Proven Tips For A Great Print Advertisment

Ed Head ShotThe man who stops advertising to save money, is like the man who stops a clock to save time.

Quote attributed to: Thomas Jefferson

One of the great things of having had a Marketing career at Procter & Gamble is you are able to learn a lot about what works and doesn’t work in a variety of media.

Print advertising is a media used by many brands including place brands. Creating a great print advertising as well as the use of the retail graphics services is as much of an art as it is a science.  If you don’t believe me, just push back on an advertising concept your Agency is advocating.  The first words out of their mouth will be – “Trust us, advertising is an art, not a science.”  Note though, I said it is as much an art as a science. There is definitely a lot of psychology at play to make a print advertisement great.  So, never let your Agency ignore the science aspect.  After all, they will get paid whether your print advertisement works or not.

With that in mind, below is a list of tips that will help you invest in more print advertisement winners than turkeys.  These are tips based on my personal experience.  I would encourage you to evaluate your currently running print advertising against these tips, and of course any future advertising your Agency recommends you run.

If your Agency pushes back, remember they are looking to take your money and I am giving you the benefit of my personal experience with no strings attached.

My Top Tips For A Great Print Advertisement

  • The headline and visual should be integrated.  this is where you create attention (aka your advertisement’s stopping power).  Make certain your visual is related to your headline and ideally enhances the communication.
  • Your brand benefit should either be in the headline or the visual (or both).  You only have a few seconds to grab the reader’s attention and communicate your message.  It is imperative you make sure the benefit is clear in both the words and visuals.  This is prime real estate and you should not waste it.
  • The headline should be easy to understand and provocative.  You need to create interest in your message as quickly as possible.    The headline should pull the reader into your advertisement.  It should cause the reader to think – “I never considered that before”.  If it isn’t provocative, you will not open the reader’s mind to consider your message.
  • Use simple language – don’t try and be clever.  Puns and plays on words are extremely hard to use effectively.  Everybody has a different sense of humor and the last thing you want to do is have them miss your point.  For every advertisement you find with a on or play on words that works, there are 1,000 that failed.  The odds are simply not in your favor.
  • Make your visual the dominant element in the layout.  Print is a visual medium.  The visual should speak for itself and convey your main brand benefit.
  • Show your product. Use distinctive and own able graphics.  This is key for good branding.
  • Use white space to make your visual pop.  Make your advertisement inviting to read.  People with little time are not interested in reading dense text.  It is too much like work.  If you want to share a lot of information, add a URL to your website and incentivize the reader to visit it.
  • Keep your layout simple.  Clutter is uninviting.  A simple layout ensures readers follow a logical sequence in getting the information from your advertisement.  The more you force them to jump around, the more likely they are to leave your ad and jump to the next page.
  • Try and keep your copy short if possible.  Experience suggests readers are less likely to read long copy advertisements.  It is too much like work.
  • Keep your advertisement human.  People create to people.  Don’t make your product the hero of your advertisement.  Make the reader the hero and explain how your product benefit will make his/her life better.  Your advertisement should impart information, leverage emotion, create an association with a community the reader would like to me a member of, and have a clear call to action.


Of course, in advertising there are no hard and fast rules.  You can find ads that work extremely well and fail to follow one or more of the above tips.  But, it is important to note they are the exception and not the norm.  If you want to increase the odds of having a successful print advertisement, follow as many of the above tips as possible.  If you break any, have a very good reason before investing your limited budget to run the advertisement.

If you have any additional tips (or comments on my tips), please comment on this post.  Also, if you have a colleague or contact that could benefit from this post please share it.

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