Following on from my previous post on how to create impact in your press advertising, you might be forgiven for thinking that the bigger the better in terms of which ads will be the most effective.

However, in reality this is rarely the case. The key question you need to answer is how much space do you actually need to capture the attention of your target audience – and to then persuade them to think or act in line with your campaign objective?

Never take a bigger space than you actually need. For example, it is rarely the case that you have so much to say or something so important to say that a double page spread is necessary – unless you have a truly revolutionary product that you want to launch with maximum impact (or alternatively a long product which you need to show positioned horizontally).

If you are considering using a double page spread purely to increase impact, you should carefully consider whether the size is proportionate to the relative importance of your message to your target audience. They will probably just dismiss it if they feel the size is disproportionate to the relevance and value of your proposition.

Rather than using double page spreads, the American advertising guru Howard Luck Gossage preferred two single page ads that used both sides of the same page – he felt this created more reader involvement, allowing him to continue his message in the form of a compelling story. This is an area ripe for testing to see which works best for you – why not try testing a larger ad when a small ad is performing well, and similarly testing a smaller ad if a large ad is underperforming.  Essentially, you are trying to determine the optimal size ad for each publication: ie for a direct response ad this will be where the incremental cost of making it any larger is not matched by the incremental sales generated.

Whilst we are discussing sizing, you should also be thinking about how you can augment the presence of your ad by persuading the publication to include a relevant PR story alongside it. This can often prove very cost effective – coordinated editorial and advertising can greatly enhance both the impact and credibility of your paid-for advertising.

In order to do this well you need to consider the PR angle whilst the campaign is being developed. What’s the ‘hook’ that will resonate with the chosen publication’s editorial? (for example an interesting launch event, or a relevant research finding that you have commissioned). Just make sure that the ‘hook’ supports your single-minded proposition and integrates well with the content of your advertising. For example, for the launch of a new, faster broadband service Virgin Media put out the following press release. By using an Olympic gold medallist to launch the new service, this not only created an interesting media event, but also focused attention on their single-minded proposition of providing the fastest broadband service:



I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on this subject: have you tested different sizes of press ads and do you find any to be particularly successful (or particularly unsuccessful) for you? Have you found supplementing your print ads with a relevant PR story to be a successful strategy 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…

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