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Michelle PW : Three keys to crafting successful print ads

Three keys to crafting successful print ads

By Michele Pariza Wacek

Whether you want to earn extra money as a copywriter, or simply be able to write better copy to sell your books, services or products, writing a good print ad that gets results is essential. Below are three keys to get you started.

1. Write for the eye.

Print ads are visual. Therefore, craft ads with the eye in mind.

Eyes are kind of picky, though. So, here's a checklist of what eyes like and don't like:

  • A catchy headline that encourages them to read more.
  • Art, such as photos, illustrations, clip art, shapes, etc. Eyes like art. When you create the ad, create words AND the visual at the same time. Words and visuals should work together.
  • Designed in an interesting, intriguing, attention-getting manner. Eyes like that. Remember, graphic designers are your friends. If you don't have training in graphic design, I strongly urge you to hire a graphic designer to create your ad. The results will be well worth it.
  • White space (blank space in the ad). Eyes like white space. Eyes don't like print ads stuffed with words and/or art. Those ads look way too difficult to read and comprehend. So eyes will skip over those ads and find other open, clean ads to look at. (And if they do, you might as well have never bought the ad in the first place.)

2. Write for the busy eye.

Nobody is reading a newspaper because they want to see your ad. (Okay, your mother is the exception.) People are reading the paper because they want information. Reading your ad is an afterthought. So, they aren't going to spend a whole heck of a lot of time on it.

A common mistake is asking print ads to do too much. To be successful, print ads must:

  • Capture the attention of your potential customers,
  • Encourage those potential customers to remember what you want them to do,
  • Then persuade them to actually do it.

That's a lot to ask for one little print ad.

Print ads should have one message and one message only. The more "extras" about your business you start throwing into the ad, the more convoluted the ad is going to become, and the less likely your potential customers will act upon your ad.

Now at this point you may be thinking "Okay. We need one message. That message should be to get my potential customers to buy something, hire my services, donate money, become a volunteer, etc. Right?"

Well...

For one thing, that's a pretty big leap for your potential customers. Getting potential customers to buy without first developing a relationship with them is, again, asking an awful lot for one little print ad. You might be better off inviting potential customers to take one small step in the buying process. For instance, stopping in the store for a free gift, logging on to your Web site to enter a contest, putting their names on your mailing list, trying a demo version of your product, etc. Let them get to know you.

3. Keep your target market in mind.

Your message should be focused on your customers' needs, not your own. Getting customers to buy your products and services is YOUR need. How your products or services solve your customers' problems is THEIR needs. See the difference?

That's why so many retail stores have sales. They're effective because they're solving a need (saving customers money). But saving money is not the only need. There are many others.

You should also think about ways to add value without bargaining on price (this position can backfire). Contests, free gifts, free reports, free food — stuff like that. Think outside the box. And use that value as a way to set yourself apart.

Creativity exercise — Learn by example

One of the best ways to learn how to craft successful print ads is to study what's out there.

Get out a newspaper or a magazine and open it. See where your eyes go. What ads attract your eyes? What ads drive them away?

Which ads have headlines that intrigue you? Graphics that capture your attention? Copy that encourages you to find out more? Why?

Now look at ads that do nothing for you. Why don't you like them? Are they too cluttered? Too difficult to understand? Have a headline that makes you yawn?

Sometimes you can learn as much, if not more, from bad examples as you can from good ones. •

Copyright 2004 Michele Pariza Wacek. All rights reserved.

Michele Pariza Wacek Michele Pariza Wacek owns Creative Concepts and Copywriting, a writing, marketing and creativity agency. More »

Updated 1/5/14