How To Create A Kick Ass Print Ad

Creativity without strategy is called art.  Creativity with strategy is called advertising.

Quotation attributed to Jef I. Richards

Typically EDOs include print advertising in their media mix.  The goal is to generate attention of and interest in learning more about a location as a place to live or do business.  Most of the ads I have looked at in journals like Site Selection Magazine fail in one or more of the following areas.  If you are spending marketing dollars to support print advertising, the question you want to ask is …

How does my print ad stack up?

The headline and visual should be reinforcing.  One of the tests you can apply to determine if your headline and visual work together is to look at them in a billboard format.  Is the message you are trying to communicate to the reader clearly expressed, or is something missing?  Agencies will push back on this approach arguing that the sub-heads and body copy are necessary to communicate your brand promise.  When you consider most of your readers will never register more than ad’s headline and visual before turning the page, the argument falls flat on its face. The truth is, creating a headline and visual that work together to communicate your brand promise is hard.  But, the reality is that is what you are paying an Agency to deliver.  If the challenge was easy you’d do it yourself.

Your brand benefit should be in either the headline or visual (or ideally both).  If you can’t communicate your brand promise in words then it must be made clear in the visual (or visa versa).  Failure to so means your ad will have little to no impact on casual readers.

Your headline should be attention getting.  If it is not provocative, readers will pass over you’re ad.  The easiest way to assess this is to determine if your ad causes readers to say “I never thought of it like this”.  Headlines like “Expand Your Horizon” or “Take a Closer Look” fail miserably at being provocative.  Compare that to the headline Vivay, Indiana ran in their talent attraction advertising campaign: “Our Town Went To Charm School”.  The headline does a nice job of capturing your attention and getting you to read the ad’s body copy.

Use simple language.  Readers don’t have time to translate what you are saying, and they are never impressed with your vocabulary.  Write copy that is at or below a 9th grade level to ensure rapid comprehension. Basically, don’t make your reader’s head hurt.  If it is too much like work to understand, your ad will get skipped over.

Your ad’s main visual should be dominant in the layout.  Visuals tend to have greater stopping power than headlines.  Print is essentially a visual medium.  You should also use white space and bold colors to create visual appeal.  Nothing turns readers off more than a page filled with small type copy.  It just screams work to read it.  If your reader wants to work, he/she will read an article instead.

Keep it simple and short.  Simple layouts help your reader follow the logic of your communication.  Complexity is confusing and a major turn off.

Reward your reader for investing their precious time with your ad.  Have an opportunity for more information, have a reasonable call to action, try and engage them in an on-going conversation.  This is an area you can think about integrating with your website by providing the reader a specific URL to visit.

Food For Thought

If your print ad has a headline like any of the following (all taken from real ads):

  • A Place Your Business Can Call Home
  • The City On The Move
  • Open For Business
  • Grow Here
  • Prosper In [city name]
  • Your Future Is Bright In [city name]
  • Welcome To Opportunity
  • The Possibilities Are Endless
  • Building The Future

Or any other banal headline like the above, there is a high likelihood your print advertising budget is being wasted.  Don’t accept poor advertising because it is easy.  Hold the bar for your Agency high and demand they exceed it.  You can get great print advertising for your community, but it takes commitment and hard work.

If you liked this post …

You might enjoy my post Why Do Most Print Advertisements Fail?

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