Is Your Advertisement Any Good?

Ed Burghard


Evaluating Your Print Advertisement

Getting a positive return-on-investment from your print advertising campaign is always a challenge.  But, too often when a positive ROI is not achieved the tendency is to wrongly blame the journal rather than admit that the advertisement is not effective.


Remember: You shouldn’t blame the tool if the mechanic is at fault.


So How Do You Know If You Have A Good Print Ad?

The best way is to pre-test it before investing significant money in placement.  This gives you an opportunity to fine-tune each element of the advertisement before committing big dollars to support a campaign.

However, I understand and appreciate that many economic development organizations barely have sufficient funding for advertising development and placement let alone pre-testing.  Absent test data, you are left with using your best judgment to decide if your advertisement is worth investing behind.

Previously, I shared 10 questions to evaluate your advertisement.  Answering these 10 questions will help you determine if your advertisement has a fighting chance of breaking through the clutter and delivering your community’s promotional message.  Before spending a dime on advertising, I encourage you to run your advertisement through this assessment.  You can even ask some people in your community whose opinion you respect to answer the questions.  Their responses might be illuminating.

Tips For Creating A Good Print Ad

In this post, I want to share some tips that will help you in creating a great advertisement so it can easily pass the 10-question evaluation.

  • Headline and visual should work together to communicate your community’s brand promise.
  • The benefit of your community’s brand promise should be apparent in either the headline or visual, or ideally both.
  • The headline should be clearly written and the reaction of the reader should be – “I never thought about it that way before”.
  • Avoid cleverness.
  • The visual should speak for itself and dominate the ad design.
  • The visual should bring the benefit to life in a relatable way.
  • The visual should “pop” to grab attention.
  • The design should be uncluttered and simple.
  • The advertisement should be “human”.  Let the reader see himself/herself as the potential hero of the story you tell (or relate to the hero, e.g. a successful business person in your community).
  • There is a clear call-to-action that moves the investment decision forward (i.e. more than simply a phone number, URL or email address).

Case Studies – Check Out The Assessment Of These Three Advertisements

Wisconsin Thrive Ad

Chenango County Ad

Dupage County Ad


Do you agree with the three case study assessments?  What are the best and worst advertisements you have seen in economic development?  What are some great examples of provocative headlines?  What are some examples of great benefit visualizations you have seen communities use in their advertisement?  What are some call-to-action examples you feel are effective?  Did you know that if you talk with the advertising department of the journal you want to place an ad in, they can be a great resource for tactical insight into what seems to work and what doesn’t? The next time you wonder if advertising works, objectively assess the quality of your advertisement against the above criteria before blaming the journal.  It just might be the mechanic who is at fault for producing an ineffective ad.

If you have additional tips, please share.

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5 Comments so far

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  2. Ted Coene

    February 5, 2013

    Good points Ed! I would also add that in addition to the obvious branding benefits of advertising, make sure the publication that you are advertising with still provides leads. Believe it or not, many publications no longer provide leads with advertising. However, leads can turn into sales and are still a great way to measure whether your ad is working or not.

  3. Paul Newman

    February 5, 2013

    The greatest ad ever designed is useless unless it reaches the right audience. Be sure to use only BPA Audited publications and websites so you can be certain your ad is reaching a qualified readership. By qualified I mean the reader makes the real estate decisions for their company. Many fluff publications in this market with hocus pocus circulation….wasting tax payer dollars….beware!
    Hocus Pocus (magic), a generic term used by magicians, usually the magic words spoken when bringing about some sort of change = key word MAGIC

  4. John Marek

    February 6, 2013

    Good Stuff, Ed, and timely too. I am currently working on a new print ad.

  5. Mike Wright

    February 7, 2013

    I agree with the assessments of Wisconsin and Chenango County, but think I actually *got* the Dupage County ad. This tech-entrepreneur-looking guy (but maybe he’s an ad agency director?) with the proverbial coffee cup is staring about 10 stories down onto some interesting architecture and dense green semi-urbanity (is that the Chicago skyline in the distance at upper right?), challenging assumptions I might have had of a one-story, traditional Midwestern suburban county. I think the ad’s implied brand promise through this imagery is that you’re going to find bright, connected, entrepreneurial people and businesses in their community, the kind of environment that would appeal to innovative companies. There are multiple links to social media, perhaps showing their interest in attracting young companies and young talent. I came away with an “I’ve never thought about it that way before” impression. That said, Ed is exactly right that the ad’s printed words are basically worthless here.

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