How to create an ad that GRABS ATTENTION!

It doesn’t matter how well you train clients or how flash your facility is, if no-one knows about you, you won’t be successful, says Justin Tamsett.

On average you, and therefore also your customers, will see or hear over 5,000 marketing and advertising messages per day. This makes it incredibly hard to grab people’s attention, hold it long enough for them to read your message and then complete the action you want them to do.

Regardless of the size of your fitness business, be it sole trader or multi-club operation, you can benefit from learning how to write a powerful, effective advertising piece that will pique the interest of your target market.

Most fitness businesses fail to market

When you fail to market your business, you will fail. It doesn’t matter how well you train clients or how flash your facility is, if no-one knows about you, or it, then you won’t be successful.

Advertising is a component of any marketing campaign. The copy you use in your advertising piece will be critical to the success of the campaign, so take the time to create the right tone and message to appeal to the market that you want to do business with.

Of course, you may not get it 100% spot-on first time, but that’s no reason to panic – even imperfect copy is better than no copy as long as you’re getting your key message out there. If you wait for perfect copy, you’ll never start advertising, so put your message out, test the response, and refine it for later iterations if need be. Running ads with completely different focuses may help to determine what works; if a piece featuring testimonials from happy 12-week challenge clients generates significantly more calls and emails than an ad highlighting the plethora of equipment in your facility, then you’ll know where to direct your creativity for future campaigns.

Once you decide on the medium, which may range from Facebook advertising to local newspaper ads and letterbox flyers, you’ll know how much space you have for copy. It’s then time to write the content, which should follow the AIDA model of marketing, namely Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

AIDA has been around since the beginning of the 20th Century and can provide a useful roadmap to follow when writing the text. Essentially, it directs you to get the prospects’ attention, gain their interest, build their desire for your product or service and then get them to take action by buying what you’re selling.

Let’s start with the layout

Research using heat sensors to monitor eye movements when looking at printed advertising material indicates that the eye will generally move in one of two directions:

1. Z direction – start in the top left hand corner, scan across the headline, skim through the body in a forward slash (/) direction to the bottom left hand corner, then read across the bottom, finishing in the bottom right hand corner.

2. Back slash (\) direction – start in the top left hand corner and scan or skim through to the bottom right hand corner.

Regardless of the format you choose, therefore, both the headline (which we’ll look at in a moment) and the final line are really important. The bottom right hand corner must include:

1. Your offer 


2. Your call to action.
This is where the eye stops. It is the last thing your prospect will see, so it’s critical that the action you want them to take leaps out from the page. If you want them to call you, tell them to in the bottom right hand corner!

Now your headline

Your headline will be the thing that attracts the attention of your prospects. What makes you decide which articles to read in the weekend papers? What made you decide to read this article? The headline!

It could take several attempts to craft a powerful headline. Unfortunately, too often, marketers simply tack on the headline as an after-thought once they have written their body copy.

Spend more time on your headline than anything else related to your advertising piece to ensure you are appealing directly to your ideal customer. It’s the gateway that will either get people to come in and read your offer or turn them away.

What about the images?

Pictures really can tell a thousand words and will tell the prospect so much about you, your service or your facility. Here are some pointers:

  • Use your own images if possible. Many gyms, studios and trainers buy and use the same images, which can make them look generic and indistinguishable from each other. Ideally, have a photographer, or at least a camera-savvy acquaintance with a good camera and lens rather than just a phone, take shots of you or your facility that you can use in all marketing and advertising material. Ensure that any internal facility images have people in them – nothing is less inviting than an empty gym or studio!
  • Use hi-resolution images. If budget and logistics prevent you from using your own images then you can use stock images. Searching for ‘images’ in Google and downloading one is not the answer though (quite aside from possibly infringing copyright). Pay a few dollars to buy the usage rights to a high quality image from one of the many stock image sites, such as Adobe Stock, StockPhoto Secrets or the more budget-friendly Storyblocks (taking care not to buy images that you’ve seen used by other fitness facilities).
  • Smiling faces. Images with people smiling will have a greater impact on your prospect than a bland, unemotional facial expression.
  • Images that match your ideal customer. When your prospect looks at the image on your advertising piece, you want them to see themselves.

Your call to action

Many advertising pieces have multiple calls to action, which can send a prospect into a tailspin of confusion and lead to inaction.

The key filter to any advertising is ‘Don’t make me think.’ If the prospect has to read and think, you’ll lose them. This means your core call to action must be kept as simple as possible and be a single option: ‘Call me on 9484 5501.’

The AIDA principals of an advertising piece are relevant for any form of internal or external advertising, whether you are designing posters, writing emails or putting together a Facebook ad.

Click HERE to download your FREE copy of the How To Write A Winning Advertising Piece ebook.


Justin Tamsett, BEd is an internationally recognised thought leader who challenges the status quo of the fitness industry. He is the director of fitness consulting and marketing company, Active Management. activemgmt.com.au