Successful ads attract Attention, arouse Interest, stimulate Desire and present a compelling call for Action – in that order. If you want to create ads that get noticed, are appreciated and acted upon, A.I.D.A. is the tried-and-true formula.

An ad typically appears in paid media. That means it has to compete with other ads to get noticed by hyper-short attention spans. But A.I.D.A. applies to other communication contexts, too. Brochures, social media posts, postcards, even executive presentations all have to compete in one way or another to get noticed and succeed. For simplicity, I’ll use the word “ad” as a placeholder for all of these forms.


The first order of business – always. Sadly, the vast majority of ads don’t attract attention. Because of this, they fail. Why? Because they’re overstuffed with content, poorly designed, littered with clichés or irrelevant (or all of the above at once). Readers have a built-in radar and can instantly detect any of these sins. Consequently, those ads blend in and/or are ignored and never have a fighting chance to reach Step 2.


Elaborate on or “pay off” whatever approach you used to attract the reader’s attention in Step 1 while saying something beneficial or “sticky.” Their state of mind is simple: “What’s in it for me?” If you don’t quickly answer that question, there won’t be a fair trade – their precious time for your ad – and you’ll lose them. Quickly convert the reader’s interest to desire in Step 3.


The reader should now see something in your ad that might fulfill a need or want, solve one of their problems or help them become more successful – something that appeals to their emotional or rational nature. That reader may then begin to “long” for what you have to offer. Once the ad has stimulated desire, give them an easy way to act on it in Step 4.


Tell them what you want them to do with precise words and/or images. Click?

Call? Buy? Learn? Share? Join? Refer? Your web address and phone number should always appear in Step 4 – especially if they serve as mechanisms to help the reader respond accordingly.


A.I.D.A. can be applied to virtually every form of communication – sermons, documentaries, editorials, sales presentations, even love songs. Speaking of love, if this formula reminds you of the steps in the biological mating process, you’re not alone. Consider the peacock.

How do you make sure your ad or message satisfies the formula? I’ll cover this in a follow-up post detailing the crucial difference between creativity and agency creativity.

In an integrated campaign, it’s possible to “assign” these steps to various media designed to work in tandem to orchestrate a behavior. For example, Step 1 might be achieved with an attention-grabbing web ad designed to “tease” a reader into clicking or calling. A website, sales rep or phone center would then fulfill Steps 2, 3 and 4. 

Photo Credit: Madison Berndt