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Keys to creating a successful advertisement

Following some key steps when creating an advertisement will help get your message out to your target audience.
Following some key steps when creating an advertisement will help get your message out to your target audience.

So, you’ve got a special event happening at your church, but maybe you’re not sure how to get the word out. While word of mouth can be a great help among the congregation, you still need to reach out to the local community.


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An advertisement in your local newspaper or on a community website can be a great way to boost awareness of programs and events at your church. If you have a more limited marketing budget, you could create a flier or poster to post on community bulletin boards.

To be most effective, there are some key things to remember as you design your advertisement and decide where to place it.

Speak to your target audience

Draw in viewers by speaking their language — visually and verbally — and place your advertising where your target audience will most likely see it.

If you’re interested in growing a congregation among people who speak a different language or have a different heritage than most others in your church, collaborate with someone from that community. Create an advertising plan that speaks to that culture as you invite them to worship.

Identify your goals and who you’ll need to contact to reach them. For example: If you’re trying to grow your youth ministry, connect with youth, parents, educators, coaches and other influencers. Build awareness of your senior fellowship meal by contacting retirement communities and senior centers.

Use a style that will connect with your targeted age range. Place your advertisement where your target audience gathers in person or online. Remember, social media exposure can help you reach people of all ages/demographics.

Ads are a great tool to showcase programs that may address the needs of your audience. But what are those needs, exactly? A MissionInsite report, surveys and other tools can help you familiarize yourself with demographics in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of your community.

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Create a compelling layout

When designing an ad layout, there are specific design practices and elements to use. If a layout is balanced, consistent and has a good flow, it will connect with those who see it and pique their interest, leading to greater advertising success.

Generally, you will want a large visual element (with a caption if necessary), a large headline that tells what the ad is about, some brief supportive copy (text to describe what you’re advertising), a call to action, a logo and contact information. The logo and contact information do not need to be prominent. In fact, you can include them at the bottom of the layout, preferably toward the center or in the right-hand corner. Try to lay out your design in the same way that someone might read a paragraph, from left to right and top to bottom.

Your first impulse might be to fill your ad with as much information as possible. When spending money and time on advertising, you definitely want to get the most “bang for your buck.” Remember that it’s OK to have white space (or space without text). Too many visuals or too much copy can be overwhelming. You want a good balance between pertinent information and white space. This helps the viewer process and absorb the message.

You also should think about legibility. Select easy to read fonts to set your design up for success. Avoid using more than three fonts. If you’re going to have a great deal of copy in a small type size, use a font that has serifs (serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, are easier to read at smaller sizes). 

If your advertising is primarily intended for the senior or visually impaired community, use a larger type or consider other options. Braille can be used on posters, and alt text is helpful on web ads or posted images.

Too many colors can distract from your primary message, so limit yourself to a basic palette. Research the psychology of colors to find out what colors typically evoke the feelings you’re trying to convey in your ad. Utilize artwork that does the same.

Be sure to use an enticing headline and great imagery to invite people to learn more about your church or event. Don’t forget to emphasize who you are and how you’d like people to respond. The ad might be beautifully designed with great typography choices and still be ineffective or hard to understand. The various ways to learn more about your church or how to take part in events must be clear.

Keeping things simple and uncluttered is your best bet for grabbing attention. Before you finalize your ad, consider printing out a test copy. Place it on a distant wall to see what sticks out most, or show it to your team and ask for feedback.

Include a call to action

A call to action, or CTA, is a direct motivation stated in the ad that asks the viewer to take action, participate and learn more about a product or event. We see CTAs all of the time in advertising yet might not even realize it!

For example:

  • Visit [website/social media] now to learn more!
  • Begin your path to [desired result] today.
  • Join us on Sunday for [special event or worship]!

Your ad should promote a valuable experience that the viewer won’t want to miss. Then, it should present an invitation to act. The goal is to help the viewer realize that they want what you’re offering and they will benefit if they respond.

Use verbs in your copy. Consider words such as: enroll, buy, get, submit, register, email, arrive, etc.

To be effective in your ad layout, make the CTA stand out. You can do this with a good font size, contrast, color or other design elements. Make sure that the CTA is visually balanced with the other parts of your ad while also being clear and concise.

Be consistent with branding

When people see your ad, it should cause them to remember other marketing materials they have seen from your church. This could be things such as the look of your website, posts on social media, informational brochures or ads in local publications. You should not only incorporate the same main logo and related ministry logos but also the same colors and fonts used in your logo. You might even want to establish a branding system with a style guide or manual, depending on what your church deems necessary.

Anything you use to promote your church and its ministries should have the same look and feel so that people associate all of your publications and materials with your church. Creating brand recognition through consistent use of your brand elements impacts advertisement effectiveness.

Get help when you need it

Embrace the benefits of being a nonprofit entity. Ask about possible discounted media opportunities. 

For example, office supply stores can often help with poster advertising and production, and your status as a tax-exempt nonprofit may help you keep costs down. Some publications offer nonprofits the opportunity to get donated or highly discounted advertising services.

Many churches benefit by creating a team of individuals within the church who tackle technology, media, design and/or marketing ministry efforts. Ask people in your congregation to help organize and create advertising materials. Enlist the help of college students who are studying in these areas. Consider establishing official volunteer positions and/or internships to assist ongoing efforts.

The Local Church Services team at United Methodist Communications can also help with marketing needs. To browse the services they offer, visit

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