Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been on a deep dive into print advertising. Although print ads are far less sexy than social media or Facebook Ads, they were an anchor of the advertising industry for many years.
And good print ads are RARE. If you pick up a magazine at your local supermarket, you’ll find pages upon pages of ads. They all have a catchy photo, a tagline, some bright colors, and (if it’s really good), maybe even an offer.
This is how advertising is done. But most of the time it doesn’t work.
There’s an idea that just because you are advertising, it means that it’s working. That’s simply not true.
Take Gillette razors. They are part of the Proctor and Gamble family of brands and spend $800 million dollars on ads in 2012. Yet for the past 6 years, they’ve been losing market share. And one of the brands nipping at their heels is the Dollar Shave Club – which started with a $5,000 video.
Simply put, spending on ads doesn’t always work.
So what does work? What are the secrets of the great print ad? And how do we borrow that learning?
Some of the best print ads of all time are 3,000+ words. They are interesting to read. They tell stories and weave together narratives.
More than anything: they give you information. How often have you read an ad and felt smarter, wiser, or more informed? The best ads make you feel like you learned something. And that takes space.
Maybe you’ve heard that “nobody reads your website”. I’ve said that before. But if you’re great at writing useful content, the small percentage of people who read it are exactly the people you want to connect with.
In addition to length, these ads say something. It might be easy to write a “nine reasons why…” or “five great tips…” article. And these will often get clicked. But they almost never sell well.
Instead, stories get read.
When users pick up a magazine or newspaper, they’ll certainly skim most of it. But they’ll read the things that are interesting to them. That’s how we operate. Journalism sites get more traffic than ever and tell more stories than ever. You should do the same.
There’s no law that says an ad needs to look like an ad.
Headlines are the most important part of a good ad. I won’t spend much time talking about them here, but if you make one part of your ad awesome, it should be the headline.
For several decades, David Ogilvy only used three print layouts. They had four elements: Headline, text, photo, caption. That’s it.
It’s tempting to make your advertising as sexy and complicated as possible.
Or to use puns or jokes.
This is almost never a good idea. Keep it simple, stupid.
Black on White
It’s almost always better to print black text on a white background. It’s the way we’re wired. Don’t print white on black unless you want people not to read it.
Follow the Rules
I’m always looking for ways to be better, more efficient, and to find new ways to be better at marketing.
But when I work with a client’s ad dollars and marketing budget, I want to find things that work – day in and day out.
We stand on the shoulders of giants in the advertising and marketing industry. It’s time to take some notes.
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