Sep 9, 2008

How to Create an Effective Print Advertisement - Tips for Graphic Designers

How to Create an Effective Print Ad – The Unconventional Wisdom of an Ad Maverick
Before writing this article, I perused the web looking to see what “experts” had to say about the subject of print ad design. The general consensus is to play it safe. Pshaw, I say! True enough, if you stick to tried and true formulas, there is no danger of hosing up your ad, but if you are brave, amazing things can happen. Of course, this is just my opinion based on my personal experiences in designing ads for clients and it is definitely a riskier proposition. So if you like to play it safe, you may want to look elsewhere, but if you ready to take a risk with potential big rewards, read on my friend.

Step One: Decide What Your Print Advertisement is Selling Before You Try to Design It
Are you selling a specific product or the company as a whole? Either way, you need to figure out what makes what you are selling special and valuable to the potential buyer. Let me be the first to tell you, it is NOT because you or your product is the best. Nor is it because you are the most at something unless it is quantifiable. People are inundated with “We have the best burgers, advice, candy, _insert your product or service here_”. It means nothing and when I say nothing, I really mean it so don’t even think about it. As far as “the most” goes, never claim to be “The most reputable, professional, knowledgeable, _insert your adjective here_”, because no one will believe you. Now, if you can claim, “The most cars sold in North Carolina” or “The most widely read newspaper in Charlotte”, that is a claim that can be quantified and therefore can establish a true leadership position. True leadership is a great selling point because people are comfortable with buying your product or service if everyone else buys it too. I like to call this the Lemming Effect. If you can’t claim a true leadership position, you need to sell the sizzle not the steak. By selling the sizzle, I mean sell the main benefit of your product or service. Tell the reader what’s in it for him if he buys your product. For example DON’T sell this, “Reliable Investment Strategies.” DO sell this, “Our Clients Average a 20% Higher Return on Investments. You can too.” You are selling the benefit of investing with your company.

Step Two: Formulate a Concept for Your Print Advertisement Design

Now that you know what you are selling you are ready to formulate a concept. The “experts” say look at several competing companies and do something similar, but not identical. I say look at your competition and so something entirely different. I mean think about it, if you are just like everyone else, why would anyone pay attention? The objective is to thoughtfully set yourself apart. Don’t do something just for the sake of being different, your concept has to make sense for the publication and the audience. Think of some of the most successful advertising campaigns whether it be print or broadcast. They are not obvious or trite. The launch of Infinity Autos never showed a car. “Got Milk?” pictured celebrities with milk mustaches, not an image of a glass of milk. Most recently, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty features real women, not models, not product shots, yet pictures of nude 50 year old women are sending products off the shelves. Think outside the box, but be smart about appealing to your demographic.

Step Three: Write Down The Copy for Your Print Advertisement Layout

This is something everybody thinks they can do. They can’t. Copywriting is something best left to a professional, but no matter who writes the copy, there are a few irrefutable truths to consider. First, people don’t read content. They skim it. You have precious few words to get your point across. Remember not to talk about how great your company or product is, emphasize the benefit to potential buyers.. Most, importantly keep it brief. Next, stay on point! You have already decided what you are selling, only advertise that one thing. If you are advertising a product, write about the benefits of that product and don’t try to cram the entire company history into the copy or the ad will loose its efficacy. Lastly, there should always be a call to action. Tell your client to buy your product, visit your website or call you…now!

Step Four: Putting It All Together

The first thing you need to consider is white space, white space, white space. White space can be any color, really. It just needs to be space clear of copy or distracting graphics. A cluttered ad turns people off. The more white space you have, the more likely one will read your ad. Make sure your headline, imagery and copy all tie in and flow well together. And just so that you know, your logo doesn’t need to be the size of a house. It needs to be large enough to be evident, but that’s it.

Step 5: Submit and Repeat

Assuming you have chosen an appropriate publication, you should run your ad multiple times. People expect their phones to ring off the hook after one publication. It rarely works that way. Frequency is the most important factor in getting readers to contact you. If you have run an ad 3 or more times and you haven’t gotten a call, there is probably a problem with the ad or the publication you choose. If it does begin working after several runs, change the ad out periodically to keep things fresh.
In short, do what you can, hire a professional to do what you can’t and always think outside the box.


Anne Stewart said...

Hmm, yeah, this is very 'maverick.'