Tips On Creating Great Print Advertising

Ed BurghardDoing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.

Steuart Henderson Britt

Have you ever used print advertising in your communication mix?

If so, you know how challenging it can be to communicate your brand promise in this medium because readers are reluctant to invest much time on an ad when flipping through their favorite publication. So what do you do? Many marketers have found success by ensuring four conditions are met before they run an ad. This post will tell you what those four conditions are so you can successfully generate a positive ROI from you print advertising.


If you’re looking for a way to increase the probability of success from your print campaign, the best way to ensure you end up with something that communicates effectively is by ensuring for these conditions are met:

  • Contains a Breakthrough Idea – The communication idea underpinning the creative execution needs to be single-minded and have stopping power.  Great communication ideas are built on unique target insight and are both heart and mind opening.  The more provocative, or newsworthy, the greater their persuasion.
  • Presents a Desirable Benefit – The execution needs to dramatize the benefit of realizing your brand promise.  It needs to strike an emotional chord and not simple be a rational articulation.  There are a number of ways to create desirability.  Your benefit could be trend setting, it could appeal to the reader’s self image, it could be endorsed by a reputable person, or it could paint a vision of a better future.
  • Is Visibly Branded – The layout and graphic design contains distinctive and ownable branding elements that support your promise.  This can include things like font, color palette, logo, tagline, brand character, etc..  It should be clear to the reader that any ad you run is coming from your brand.  This helps drive message recall that, in turn, is key to campaign success.
  • Includes a Call To Action – The execution has a practical way for the reader to “put skin in the game” and allow you to capture information for subsequent follow-up.  You need to offer something of value to the reader and make it easy to access it.


Here is an example of an effective print ad.  It was part of a campaign run in executive magazines and the Wall Street Journal a few years ago to help brand the state of Ohio.

Breakthrough Idea – Executives don’t have to trade-off family time for career success.

Desirable Benefit – A balanced and fulfilling life endorsed as attainable by a CEO.

Visibly Branded – Distinct look and layout used throughout campaign.

Call To Action – Web address for registration and phone number provided.

Mallett Ad


Now that you know the four conditions of a successful print ad, you’re ready to invest in your campaign without worrying about whether it has the potential to deliver a positive ROI.  I chose the word “potential”, because you still have to select the right print venues and invest at a level that delivers adequate reach/frequency to motivate readers to take action.  The four conditions do not guarantee a positive ROI.  But, their absence virtually guarantees campaign failure.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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