Marketing Mondays – Your Print Ad

Today, some tried and true all-time basics of designing a good print advertisement.

As a horse magazine publisher, I've come to realize one truth: to our readers advertising is just as interesting as editorial. This is unlike any other genre of magazine interest which I can think of. Simply said, we love to look at horse ads. This is a huge bonus for you: right off the bat, you've got an engaged reader who is searching for what's new in their horse world, and is open and in fact, expectant, of finding that information through advertising.


First, some basic rules to live by when designing your print advertisement.

Rule #1: Make Your Headline Count

Remember, on average five times as many people read the headline as they do the body copy. Don't waste that opportunity by not selling the product. Your headline should be geared to promise a benefit to the reader. (one, which you can of course, deliver on.) For instance, Biggest Selection of Western Saddles in the Country, works a heck of a lot better than Joe's Tack Shop, doesn't it? Also keep in mind, headlines that include some type of news (ie: 16 Smart Little Lena offspring offered at the Sale Name this year), garner more reads.

The Caveat: Remember what I said above about equine publication readers viewing advertising as interesting as editorial? So, if your headline is your ranch name, or your stallion name, your sale title, it's not so bad, you'll get read anyway, particularly if you follow Rule #2 . . .

Rule #2: Invest in Great Photography

Great photography rules effective advertising. Pick up any breed-oriented publication and browse through the stallion/ranch advertisements, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which ads awe the reader. Particularly, in the case of stallion advertising, a fantastic photo really is worth 1,000 words.

P.S.: Photographs that suggest a story will make readers want to find out what that story is – and they will become more involved in your ad.

Rule #3: Be Consistent

We see far too many ads which are created for the specific \”sell\” they contain for that particular ad. Be consistent – both in your design and in your message, and the reader won't have to rediscover you each time he or she picks up a magazine which contains your ad. Pay attention to the colors, the typestyles you like and want to represent your brand, and ask your designer to stick to them.

Rule #4: Don't Be Boring

Work hard to create a distinctive appearance for your advertisement and campaign. Not an easy task, and requires some creativity and thought. Once, you achieve that distinctive look, see Rule #3 – stick with it. The most effective print ads have an overall distinctive appearance that sets them apart from the rest of the pack.

Rule #5: Keep It Simple

Many ads are too complicated. They try to accomplish way too much. The heart of any good ad is simplicity. A good ad should get to the point quickly, preferably through the headline. As an advertiser you know what your biggest benefit to the customer is, focus on that and don't let other little details get in the way.

Rule #6: Make Body Copy Readable

Make it interesting. Long body copy will be read, if it's intriguing. If it enhances the attention and interest created by the headline and illustration. If it answers questions, builds confidence and desire in the reader. And, if it gives the reader some kind of reason to act. Body copy really is the heart of advertising.

Rule #7: Know When to Renovate

If you have a winning ad, don't be afraid to re-use it several times over. It's proven readership is actually increased with repetition. But when it's worn out, old, dated and boring even you, it's time call in the designer!

Finally, here's the top 10 design errors we commonly see in equine publication advertising.

1. The over-use of background

Today's graphic technology allows for some crazy loud backgrounds. Remember the keep it simple rule.

2. Too light of copy over too dark of a background

Remember, not all presses are perfect, and might fill in your light copy, if it's thin enough, on black background.

3. Too much copy

Evaluate, and edit. Then evaluate and edit again.

4. Emphasis on the wrong copy.

Remember, you are not selling your phone number.

5. Poor choice of typestyle

First of all, never use all caps on a script font. Secondly, evaluate the appropriateness of any font you use in your ad – does it fit your brand?

6. Too many typestyles

Remember the keep it simple rule.

7. Sideways or upside down ad

We still see this once in a while. In this case, before the reader works to get the message, he has to work just to get to the ad!

8. Unnecessary graphics

It ain't pretty, it's distracting.

9. Unclear copy

Employ a friend or copy editor to read your text, including headlines and cutlines. Does it make sense?

10. No white space

Just because there's a space leftover in your ad, doesn't mean you have to fill it.

In later Marketing Mondays, I'll post about the new methodology in print advertising (no, social media and online advertising does not replace print, but, yes, it can be an amazing complement and assist you in reaching a greater and wider audience than you've ever had), and cover some good information and examples on how to integrate print with your online presence to stretch your ad budget to maximum effectiveness.

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