Actionable tips, community conversations, and marketing inspiration.

How to Create Ads for Digital Campaigns

Wilson Lau

Sr. SEO Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

Retail and ecommerce have expanded dramatically in the past few years. 2020 and 2021 accounted for massive growth in the online shopping sector, accompanied by a substantial increase in marketing efforts. Advertisers expect to generate revenue from digital marketing activities to the tune of $116 billion in 2021 alone. That means that now more than ever, digital marketing professionals will be expected to create ads and campaigns that can capitalize on increasing consumer demand and pay dividends in the form of engagement, brand recognition, loyalty, and conversions. 

To accomplish that, marketers need a strong understanding of how to make ads, develop effective creative assets, build cohesive campaigns, and distribute ads so that they reach their intended audience. Here’s a rundown of the steps you should take to create great ads for your brand, wherever you decide to publish them.

How to Make Ads, Part 1: Strategy

Even if you’re an experienced marketer working with an established brand, it’s always best practice to consider how your ads will fit into your overall strategy before you design them. By investing time in research and strategy before you develop your campaigns, you’ll have a better idea of how to make an impact on your target audience.

Evaluate your audience

Before you can make an ad, you need to answer a few key questions about your customers.

Who is this product intended for?

Your product will have a significant influence over your marketing strategy. For example, a video game and a pair of hiking boots should be marketed to different audiences. Even if there is some overlap, the approach, messaging, and offers are likely to differ based on each audience’s values, motivations, and needs.

When creating a new ad, research the primary audience to determine several things: demographics (age, gender, marital status, income level) and psychographics (values, beliefs, interests). Creating marketing personas, or audience personas is the easiest way to break down your brand’s audience into smaller groups so you can develop personalized ad content that increases conversion rates.

Let’s create a basic persona for the hiking boots audience mentioned above. The primary audience for this product can be described as follows:

  • Age: 18-35

  • Men and women living in areas where outdoor activity is popular

  • Average household income of $100,000 per year or more

How does this audience like to browse and shop?

Next, you need to research how your target audience prefers to interact with brands, browse products, and make purchases. You’ll want to know which devices they prefer (mobile, tablet, desktop), which browsers they use (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.), and which marketing channels they frequent. With this information, you could further define the target audience for your hiking boots campaign as follows:

  • Primarily uses mobile devices to shop

  • Likes to use TikTok, Instagram, and occasionally Pinterest for lifestyle ideas, hiking tips, and product recommendations

  • Prefers Chrome

  • Engages most often with social media ads and email marketing

Now that you’ve narrowed down your audience to a group that you can target with personalized content, your team can develop the ads. The creative should speak directly to them and get as specific as possible to add value to their shopping experience.

How to Make Ads, Part 2: Creative

The creative is where strategy, brand, and messaging blend to attract new leads and engage with existing customers. At this stage, you’ll need to do two things:

  1. Determine your voice and messaging

  2. Develop visual creative (images, animated GIFs, video)

The format and structure for the above items will depend primarily on the marketing channel you plan to use. For example, a banner ad for the Google Display Network will require different formatting and strategy than a video for Facebook.

Develop your brand’s voice and message

Messaging and voice are similar but separate. Voice is how you say something; messaging is what you say. Your brand’s voice should reflect its values and mission. In the case of the hiking boot, a marketer might land on a voice that’s casual, informative, adventurous, and clear. This tone would help demonstrate authority in the brand’s niche and speak to customers in a familiar and approachable way appropriate for the target audience.

The tone you choose may depend on where you publish your ads and who they are intended to attract. For instance, a TikTok post should generally feel more casual and fun than an email that uses more polished language. You can leverage the two channels to target separate audiences and promote different product features or offers.

It’s smart to create a guide that describes your brand’s voice and tone, perhaps even in different situations and platforms. This guide will help ensure that they can do so regardless of who writes your content while staying on-brand. The details within the guide can include shifts in the tone based on context, audience, product type, or channel. This will help your team understand how to create ads that will accomplish their goals in each situation.

Once you’ve determined the right voice and tone, it’s time to come up with your message. Messaging depends on the product or service you’re advertising and should focus on the features that matter most to the target audience of each ad. Make your point as clearly and succinctly as possible and make sure that your CTA is visible and toward the top.

Designing creative for digital ads

Building creative can be one of the most challenging and resource-intensive parts of making ads and campaigns. For tiny ecommerce brands, it might be possible for one marketer to source pre-shot images and design simple graphics, but if you’re running consistent campaigns across channels, you will probably need a dedicated individual or team with the skills and capacity to complete these projects.

When hiring, you may choose to develop an in-house team of designers, photographers, and copywriters. Or, you could contract freelancers or a design agency. The right choice will depend on your company’s goals, priorities, workflow, capacity, and budget. Often, it can be more straightforward, quicker, and more cost-effective to work with freelancers or outside agencies rather than dealing with job posts, training, contracts, benefits packages, and more. Many companies enjoy the flexibility of hiring freelancers or agencies when they need them and scaling back when they don’t.

When designing visual assets, it’s important to consider the format and channel. Focus on creating visuals with a distinctive style and color palette that matches your branding.

Here are a few formatting guidelines for the most popular advertising channels:


  • Recommended image dimensions: 1200 x 628 (or 1080 x 1080)

  • Images should not be more than 20% text

  • Upload animated GIFs as video ads

  • Text: 125 characters

  • Headline: 25 characters

  • Link info: 30 characters


  • Minimum: 440 x 227

  • Maximum: 1024 x 512


  • “Leaderboard”: 728 x 90

  • “Large Rectangle”: 336 x 280

  • “Medium Rectangle”: 300 x 250

  • Mobile banner: 300 x 50

  • Sidebar banner: 160 x 600

Google also offers an array of other supported ad sizes that you can find in their support section.

How to Make Ads, Step 3: Tracking Success

After you publish your ads, it’s essential to create tracking parameters and reports to evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns. There are a number of tools out there that can help you complete this task. For example, AdRoll’s ecommerce marketing platform provides robust data tools that allow you to measure campaigns and critical metrics such as clickthrough rate, bounce rate, conversion rate, and more. With a strong tracking strategy in place, your brand will be equipped to learn from your marketing activities so you can refine campaigns and develop more targeted, personalized content for your leads and customers. 

Explore Next