As you have no doubt heard it said before, print ads need to be able to capture your reader’s attention and interest in less than two seconds. Yet so many press ads fail to create any impact whatsoever – what are they doing wrong?

Above all, a press ad must deliver your single-minded proposition – quickly and simply. Just as for a poster, your proposition must be conveyed by the headline/ image/ logo combination, since your reader is unlikely to make the effort to delve into the body copy just to discover your benefit. Your ad must also clearly stand out from those that surround it. A good way to test this at the development stage is to pin your initial visuals to the wall alongside other ads found in the same media. Does your ad stand out from the crowd? If not, why not?

Another way to increase impact is to consider using special ad formats such as gatefold ads, sequential ads and die-cut ads – budget permitting. Similarly, techniques such as glued tip-ons (for example, fragrance samples or cards to be kept in your wallet) can increase stand-out and readership – but you will need to weigh up whether the extra production cost will be justified. Do they support a strong, clear benefit to a clearly targeted audience – or are they in danger of being dismissed merely as a gimmick?

The importance of creating immediate impact is underlined by the way that general interest print ads are increasingly moving away from the traditional ‘long copy’ approach.  Today’s media-savvy newspaper or magazine readers often find long copy ads instinctively off-putting in comparison to the instant impact of visually driven communications. Try it yourself: compare the imagery-led full-page ads at the front of a typical Sunday supplement with the text-led full-page ads at the back. Which do you find the most engaging? As the renowned advertising author Ken Burtenshaw puts it:

Contemporary creative advertising has largely abandoned employing long copy in advertisements and many campaigns nowadays rely almost solely on the power of an imaginative and impactive visual to communicate the brand message.

However – long copy may still be the best approach for highly-focused print ads in specialist interest or trade publications. Especially in scenarios where you know that the reader is already interested in the subject of the ad (eg for high-involvement purchases), and is therefore seeking plenty of supporting information. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting any essential ‘reasons to believe’ where your objective is to make an immediate sale (but do try to ensure that the visual impact of the ad isn’t overly compromised). In this way, the long copy print ad can be used in a similar way to other well-targeted long copy communications aimed at building conviction such as direct mail, email or landing pages.

What are your thoughts on how to increase the impact of press advertising? Have you tested long copy versus short copy in your press advertising, and if so – how did it pan out for you?

If you’re interested in exploring this area in more detail (together with relevant examples), you might like my recent book ‘Successful Marketing Communications’.  If you have any thoughts or comments, do drop me a line below.

Written by Rob H

I’m a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years’ experience working in digital and offline marketing communications across the financial services, leisure, education and technology sectors – most recently working for a large financial services organisation, managing the acquisition marketing communications team. I gained an MSc in Strategic Marketing from Cranfield Business School in 2005 and the CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing in 2012. In 2012 I became the part-time course tutor at the Cambridge Marketing College for the CIM diploma in ‘Principles of Mobile Marketing’ – also authoring the accompanying Mobile Marketing study materials for the college. In March 2017 I published ‘Successful Marketing Communications‘ (available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks), which has become recommended reading for delegates at the IDM (Institute of Direct Marketing). When I’m not knee-deeping in reading/ writing the latest marketing communications articles I enjoy outdoor swimming and anything involving snow – with my goal for next year being to combine the two…

This article has 2 comments

  1. Pingback: Big or Small Press Advertisements? | Marketing Communications Expert

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Press Ad Mistakes to Avoid | Marketing Communications Expert

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *