Six Steps to Pump Up Your Print Ad

BBDO founder David Abott believed that while styles in print advertising may evolve superficially, the enduring principles are based on human behavior, and therefore remain the same. In other words, while trends in type, color, and borders may change, the elements of a good ad are timeless.

Here are six-steps to get your ad noticed now:

Capture the reader’s attention like a stop sign and direct it like a road map

Have you ever watched someone flip through a magazine? They generally spend about two seconds scanning each page. In order for your ad to break through the clutter, the reader needs to know exactly where to direct their attention. Create an unmistakable focal point followed by a clear road map to lead the eye.

Things to keep in mind:

• Americans read from left to right.
• Most readers look down after an illustration or photograph – place your headline below the visual to take advantage of this tendency.
• The reader’s visual journey ends in the lower right hand corner. Make sure to place your contact information there.

Make an emotional connection

The best way to enter the minds of your target audience is through the heart. Ads that present powerfully charged emotional stories are the ones people remember most. Don’t write a book, but if you want people to talk about your ad, give them a story they can share.

Write headlines that offer a reason to read more

Advertising maven David Ogilvy claimed that five out of six people read only the headline of a print ad. Increase your odds by writing headlines that capture attention and provoke interest. The best headlines state a benefit, arouse interest, or break news.

Things to keep in mind:

• Appeal to the reader’s self-interest by offering tangible benefits.
• Break news that inspires the reader to delve into the text.
• If you want the visual to be the focal point, keep the headline simple. If you want the headline to be the focal point, keep the visual simple.

Use pictures to attract and convince

In his book Visual Persuasion: The Role of Images in Advertising, Paul Messaris writes, “Photographs come with an inherent guarantee of authenticity that is absent from words no matter how authoritative.” Seeing is believing. If the headline is not the most prominent feature of your ad, then the image should take center stage

Things to keep in mind:

• If cost is not an issue use color photographs to attract greater attention.
• Green and blue attract the most attention.
• Subjects looking directly at the reader are more effective than an off-center gaze.

Make text legible

Everyone is suffering from information overload. Make your ad simple and easy to read.

Things to keep in mind:

• Short paragraphs are less daunting.
• Subheads tell your story to glancers.
• Give readers several points of entry into the text.

Test Before, Measure After

You only have one chance to get it right. Test to see if the ad connects with your audience through field-testing. Ask relatives, friends and associates if the ad speaks to them. If you don’t get a positive response, go back to the drawing board.

How to test your ad:

• A toll free number with a dedicated extension to distinguish calls generated by the ad.
• A web address with a dedicated landing page.
• A coupon or code identifying the publication.


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