9 Rules for Creating More Effective Print Ads

January 26, 2018 Caitlin McElwain

Even in the era of the Internet and mobile devices, print advertising is still an important aspect of an effective marketing strategy. For example, out of 20 people who consult the YellowPages, 17 will make a purchase. It’s hard to find a more effective medium for selling. Customers look at an average of 4.6 ads, but will only contact two merchants – those with the most well-designed ads!

How do you create a print ad that’s convincing and triggers action? Here are nine rules for designing effective print ads based on the analysis of tens of thousands of ads.1

  1. Don’t say too much. Limit yourself to one key message. If your ad is too busy, your potential customers will glance at it rather read it, and you will lose sales. Does your ad have a lot of empty space? Your answer should be “yes.” 
  2. Provide potential customers with all the necessary information. Bullet-point lists give detailed info in an easy-to-read fashion. 
  3. Go big or go home. In print advertising, size is important. A larger ad draws the eye and generates more calls. It also allows you to include all the important information without appearing cluttered. 
  4. Make the title fairly big and set it off nicely. The text should be clear, simple and short. Ideally, emphasize the benefits to the customer. Refer to the quality of the service and give customers the impression that they will be taken care of. 
  5. Select an image that reinforces the title’s message. Potential customers must be able to identify with the image. A merchant targeting young families, for example, could choose a photo of a child. Why are there lots of ads showing the smiling face of a person looking directly into the eyes of the reader? Because they work well. 
  6. Target the main problem that you will solve for your customers. But be careful – the message must be positive. If you help your customers overcome difficult situations, highlight the solution, not the problem. A mattress seller should show someone sleeping peacefully, rather than an unhappy insomniac. People react negatively to problems, and unconsciously, many might associate this reaction with your business – something you definitely want to avoid. 
  7. Include an external reference as a seal of quality, if possible. A prize won or membership in a professional association will reassure your potential customers. 
  8. Lower psychological barriers that prevent your customers from taking the next step. Offer a free consultation or a store visit to obtain more information, for example. Don’t ask your customers to commit by directly telling them to buy your product or service, or you’ll risk generating an unconscious “no.”
  9. Make it easy for potential customers to contact you. Include your company’s name, telephone number and email, website and physical addresses in a way that’s easy to understand at first glance. 

The overall effect that you would like to create for your print ad is one that provides all the useful information but also helps readers see themselves as satisfied customers. That’s a better state of mind for buying your products and services!

Need advice on this topic to see how it can help your business thrive? Click here to talk to an expert.


1 These rules are largely based on the work of Dennis R. Fromholzer, president of CRM Associates, which studies 200,000 YellowPages ads each year to determine the characteristics of those that generate the most calls. His videos are available at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNJVW3vez_aD7wiA4YkbPhs0jLMTgsTO0.

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