - bold, blue, all caps - to bring emphasis to words.


5. Creatively communicate 2nd tier messages

IEEE Dataport Half Page Ad

One of the biggest mistakes in advertising is trying to communicate too much. For every word or message you ad, you dilute the other words or messages that much more. Prioritze your messages – know what the most important message is and lead with that visually and in copy. Then, identify your 2nd tier messages and find creative ways to communicate those.

  • In this ad, one 2nd tier message are the icons that are used to visually show the benefits of purchasing a subscription.
  • Another 2nd tier message is the promo code to use DataPort for free

Learn more about generating technical leads by downloading our free ebook, B2B Lead Generation

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Rebecca Geier

Co-Founder and Brand Strategist

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