How to Create an Effective Print Ad
Writen by Ikechukwu Stanley 26th September, 2012
The Essentials of Advertising for Your Business
Your business's print advertisements need to give readers a reason to be interested in your business; they must be clear, succinct, informative, and inviting. Your print ad has just a split second to attract attention and quickly explain why your product or service has some lasting benefits to those who read about it. This procedure can help you create an eye-catching print ad:
- Hammer out your headlines
In nearly all cases, the headline is the single most-important element of a print ad. Strive to be clear and concise in your headlines. Avoid the temptation to become so “creative” that your meaning is lost or obscured.
Where the headline is placed within, the ad is as important as what the headline says. You need to make sure that the headline dominates the ad so it can be quickly understood. Too often, the headline, which includes the most important information within an ad, is lost in a muddle of too many type fonts, graphics, and other elements.
- Shape your subheads.
In addition to the main headline, a subhead can impart secondary information. The headline must grab readers, but the subhead can explain the deal further. Not all ads require a subhead, but this element, generally set in smaller type, is there to give the reader additional information without cluttering up your ad.
- Build your body copy
The body copy, also known as the sell copy, is where you can explain your offer in detail. But, like everything else in a good print ad, you need to keep the body copy brief — and possibly not include it at all.
- Generate your graphics/image.
The graphic/image element of your ad is there to attract the readers’ eyes and interest them enough to read your body copy. The graphic/image element usually calls attention to, or complements, the headline — the two elements work together to create the overall ambience of the ad.
Make sure your ad's graphic/image element is relevant to what you’re selling. A photo of a girl in a bikini isn’t the best way to sell anything except bikinis. Health and fitness spas are always using bathing suit babes as their central graphic. (Are people really dumb enough to believe that those women are actually members?)
Note: The rules of graphics/image can be broken except if you know how to disrupt and when to disrupt.
Disruption is a unique way of ensuring that positive change is implemented and based on a firm knowledge of the category a brand operates within.
- Decide on a final layout.
The design and layout of an ad is everything. This figure illustrates a sample layout for a magazine ad. If you stick to this kind of layout, you can’t go wrong.
If you have never designed a print advertisement, it can be somewhat intimidating at first. But by following some simple guidelines, you can be sure to have clear and effective ads in every issue of your newsletter. Be sure to check out our before and after redesign of a sample ad at the end of this article!
Contrast is Good
Space is at a premium for any print ad. How do you get your reader's attention working with such little room? The first step is to emphasize contrast. Although there are thousands of fonts available now, it is still important to remember to use only one or two in an ad. Too many typefaces can distract the reader and make your ad difficult to read.
Placing any type in all capitals is generally a bad idea as well. Text in all capitals has little contrast, as all the letters are the same height. Studies show that people’s brains process text written in lower case letters much better. In fact, the brain processes familiar words partly by the shape they form when written in lower case letters. By using all capitals, you slow your reader down, making it less likely he or she will actually read and comprehend your ad.
White space is also an important element to include in your ad. White space is essentially empty space. While it may seem to be a waste of precious space in so small an area, white space actually will make your ad clearer and more easily understood. Remember that, although you are trying to squeeze in all your information, a solid block of text won’t be read at all.
Balance in a print advertisement is an important element as well. And this doesn’t mean you necessarily have to center everything in your ad. In fact, it is often more interesting to place elements of your ad aligned all to the right or all to the left. Try to get balance from strategically placing elements such as graphics, type, and logos in such a way that your ad flows well and is balanced across the space. If one side is heavy in type, place a large-scale logo or graphic on the other side.
Studies show that ads with graphics or illustrations get read more often than ads with only text. And the best ads of all use images that are interesting and large! As a general rule, your graphics should take up at least a quarter of your available space and can go up from there. Small graphics are distracting to your readers and do not have enough interest to draw a reader into the ad.
Follow the Reader
When consider how to design an ad, it is helpful to know what type of market you are speaking to. Some ads need to take a formal tone, while others can benefit from being playful and fun. In general, though, all readers follow the same type of pattern when scanning an ad. Most people read ads in a kind of reversed “S” pattern. That is, they scan an ad beginning at the top left and end up down at the bottom right. It is helpful to remember this pattern when you are laying out your ad.
Call to Action
When designing a print ad, don’t forget the main purpose of the ad—to sell! You have to give the reader a clear path to take. This can be as simple as remembering to place a phone number in a prominent place in the ad. Or it can be more detailed and can include such elements as coupons, special offers, or a web address. This should be both the starting and ending point of your print ad design. Know before you start what your objective is, and end by critically examining your ad to make sure that it meets that goal.
Mistakes to Avoid
Too much clutter – Don’t forget the importance of white space. If you can’t fit in all the information you had hoped to, consider going with a larger sized ad, or editing down your information to a more manageable amount.
Unclear message – Make sure you know what you are trying to get your reader to do before you start to design your ad. Keep this objective in mind at all times and review your ad when you are done to make sure this has been accomplished.
Errors – Even though it may seem easy to proofread such a small set of type, sometimes errors show up and are glossed over through every time. To be safe, have someone else review your ad for you also.
Lack of contact information – This common error is particularly frustrating for readers. You may have convinced your reader to contact you or purchase your products, but if they can’t easily find contact information, they will probably not bother to look much further.
Before & After
Below is an ad before a redesign and after some changes. The ideas presented above were used to clean up this ad and make it more effective, clear, and more likely to be read. Notice that, even though, there seems to be less text in the after ad, in fact they both give the same information. Which ad do you prefer? Which do you think is more likely to be read?