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Advertising Templates

The 6 major advertising templates

This takes reference to a study which was carried out in the following manner:

  • All award winning and finalist ads for The One Show and USADREVIEW were put together over a five year period (90-95).
  • 500 ads were randomly selected and shown to a trio of experts in the advertising field who put together what they collectively decided to be high quality – in private and then on further discussions – zeroing on the top 200.
  • They were further able to explain the creative templates for most of these ads – in fact explaining 89% of the top chosen ads.

We would like to draw a caveat from our side before we proceed further:

  • Creative fields will continue to defeat such purposes of trying to ‘box them in’. Even these templates could at best explain 89% of the top ads – there is still room for fresh executions.
  • These templates, from our view, may have relied more on ‘award winning’ executions – while sometimes a simple, direct communication can work.

And, Back to the six templates shown below. Do note that as shown in the examples, one type can touch upon another template within the list.

  • Pictorial Analogy
  • Extreme situation
  • Consequences
  • Competition
  • Interactive experiment
  • Dimensional Alteration.


Here the ad would typically display the product with an unexpected twist to the way it is portrayed. There are two major methods here:

  • Replacement: The product replaces (or is replaced) a well known, everyday objects to give it a semantic twist. See how the Colosseum is twisted as a stack of Heineken bottles or Lego pieces being a part of the big bang.
  • Extreme analogy: The picture represents an extremity about the product. Look at the example of the Nike Air Cushion seen from the point of view of someone jumping from atop a building – “Something soft between you and the pavement” actually brings forward the product attribute in an interesting way.

Advertising templates - Pictorial analogy - Heineken colosseum Advertising templates - Pictorial analogy - heineken-jammin-concert Advertising templates - Pictorial Analogy - Nike Advertising templates - Pictorial analogy - Replacement - Lego Big bang



An unrealistic – at times absurd – depiction of the product but which in turn highlights the key attribute of the product.

  • Absurd Alternative – Depicts an alternative to the product to substitute the attribute being highlighted. If you are advertising for natural protection against bugs – what would the alternative be?
  • Extreme attribute – This exaggerates the product attribute by creating an unrealistic situation. Bose ‘noise reduction’ earphones would cancel a jet behind you or Cemex ‘fast drying’ concrete would enable you to make the fastest built bridge.
  • Extreme worth – Here you would take one attribute (say, the width of a scooter) and exaggerate the need of its worth.

Advertising templates - absurd alternative - shieldtox_naturgard_chameleon Advertising templates - absurd alternative


Advertising templates - extreme attribute - bose

Advertising templates - extreme attribute - cemex Advertising templates - extreme attribute - wmf knives


Advertising templates - Extreme worth - vespa-cops

Advertising templates - extreme worth - Erdal shoe polish

Advertising templates - extreme worth - Post It



This takes to an extreme, the positives (of using) or the negatives (of not using) the product. These illustrations could thus, either be positive (as in the case of wonderbra) or negative (WWF).

The negative consequences are used often in a lot of hygiene related products – like the ‘No one follows bad breath’ listerine – titanic example.

Advertising templates - Extreme consequences -wonderbra


Advertising templates - Inverted Consequences - WWF Circle of Life




Under this templates, you choose an attribute and make it compete against anything which best depicts the product attribute. Do note – the template doesn’t imply that you compare it against competition.

  • Attribute in competition – Here you make the product compete against an object which is known for the same attribute. So, to depict speed of an Audi, you would show it moving faster than its own light ! Show the speed of a phone in comparison to a fast snake.
  • Worth in competition – You would show the product being worth more than (say family) to a user.
  • Uncommon Use – You would typically show the product being put to uncommon use – while exemplifying the attribute you want to focus on. A ‘tough’ volkswagon Polo acts as a shield for cops or a Rowenta vacuum cleaner catches ducks or you would open cans with Nivea nail polish for ‘extra strong’.

Comforta Baby 18082011 Advertising templates - Competition attribute - Audi - faster than light

Advertising templates - uncommon use - Nivea Beaute Fingernail Advertising templates - Uncommon use - Rowenta Advertising templates - uncommon use - vw - polo -cops



These ads engage the viewer through clever manipulation of the medium itself. A torn page in between two connected pages promises a ‘break free’ TV experience. Or a semi-transparent page shows DHL completing a quick delivery in record time.

Advertising templates - Interactive experiment - Fox movies - break free TV

Advertising templates - Interactive experiment - DHL


This is typically achieved by capturing the product differently in relation to its environment. The difference would center around the attribute being advertised.

  • Parameter – Accentuate the attribute in relation to the environment. If you have a large cup of coffee.. Show it !
  • Multiplication / Division – Show the product in comparison to X times another product or object. I am sure you would understand the chinese ad below !
  • Time leap – Distorting the element of time to showcase the impact the product has. A Rubiks cube has taken away 25 years of a person. Or Cigarettes have taken away years in terms of premature aging.


Advertising templates - Multiplication -  qingkuAdvertising templates - Mutliplication - Burger King

Advertising templates - Dimensional Alteration - Time rubiks_cube_anniversary_2


Suggested Further Reading:

About Face, The secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising. Dan Hill.



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