CTA stands for “call to action,” and it is an integral part of any marketer’s toolkit.

Advertisements aren’t just check-ins between your brand and your audience. The point of any ad, whether seen or heard, is to encourage action on the part of the reader, viewer, or listener. A call to action is the language and presentation of the exact action the marketer wants the audience to take.

As the name implies, calls to action include verbs, or action words.

For example:

Shop our new assortment of products

Download your free guide

Learn more about the benefits of our system

Reserve a spot in our presentation

Experience our new spring styles

CTAs are used to drive interest and engagement for new products, to encourage website visitors to download lead magnets, to convert interest into purchases, and to close sales. In short, a call to action is the place at which a touchpoint between a brand and a potential customer shifts to the customer’s response.

The CTA is what makes the audience, rather than the brand, the active party.

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The main body of the ad is presented from the side of the brand. The call to action makes the audience the active party, rather than the brand, meaning that the CTA is the next step that must be taken to gain the benefits (the “after” state) presented in the ad body.

The body of the ad is presented from the side of the brand; why the audience should take the next step is presented in the call to action. This CTA represents the next step to taking advantage of the features and benefits that are presented in the ad, or the way to get to the “after” state. This makes the audience, rather than the brand, the active party.

Related: How do you calculate market share?

What Does a Call to Action Look Like?

The appearance of a CTA depends on the medium in which the ad is being presented and on the context of the offer. Despite the variety of ways they are used and the different actions they encourage an audience to take, they have several characteristics in common.

  • They are almost always at the end of a piece of content, at the end of an advertisement, or at the end of a segment.
  • They always include a direct command in the form of a verb.
  • Good CTAs produce an emotional response.
  • Good CTAs produce a sense of urgency.

Auditory

Auditory calls to action are used in podcasts, radio spots, webinars, and presentations. They use the same language as CTAs that appear in print, but cannot benefit from conversion-centered design elements or other images.

Visual

Visual calls to action can appear as copy, hyperlinked text, buttons on web pages, and images or graphics. They are used in mailers, print ads, billboards, digital content, banners, signs, and wraps. Visual calls to action are everywhere, and are only limited by a marketer’s imagination.

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An example of a CTA in the form of a button. The button format highlights the text that forms the call to action and makes the desired action stand out from the surrounding text.

A CTA in the form of a button. The button format makes the call stand out from the surrounding text and makes the desired action on the part of the audience very clear while communicating a benefit.

This call to action is simply a segment of copy that encourages shoppers to select the best value option—physical and digital copies—just before checking out.

An example of a CTA that encourages shoppers to select a higher-value format (physical and digital) when purchasing.

Visual and Auditory

Calls to action that use both audible cues and visual components are common in webinars, presentations, video advertisements, and TV ads. The clarity and directness of the intended action is amplified and reinforced by presentation through multiple media.

Read our handy guide to getting the most out of CTAs on your website or blog.

^ See how CTAs work?


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