Advertising in Your
How to Design a Print Ad
In past issues of Newslettering, we
discussed ways to use advertising in your
newsletter, and how to solicit advertising.
In our continuing series, we will look at designing an ad from scratch.
There are several cases where this would be necessary. You may want to
place your own ad. After all, your audience is a captive one and one that
is very familiar to you. If you offer special services that would interest
your readers, an ad is the perfect way to let them know. You may also be
approached by a potential advertiser who wishes to advertise to your
readers, but does not have an ad available for you to use. Or you may have
an ad sent to you in an unusable format. For example, a faxed ad usually
needs to be redone to make it legible and clean.
If you have never designed a print advertisement, it can
be somewhat intimidating at first. But by following some simple
guidelines, you can be sure to have clear and effective ads in every issue
of your newsletter. Be sure to check out our before and after redesign of
a sample ad at the end of this article!
Contrast is Good
Space is at a premium for any print ad. How do
you get your reader's attention working with such little room? The first
step is to emphasize contrast. Although there are thousands of fonts
available now, it is still important to remember to use only one or two in
an ad. Too many typefaces can distract the reader and make your ad
difficult to read.
Placing any type in all capitals is generally a bad idea
as well. Text in all capitals has little contrast, as all the letters are
the same height. Studies show that people’s brains process text written
in lower case letters much better. In fact, the brain processes familiar
words partly by the shape they form when written in lower case letters. By
using all capitals, you slow your reader down, making it less likely he or
she will actually read and comprehend your ad.
White space is also an important element to include in
your ad. White space is essentially empty space. While it may seem to be a
waste of precious space in so small an area, white space actually will
make your ad clearer and more easily understood. Remember that, although
you are trying to squeeze in all your information, a solid block of text
won’t be read at all.
Balance in a print advertisement is an important
element as well. And this doesn’t mean you necessarily have to center
everything in your ad. In fact, it is often more interesting to place
elements of your ad aligned all to the right or all to the left. Try to
get balance from strategically placing elements such as graphics, type,
and logos in such a way that your ad flows well and is balanced across the
space. If one side is heavy in type, place a large-scale logo or graphic
on the other side.
Studies show that ads with graphics or
illustrations get read more often than ads with only text. And the best
ads of all use images that are interesting and large! As a general rule,
your graphics should take up at least a quarter of your available space
and can go up from there. Small graphics are distracting to your readers
and do not have enough interest to draw a reader into the ad.
Follow the Reader
When consider how to design an ad, it is helpful
to know what type of market you are speaking to. Some ads need to take a
formal tone, while others can benefit from being playful and fun. In
general, though, all readers follow the same type of pattern when scanning
an ad. Most people read ads in a kind of reversed “S” pattern. That
is, they scan an ad beginning at the top left and end up down at the
bottom right. It is helpful to remember this pattern when you are laying
out your ad.
Call to Action
When designing a print ad, don’t forget the
main purpose of the ad—to sell! You have to give the reader a clear path
to take. This can be as simple as remembering to place a phone number in a
prominent place in the ad. Or it can be more detailed and can include such
elements as coupons, special offers, or a web address. This should be both
the starting and ending point of your print ad design. Know before you
start what your objective is, and end by critically examining your ad to
make sure that it meets that goal.
Mistakes to Avoid
Too much clutter –
Don’t forget the importance of white space. If you can’t fit in all
the information you had hoped to, consider going with a larger sized ad,
or editing down your information to a more manageable amount.
Unclear message – Make sure you know what you
are trying to get your reader to do before you start to design your ad.
Keep this objective in mind at all times and review your ad when you are
done to make sure this has been accomplished.
Errors – Even though it may seem easy to
proofread such a small set of type, sometimes errors show up and are
glossed over through every time. To be safe, have someone else review your
ad for you also.
Lack of contact information – This common error
is particularly frustrating for readers. You may have convinced your
reader to contact you or purchase your products, but if they can’t
easily find contact information, they will probably not bother to look
Below is an ad before a redesign
and after some changes. The ideas presented above were used to clean up
this ad and make it more effective, clear, and more likely to be read.
Notice that, even though, there seems to be less text in the after ad, in
fact they both give the same information. Which ad do you prefer?
Which do you think is more likely to be read?
For more information on using advertisements in your
newsletter, read our other articles in this