Prints Ads (newspapers and magazines)

Subsection of: Copywriting Basics
Adapted from content excerpted from the American Express® OPEN Small Business Network

Whether you’re advertising in your local community newspaper or in People Magazine, your print ads should look and feel professional. Use strong copy and eye-catching graphics to focus the reader on what sets your product or service apart from the competition – your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Use these tips to help you get your message across effectively.

The headline is the most important part of any print ad. It must inspire action. It is what will convince the reader to read more. Take your time and get it right. Guerrilla Marketing guru Jay Levinson says that if you spend 10 hours creating an ad, 9 of those hours should be used creating the headline.

Headlines should either convey an idea, or intrigue the reader to learn more. If your headline is in the form of a question…ARE YOU UNDERPAID?…make sure that the answer will always be YES!!!

When possible, use color. The response rate to color ads is significantly higher than that for black & white.

The length of your ad copy should be appropriate to your product or message. Long ad copy looks informative, and may be useful for technical products. Short copy leaves plenty of room for graphics and is a quicker read; use it if you’re advertising an image.

Keep your message concise. You can’t expect a reader to spend a lot of time with your ad. Keep it simple. Stress benefits. Emphasize your USP. Don’t beat around the bush or be too cute. Get to the point. And be very careful with humor. Not every reader will get your joke.

Don’t use complicated language or jargon. To prevent yourself from slipping into the jargon habit, think of this…if you’re advertising in newspaper with a circulation of 100,000, and just 5% of the readers don’t understand a word in your ad, you’ve alienated 5,000 potential customers.

Your ad should talk to your potential customer, so don’t forget about them. Use “you” instead of “we” in your copy. Think about what specific needs you fulfill for them. In addition, many experts recommend that you think of your ad as speaking to your potential customers “one at a time.” In other words, the ad should inspire the reader on a personal level.

Remember the call to action. What do you want the reader to do once he/she finishes reading the ad. Don’t let them guess…spell it out – Write or call for more information; Come in for a free check-up; Come in today, Sale ends Saturday. Think of this as how you close the sale.

Strong graphics make a strong statement. Keep them focused on your message. Some ad experts recommend advertisers follow the “rule of thirds” – one third of an ad should be a graphic element, one third should be copy, and one third should be white space (no copy, no graphic).

Too much in your ad makes it look to busy. You will appear unfocused. Readers will avoid your message. Very often, less is more.

Keep the look of your ads consistent. If you change the copy on a regular basis, don’t change the look. You can create an effective image by providing continuity and consistency to the reader.

Whatever you do, don’t let your ads look like your competitors’ ads. You need to create a distinct personality for your company. If your ad looks like one from your competitor, whose ad do you think the reader will think he/she is reading?

Back to Copywriting Basics

Copyright © 1995-2016, American Express Company. All Rights Reserved.