10 January 2007

Making your print advertisements work.

A quick flick through any newspaper or magazine and it’s easy to find some really good advertisements and some shockers. I believe that the most common mistakes with many print advertisements is that they are cluttered with far too much information, sending confusing messages. It is the advertisements job to be noticed not the readers job to read it.

I always suggest that anyone who is planning to advertise in newspapers or magazines should start a file (or a show box) of advertisements that have caught their eye. Buy different newspapers to the one that you normally read. Visit the local newsagents and buy some international newspapers or even foreign language papers. Cut out the pages with advertisements that really catch your attention. I love doing this with foreign papers because I can’t understand a word in the advertisement so I have to rely on what catches my attention. I keep a pile of scrapbooks that have all types of advertisements in them, promoting everything from bra’s to bazooka’s (yes bazooka’s) and the subject matter is almost irrelevant. The layout is critical.

The most attention grabbing advertisements tend to have bold headings with lots of white space around them. They are uncluttered, easy to read and the messages are simple. They follow the format of who, what, when and how and they make it easy for the reader to quickly glance at the advertisement and make some kind of decision on the spot. The decision may be to get in the car and rush straight down to the business to buy the product or it may be to file the information into the memory banks so that when the customer wants to purchase a product or service like the one advertised they will visit that particular business.

Often people feel that too much white space in an advertisement is like throwing money away. When you are paying by the centimetre (or inch) they feel that they have to pack as much into the advertisement as possible to get value for their advertising dollar. Of course, all they are doing is reducing the effectiveness of the advertisement and wasting money.


Another common fault with printed advertisements is the use of too many different styles of fonts or type. Technically an advertisement should only have two or three different fonts – maximum. Lots of fonts makes an advertisement hard to read and it gives the appearance of being amateurish. Look at the top advertisements produced by the leading companies world wide and you will see that generally the number of fonts used is kept to a minimum. Likewise script fonts (fonts designed to be like handwriting) are often hard to read and as a result they can be overlooked. Of course there are exceptions to this rule (Coca Cola is one) but generally script fonts are used to promote a brand rather than a particular product or service.

Once you have decided on the key messages that you want your advertisement to pass on, start planning the look and layout of your advertisement, keeping in mind the issues discussed in this tip.

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