At M Communications - we recommend avoiding the following:
Size Matters. It really does. It never fails to amaze me that some people take a business card-sized ad and attempt to tell their whole life story on in minuscule writing. Come on people, as far as I am concerned, business card means business card. One other thing, if your marketing professional is not doing the research before recommending you buy the Wall Street Journal spread, you need to ask the "why's" behind it before agreeing to the purchase. Keep in mind who your audience is before advertising in a publication and ensure you have a tracking method, special offer, and/or discounted service. You will most likely be able to track results that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside because you know your ad is working ... or not!
Paint by numbers - Oh NO. Please do not attempt to scare off your potential clients by designing your own ad. We all have our strengths and weaknesses ... please do not fool yourself into thinking you are a graphic designer. It will reflect poorly on your whole company. I have seen the whole glaring mess including bad fonts, bad colors, wrong fonts, day-glow pink (they still make that???). Hire a professional!
Tacky graphics! Please don't go with cheap, cheesy or tacky. Hire a graphic designer with class. Unless you're selling gumball machines to five-year-olds, please avoid bright colors, in-your-face star bursts, and ugly fonts.
The LOUD and obnoxious pitch!! Gosh is this a "Sham-whammy" advertisement on the Shopping Channel? If not, tone down the pitch (copy). A loud, infomercial ad appeals to a small segment of your audience and will turnoff others. Now if this is YOUR segment, go ahead and create one of those "only-scene-on TV" advertisements. If not, please go with the nice, descriptive and information-based copy.