How to Design Your Ad Page for a Good Layout

Advertisement hoardings at a London station c 1962.
SSPL / Getty Images

All the rules of good page layout apply to ads as well as to other types of documents. However, there are some generally accepted practices that apply quite specifically to good advertising design.

The goal of most advertising is to get people to take some type of action. How elements of an ad are placed on the page can help accomplish that goal. Try one or more of these layout ideas for a better ad.

Ogilvy Layout

Research indicates that readers typically look at Visual, Caption, Headline, Copy, and Signature (Advertisers name, contact information) in that order. Following this basic arrangement in an ad is called the Ogilvy after advertising expert David Ogilvy who used this layout formula for some of his most successful ads.

Z Layout

Mentally impose the letter Z or a backwards S on the page. Place important items or those you want the reader to see first along the top of the Z. The eye normally follows the path of the Z, so place your "call to action" at the end of the Z. This arrangement coincides nicely with the Ogilvy layout where the visual and/or headline occupy the top of the Z and the Signature with call to action are at the end of the Z.

Single Visual Layout

Although it is possible to use multiple illustrations in a single advertisement, one of the simplest and perhaps most powerful layouts use one strong visual combined with a strong (usually short) headline plus additional text.

Illustrated Layout

Use photos or other illustrations in an ad to:

  • show the product in use
  • show the results of using the product or service
  • illustrate complicated concepts or technical issues
  • grab attention through humor, size, dramatic content

Top Heavy Layout

Lead the reader's eye by placing the image in the upper half to two-thirds of the space or on the left side of the space, with a strong headline before or after the visual, and then the supporting text.

Upside Down Layout

If an ad is well-designed, it will look just as good upside down. So, turn it upside down, hold it out at arm's length, and see if the arrangement looks good.